Andrei Duman: Travel Photography and Forming Connections With Your Subjects

All images by Andrei Duman. Used with permission.

Photographer Andrei Duman has been shooting photos since he was very young. He started out with travel and was always fascinated by the fact that one could go from place to place within a few hours. Along the way, he studied the works of different photographers and the ways they went about getting their photos. Perhaps this has helped influence the way Andrei approaches his subjects and the way he gets his images. For Andrei, it's always been about human connection and ensuring it's there even before he picks up the camera to his eye.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Andrei: I am primarily a travel and landscape photographer having traveled to 80 countries in search for the more unique destinations that the world has to offer. From a very young age I was fascinated by travel and the idea that a few hours in a plane will drop you off in a completely foreign land, with different languages, food and cultures. It was almost like time travel how you can be transported. I started playing semi-professional tennis which meant that I had to travel to tournaments around the world, leading me to places such as Syria, Brunei and Tunisia.

It was a real eye opening experience for me and from then on I knew I had to see all the other places that I was reading about or watching on the National Geographic Channel. Being obsessed with technology and what was the latest and greatest, I always carried a camera with me, starting with a small point and shoot. I soon progressed to a Canon SLR with a whopping 8.2MP and kept going onwards from there. I wanted to capture to the best of my abilities at the time, all that I was experiencing and seeing.

Phoblographer: You're a photographer with a very varied background and body of work and your work seems very contemplative overall. What type of stuff do you personally feel you skew towards and why? I genuinely feel it’s people!

Andrei: I certainly do love photographing people because most of the time it is a very personal experience. I am the type of photographer that prefers to talk to my subjects for some time before taking the image. I want to get to know who they are, I want to hear about their lives, their cultures, their family. I believe that this way, you increase your chance to establish that connection with them and they feel more at ease to be themselves. Looking back on my portrait images, you can spot when you had the opportunity to speak to them beforehand. The images are that much more real and true to who they are.

One thing that I would like to stress is that although I have my preferences for subjects to shoot, I am a lover of all photography subjects. I believe that in today’s competitive photography world, there is this almost false sense of need to specialize and narrow your chosen subjects. I see amazing photographers that only shoot sunsets, or only shoot black and white architecture and they do it brilliantly. I looked at that and wanted to shoot what I felt to be appealing to me, be it aerials, landscapes, tribes in remote areas of the world or studio.

I am a lover of capturing to the best of my abilities something that is beautiful and I do not want to limit my reach. Now, it is very likely that I may be better at capturing one subject more than another, however I think this is crucial to my development. Shooting different subjects and environments forces me to continue to learn, continue to be creative and continue to be forward thinking and not be static. In some ways I am still learning what my real style is, I am not even sure I want to have one. I want to be known as a great photographer, not a great photographer of X or Y only.

Phoblographer: Artistically speaking, when you're creating images, what are some questions that are always going through your mind? How do the technical and artistic sides of your brain end up meeting in the image creation process?

Andrei: I think this is very much dependent on what I am currently shooting. If you are in the Faroe Islands shooting a waterfall and it is raining as it usually does, there are only so many different “looks” that you can play with. Landscape photography is a little limiting in that way as a mountain will not change position, it will however change the look and feel depending on the light and time of year and this is what we as photographers are always chasing. When it comes to let's say studio work, you have so much more freedom to be creative. Your lighting is controlled, the weather is controlled and can shoot for as long as you can stand up. You have props that allow you to capture different angles and looks within a short period of time and for me coming from the travel world it is a welcome change. I love both aspects of being in control and not. It is a mental shift that you have to turn on depending on what you are trying to achieve and I think it is healthy for all photographers to experiment with it. One may find that studio work will help the travel/landscape work and vice versa.

