Passion Reignited, Artist Reborn: Mark Nicdao x Maserati Reveals His Never-Before-Seen Photographs In "X-Ray" Exhibition
"I almost retired."
In the midst of a growing crowd viewing a gallery of his photographs, sought-after fashion photographer Mark Nicdao bluntly confides feelings of quitting the industry for good—a statement that would have been enough to set celebrities, models, and Manila's finest present that evening into a panicked frenzy, had they heard it through the thumping bass line of his opening night's soundtrack.
After all, the industry is not the same without someone like Mark Nicdao, who captures beauty in all its unfiltered glory. Fortunately, Mark reiterates it was just "an almost:" a scary possibility that's now been buried six feet under.
The photographer most known for taking striking portraits has not only promised to continue doing what he does best, but more importantly, has added a layer of depth and meaning to his craft that he says helped reignite—and cement—his passion.
This January, Mark's artistic rebirth comes to life in "X-Ray," a solo exhibit of 26 never-before-seen photographs, all of which invite us to see the world through his eyes and experience his journey of rediscovery.
Anyone familiar with the visual talent's work will immediately react to how different each of the 26 images are. Rather than featuring beautiful human subjects, the photos showcase the strength, mystery, and majesty of nature and landscapes—a first for Mark who began his career in 2003 as a production assistant helping with product and fashion shoots.
The photos reveal his now special relationship with the Land of Fire and Ice, Scandinavian country, Iceland.
"It's a medical term but I felt like I went to a hospital in Iceland and I came out of it, and these are all my X-rays. I feel so much better now—like when I was just starting out. This is a fresh start," shares Mark.
The story behind "X-Ray" is straightforward, and all too relatable: Mark was out of the country for a fashion shoot in August of 2016. While traveling to a foreign, visually rich land to do a glamorous fashion shoot would excite most, it seemed that Mark was looking for something more. And he didn't just mean for that particular trip; there was a widening gap that needed to be filled in his career as a creative mind. Mark's work turned into just that—work without purpose or passion.
The busy trip required him to be on the road most of the time, with Iceland's solemn silence lulling him to sleep for the most part—that is, until he decided to keep his eyes peeled and look out the window. What he saw would change his perspective of his craft forever.
He recalls, "I saw something that made me go on. It sounds overly dramatic, just seeing nature, but it was something profound. That's why I told myself, 'If ever I'm going to have another exhibition, I'm going to show this, because it's like a snippet of the feelings that I had, before, now, and in the future. It's showing something I have inside.'"
Mark's last solo exhibition was staged 10 years ago. The reason it took him so long to put together a next one was difficulty in collating his body work composed mainly of advertising and fashion photography. Having matured as a photographer—and a person, as a whole—he wanted to stage a more personal project, something that would tell his own story, and not just his subjects'.
Photographs in "X-Ray" depict Iceland's twin sceneries of snow-covered peaks and fiery landscapes, with the occasional group of gentle farm animals grazing on green mountainsides making their way into the frame.
Each image is untitled.
Mark refuses to spoon-feed anyone about their meanings, and instead, hopes that each image will be able to pluck a different heartstring in everyone who views them. Just as his story is still being told and nowhere near the finish line, the stories behind "X-Ray" are open-ended and open to interpretation.
A Person of Passion
Mark's exhibition was made possible by none other than Maserati Philippines. The luxury automobile company honored Mark as one of its "People of Passion" in 2017, recognizing him as an individual who shares the same drive for life, commitment to keep improving, and ability to turn passion into action as them. The partnership was a real surprise for the seasoned photographer who describes the experience as nothing short of amazing.
"Everything went to [the right] path. Now it's all here and these pictures still [carry] the same feeling from when I first shot them, and now everyone can appreciate them," gushes Mark.
Best of all, Maserati also sought out a partnership with a good friend of Mark and top model-turned-social entrepreneur, Nanette Medved-Po. Her foundation, Hope In A Bottle, exists to help construct public school classrooms in the Philippines' most far-flung provinces and under-served communities. To contribute to her efforts, Mark has pledged to donate the proceeds from "X-Ray." All 26 photographs are for sale.
"[Nanette and I] talked about this in 2010 or 2011, and this is the right time that it's culminating. I'm so happy, I love Nanette, and I love her cause," adds Mark.
The Next Chapter
The success of "X-Ray" definitely marks a milestone in Mark's professional life. It's not just another feather in his cap, but more so, a pivotal moment in what will surely be a long and (even more) rewarding career ahead.
Fans of the legend who started as an intern intimidated by technology and uninterested in photography can sigh a sigh of relief: he's definitely here to stay.
He now embraces advances in technology and wields it to his advantage, and has even trained talents including, but not limited to, Jack Alindahao and Kay Siongco. And in case you were wondering how the master lensman achieves his photographs' looks, his tools of the trade currently include a medium format Phase One, and a 35 mm digital Canon.
For those who want to follow in his footsteps and take up photography as a full-time career (or elevate the hobby into a professional gig), Mark advises, "First, ask yourself why you want to be a photographer. I think it's important to know why you're doing things that you want to do—not because you want money or fame; that should be secondary. Automatically, if you're successful in your career, the longevity [will depend] on why you're doing it."
Resilience and accepting that you won't always please everyone are also important in the industry. The same goes for trusting yourself, being kind to yourself, and silencing the overly critical voice in your head.
"It's easy to love being a photographer. It's really up to you how or where you want it to lead that life," Mark concludes.
Taking one look at his exhibition that took almost too long to come, the life that Mark has chosen to live as a photographer is as clear as the Icelandic sky: his is a life of passion reignited, of an artist reborn.
"X-Ray" is staged at the Autostrada Motore Inc. showroom, 32nd corner 4th, Crescent Park West, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, and will run until February 2, 2018.
Photographs by Pat Buenaobra
Special thanks to Sunny Ku