The paths that lead creatives to their art are long and winding, and difficult to predict. It would have been hard to fathom at the outset of his tennis career or financial services career, or at any juncture along the way, that Andrei Duman would wind up as a photographer. Andrei is the definition of a renaissance man – toured the world as a professional tennis player, educated in London with a masters in Finance and Investment, which led him to New York working in the investment banking industry for over 12 years on the equity derivative trading desk. As a tennis player Andrei traveled the world feeding his curiosity and honing his communication skills. He has the characteristics – curious, risk-taker, creative perseverance and a thirst for knowledge and new experiences. Curiosity drives interest. When we are curious, we ask questions, we listen for answers. When we are curious we see things differently, we use our power of observation more fully and are more capable of embracing opportunities – all of which provide the foundation for Andrei’s creativity.
Are you self-taught or university/college/photography school taught?
My venture into the photography world is a strange one indeed. I never envisioned that I would be in this industry as for me it was for the most part a hobby. After giving up being a professional tennis player who toured the world, I completed my Masters in Finance and Investment. That naturally led me to the banking industry, specifically the investment banking side and trading equity derivatives. I always had a passion for travel and discovering new parts of the planet so inevitably I always carried a camera with me. Initially it started with a small point and shoot, a 3.2 Mega Pixel Sony (one of the largest sensors at the time in a point and shoot) and from there onwards I quickly got the bug and started upgrading the gear. I moved on to a DSLR and continued to upgrade lenses and other equipment. I never took a photography lesson in my life, instead, I learned through reading articles, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. I have a rule whereby I never delete an image unless it is completely unusable (extreme camera shake during aerial or test shoots of backgrounds in studio). Every few months I go back and quickly go through my work and see the kind of mistakes I was making and where I am now. It is my compass to check to see how I am progressing.
What professional goals do you still have for yourself?
Given my varied background, I have had a lot of different goals that have changed through time. With photography, it is crucial for me to not be standing still, to not become stale in what I am shooting. I shoot a great deal of subjects and by creating such a high bar as far as the final quality, always learning and trying to push boundaries is very important. Ultimately, having a happy client is the main goal, however you yourself as an artist need to feel good and accomplished regarding the final set of images. It is my goal to apply all that I have learned in the last 12 years of shooting to any project or visual direction that a client is seeking. I want to be working with industry leaders to not only apply my visual creativity, but also produce the highest quality work that I can produce.
What is as good as it gets?
As good as it gets for me, in this profession is to have the respect of my peers and for the clients to seek out my vision, and trust that I will be able to achieve it in the highest quality possible. Being allowed the freedom to express a new angle to a project and execute it with the skills that I have mastered over the years is I think something that all photographers want. Being asked to join unique projects, with likeminded and inspiring individuals while at the same time trying to push technological boundaries is where I want to be on a constant basis.
What is your creative philosophy?
Always continue to learn new skills, never settle or be happy with average results. Don't be afraid t be creative and come up with unique concepts regardless of how complex or difficult they are to shoot. Make mistakes and learn from them – it will make you a better photographer. Be humble, listen to all opinions. Continue to find inspiration from the most boring or exciting subjects and locations. Always share your successes with your team and acknowledge where you came from and where you want to go.
How do you work best – in teams, with assistants, solo, on location, in studio, etc.?
I think that greatly depends on the kind of shoot that you are doing. If it is a product shoot, it is imperative to have the right individuals around you that specialize in their own field to help you complete the project. Rely on them to help achieve your ultimate concept. This is more difficult when being up on an aerial shoot where space is more limited, or on location where you rely more on your own experience. They are very different environments each with their own set of skills. Studio is usually the more open discussion, constantly tweaking a set up, controlling more the surroundings whereas aerials/location shooting is a great deal more reactive and impulsive.
What adjectives describe who you are now, at your core? What adjectives describe who you want to be in the future?
At my core, I am determined, ambitious, creative, sometimes stubborn, appreciative, humble, hard working, have high expectations of myself and frankly I hope to have the same description in the future.
What's your advice to handle rejection?
I have been rejected more times than I can count. It is simply part of the business and having a tough skin is important to not knock you off course. I think this is where my 12 years of investment banking helped. It taught me to not take things too personally, always remember what your ultimate goal is and to not get discouraged if it is taking a little longer than you wished for. In one way or another, things will work out for the better. A danger with not dealing with rejection well, is that you may not be open to seeing some other opportunities that can be more important than originally thought. My advice is to politely and respectfully continue to persevere with people or organizations that you believe will help to make your goals come true. Set timelines and reminders for your follow ups if you have not heard back. You will get rejected, it is what will make you stronger and more appreciative.
What's your advice for artists just starting out?
I think the best advice is to keep shooting, regardless of subject. Learn from your mistakes and don't be afraid to take risks. The more you shoot, the better the chance is that you will get a better understanding of what you love to capture. Your passion has to come through in your images, through the composition, post production, overall feel and subject choice. These will always be improving as your career progresses. Be ambitious in your desire to make your dream a reality. I know that sounds cliché but it is so true.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I sometimes seek inspiration from locations I travel to, or an article online, or other photographers. Other times, something just comes to mind that I was not expecting and then I build up from there. The idea can be insane and it has to be adjusted. I strongly believe that having shoot ideas that are varied will make you a better photographer as they will need separate skills to complete. This is why I like to shoot multiple subjects – it forces me to remain up to speed on new technology and techniques that will continue to keep me competitive.