The internationally acclaimed photographer tells us what went on behind the lens at his first Vogue Philippines cover shoot.
The first thing Mark Nicdao does when he comes to a shoot (early, always) is to check the props, clothes, concept, and team. “That’s the start of my job; to find a solution to make the shoot fun, easy but really strong,” he tells Vogue Philippines, “In a nutshell.”
The celebrity photographer, with a breadth of work too large to enumerate fully, has captured the likes of international celebrities, such as Rita Ora, Floyd Mayweather, and Adam Levine, and local figures like Sarah Geronimo, Margarita Fores, and Maria Ressa. Despite being one of the top Filipino photographers in the industry, he still gets nervous.
The photographer, who got his start in 2003 as an assistant to photographer Francis Abraham, tells us how he navigates an assignment. “In terms of the look of my photographs, I zero in on the impact of the photo,” he says. “Color treatment, silhouette, texture, balance—if it can arrest your viewers’ eyes without hurting anyone, [that’s] the ideal for me.”
A self-professed romanticist, Nicdao describes his images as a marriage of storytelling, fashion, and raw emotion. Though he has a distinct style that places his work apart from others, he says that he strives to never take the same photo twice, to always try new things, and to improve every time. The trick, he says, is instinct and focus. “I’m centered on the moment I press the camera.”
On the set of the cover shoot for Vogue Philippines, Nicdao fiddles with his setup, adjusting the lights and gobos every half an hour to make sure everything is just right for his long-time subject and today’s muse—Anne Curtis.
The actress and photographer first met in 2004, and Nicdao recalls being instantly captivated by the star. “Chechel Joson did a beauty story with me and Anne [was] the subject…she had that complexity,” the photographer says.
Curtis and Nicdao ended up cultivating a close professional relationship, with the latter there to capture the celeb’s most precious moments, from her wedding to her maternity shoot, and dozens of fun Instagrams, editorials, and magazine covers in between.
In the age of influence, there are few who have captivated a nation quite like Anne Curtis has. With a filmography that began back in the 90s, the Filipina-Australian quickly became a household name in the Philippines. On social media, Curtis has amassed over 18.6 million followers on Instagram and 14.8 million on Twitter.
But Nicdao says in his years of knowing her, she’s never changed. Even now, shooting both of their first Vogue covers, Curtis remained sweet and patient.
“I think even at a very young age she mastered how she reinvents herself in front of the camera,” Nicdao explains, “It helps us photographers excel and be at the same level of her mastery. Somebody said ‘sometimes it’s the subject, not the photographer.’ It kinda stuck with me. Anne can elevate shoots because she is born equipped.”
For the December-January cover, Nicdao highlighted her bold features and love for Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn. She captivated the internet with her likeness to the late actress after purchasing her headband in an auction and dressing up as Hepburn for her 37th birthday. The spirit of old Hollywood glamour was there.
“I put [in] everything I know about proper angling…Anne just gave her full trust. For me shooting someone as close as that—it’s a form of respect, trust, and intimacy between an artist and a muse,” the photographer explains. “I wouldn’t have achieved it without the team.”
“I’m very glad this assignment fell on my lap,” Nicdao tells us, “it’s my love letter also to Anne and Vogue and how much I love being a photographer.”
Vogue Philippines’ December-January 2023 Issue is out now. Subscribe here.
Photography: Mark Nicdao, Fashion Director: Pam Quiñones, Stylist: Renee De Guzman, Makeup: Robbie Piñera, Hair: Raymond Santiago, Nails: Extraordinail, Art Director: Jann Pascua, Producer: Anz Hizon, Production Assistant: Adam Pereyra, Photographer’s Assistant: Phillip Nicdao, Arsan Hofileña, Alex Capongcol, Crisaldo Soco, Villie James Bautista, Stylist’s Assistant: Steven Coralde, Special thanks to Justine Arcega-Bumanlag, Garden Barn Inc. and Umbra