Member Spotlight: Andrei Duman

Travelling the world as a teenage tennis prodigy, Andrei Duman developed an enthusiasm for photography that has stayed with him ever since.

Now a full-time professional photographer based in Los Angeles, he regards his relationship with the form as an ongoing, open-ended journey.

“I intend to be learning and progressing till the day I die,” he says.

“No photographer should ever feel they know how to do it all. That’s a dangerous mindset that will stifle your progress and creativity.”

Exploring the world

Andrei grew up in the communist Romania of the 1980s. He became accustomed to everything looking and feeling the same, with creativity in short supply and monotonous activities keeping people in line.

Moving with his family to the UK in the 1990s opened his eyes to the colour and variety of the world around him. “I’ll never forget the first time that I saw a candy store,” he says – something he didn’t even know existed.

When he began to travel to tennis tournaments all over the world as a teenager, Andrei’s sense of wonder and wanderlust increased. Equipped with nothing more elaborate than a 0.8 Mega Pixel Sony Ericsson phone, he began capturing images of the places he visited.

Apple Watch by Andrei Duman

© Andrei Duman

As his love of technology grew in tandem with his interest in photography, he upgraded to the “whopping at the time” 2.1-megapixel Sony Cybershot camera, followed by the 3.2-megapixel model.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Leeds and York, Andrei embarked on a career in banking, first in London and later in New York. This high-intensity, high-reward work enabled him to keep traveling to far-flung, exciting destinations where he could capture spectacular photos. 

These included Palau for the jellyfish lake, Vanuatu for the land divers, Cuba for the vintage cars and the Galapagos Islands for the marine iguanas, to name just a few. (His current country tally stands at 85.)

At this time, Andrei also specialised in aerial photography – or, as he describes it, “leaning out of helicopters with the doors off, a big camera in my hands, doing corkscrew manoeuvres over salt flats and cityscapes.”

North Face jacket by Andrei Duman

© Andrei Duman

Setting the stage

Eventually, Andrei decided to quit the world of finance and relocate to Los Angeles, where he still lives today with his wife and two cats, Foo and Smash. Determined to make photography his career, Andrei opened a gallery in a Westfield mall and began to sell his prints.

The gallery was a success. In addition to winning an award for gallery design, it earned Andrei and his work the attention of a representative from photography specialists Phase One, who made him an ambassador.

The stage was set for Andrei to step fully into life as a professional photographer.

Bacardi by Andrei Duman
© Andrei Duman. This shot earned Andrei third place in our Green competition

Branching out

Keen to keep moving creatively, Andrei began applying his skills to product and automotive photography. He was particularly fascinated by the lighting expertise and techniques required for studio work, which differed from those associated with the travel and aerial photography he had previously specialised in.

The ability to control the light and make minute adjustments on the fly forced Andrei to adjust his shooting style and slow down his creative process – with exciting results. Having refined his approach to studio work and harnessed his fanatical attention to detail, he began creating unique and striking content for his clients.

Portrait of Andrei Duman

© Andrei Duman

Today, Andrei enjoys top agent representation in New York City and a list of clients past and present that includes Aston Martin, McLaren, National Geographic, Nike, Richard Mille and Sandisk Professional, to name just a few.

Experimenting and progressing

Andrei’s custom-built home studio allows him to be constantly experimenting, either for a personal project or an upcoming client shoot.

“I love the fact that whatever creative ideas come to me, even in the middle of the night, I can immediately put them into practice in the studio,” he says. 

Being his own lighting and digi tech means that he can execute campaigns on his own or with very little assistance. This proved particularly helpful during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Peloton ad by Andrei Duman

© Andrei Duman

Experimenting with product photography in the studio is particularly satisfying for Andrei because, he says, people initially discouraged him from branching out beyond his travel- and aerial-photography comfort zone.

“I really dislike the idea of being pigeonholed as this or that kind of photographer,” he says. “Photography is about creative artistic expression, and that shouldn’t come with any restrictions or limits.”

Regardless of what a photographer is shooting, Andrei adds, they will learn something useful – something that could be applied to a completely different shoot at a later date. 

From this perspective, even projects that “fail” are still valuable. “To me, this is the most natural and efficient way to progress.”

Lighting the shot

© Andrei Duman

Expanding horizons

Andrei’s creative curiosity and open-mindedness keep him hungry to learn. In fact, learning and progressing are at the core of his passion for photography.

“I get very frustrated by photographers who act like they know it all and have nothing more to learn,” he says. “If you’re not interested in expanding your horizons and enhancing your skills, you can’t expect your results to improve – creatively or technically.”

It’s this commitment to lifelong learning that makes Karl Taylor Education a no-brainer for Andrei.

“Karl’s just a really great teacher,” he says, “which many photographers out there aren’t. Karl knows his stuff AND knows how to explain it clearly – it’s a real talent.”

Lighting the shot

© Andrei Duman

Like Karl, Andrei believes that what separates a good photographer from an exceptional one is lighting expertise. Watching how Karl controls and sculpts with light is a source of both learning and inspiration.

“If I’m starting a new project, I’ll often think, ‘How would Karl approach this?’” he says. “Even if I decide to do it a totally different way, it’s always interesting and instructive to watch him work.”

Humility like this from such an accomplished and successful professional is admirable and rare. It also gets to the heart of what Karl Taylor Education is all about – a creative community where members learn and progress together.

Lighting the shot

© Andrei Duman

Shooting for the moon

As it did for many professional photographers, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a slowdown in Andrei’s client-work schedule. On the bright side, it enabled him to devote more time to his personal passion projects.

One of these is ExoSkeleton, an ‘extreme macro photography essay’ designed to bring awareness to some of the world’s rarest and most fragile insects. Using the Phase One 151-megapixel back and an (at the time) prototype ALPA camera, Andrei was able to capture some of the most detailed images ever taken of these insects, which were kindly provided by the Natural History Museum of San Diego. This project alone took a year and 10 months to complete.

Lighting the shot

© Andrei Duman. This image is part of Andrei's ExoSkeleton series.

Andrei is also proud of the moon photography he accomplished by attaching a medium format camera to the vast telescope at the Mt Wilson observatory – the very same telescope with which Edwin Hubble first discovered that the universe is expanding.

In the pipeline, Andrei has exciting projects with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Utah Division of Water Resources, as well as commissions from big-name brands that he isn’t able to talk about just yet.

Whatever Andrei turns his hand to next, we’re sure he’ll deliver incredible results – and learn something valuable in the process.

Check out Andrei’s work at andreiduman.com.

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