As far as questions, most are to do with composition and mood. What am I trying to achieve with this image? What feel am I trying to create? What do I want my viewers to come away with after seeing it? Once you have that as a guideline, knowing and trusting your equipment starts to kick in. Which lens and settings do I want to achieve the desired look? Having made the switch from 35mm to Medium Format certainly has its learning curve but it has also allowed me to have more freedom in the way I approach and compose a shot. It has forced me to slow down, think more, shoot less. As a photographer for Phase One, shooting exclusively on their 101 Mega Pixel XF iQ3 camera system, having that huge sensor, 16 BIT of color and 15 Stops of Dynamic range, provides me the luxury to be more creative. I have the freedom to push my files that much harder without affecting the overall quality and I can capture more accurately what I am seeing. Additionally, having the razor sharp Schneider-Kreuznach Blue Ring lenses at your disposal which have been specifically designed to handle the huge 101 Mega Pixel resolution is crucial to achieving the most accurate images, which is something that is crucial to me. I am particular fan of the 35mm lens which is edge to edge sharp and allows me to capture my wide vistas with incredible accurate color rendering.



Phoblographer: What photographers influenced you and made you want to get into photography? What photographers do you think have influenced you more as of late?

Andrei: From a very young age I was a huge fan of a lot of the National Geographic Photographers such as Steve McCurry. They provided me a window into a world that I had not explained yet. Their extreme location photography inspired me. Inspired me to explore, insured me to travel more and inspired me to have the opportunity to hopefully inspire others. As my photography career progressed, I drew a great deal of knowledge and experience from photographers like Vincent Laforet with his aerials work and Michael Muller for his sense of constant adventure.

Phoblographer: So when you're creating studio work, we've noticed you typically like to shoot really tight unless you're working with a larger concept of some sort. Why is this? Do you only like focusing on a certain area vs using the entire body and therefore even more body language to deliver an image?

Andrei: When it comes to my studio and modeling work, I want to fully utilize and show off the massive power of the Phase One sensor. By being more tight in my compositions, I am trying to show the incredible resolution that I can capture. By zooming in 100% on the eye, and it is tack sharp, one quickly realizes that this is not a regular camera. Additionally, I want to focus to be on my subjects, no side distractions.

Establishing a connection with a person before the shoot is crucial. They may be a new model and they do not know who you are and what your style is. I want to have a chat with them, usually not even about the upcoming shoot. When we do talk about the shoot, I try to give them the creative freedom by asking if there is something that they want to do. I am hoping to put them at ease and usually the first few minutes of the shoot are not usable. Model may still be nervous and get need to get comfortable. At a minimum on my sets, I have my make up, hair, lighting expert and tech…and lots of music!

As a photographer you always want to continue shooting, especially when the mood and interaction with all involved is flowing. That’s when new ideas come up even during the shoot itself and you try something new. I do like to see the images on a large high quality screen such as an Eizo Monitor after a few shots to make sure I am sharp, the camera is operating as needed, the lighting is where I want it etc. As soon as I have 3-4 solid images from one of the models, I know that we can move on to another theme.

Phoblographer: Tell us about the paint project. What’s the idea behind it and how do you feel it's helped you express yourself as an artist?

Andrei: I am fascinated by color. At the end of the day, we all live in color and I want to integrate that into as many aspects of my work. Working on the Phase with 16 BITs of color makes it that much more accurate and special to work with. With the paint shoot, I wanted to experiment and do something a little different. I wanted to incorporate a moving motion that was frozen, full of color while incorporated with a model. This was not a composite but a single shot captured in a burst. The studio was quite a mess after that particular shoot.

Phoblographer: Some photographers believe that the model is simply a muse or a canvas to their images and creative vision. Other photographers believe it's all about the models. And yet other photographers believe in actual collaboration. What’s your philosophy on working with subjects?

Andrei: I wholeheartedly believe that when it comes to studio work and model, it is a collaboration. I do not see them as props, but see them as a tool to tell a story and evoke an emotion. I may have a particular idea that I want to capture, however I love opening it up to the model to see if they have any additional proposals. It needs to feel that we are all working on one team towards a common goal of achieving something special and by them being fully incorporated in the process will increase the chance of achieving a unique shoot. If not, at least it will be a fun shoot.


Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.