Mark Nicdao, as described by his friends and confidants

The following story originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Inquirer RED and has been edited for length and clarity.

Rumor has it that Mark Nicdao’s new exhibit has already sold out. The esteemed artist’s first solo exhibition as a multimedia artist, titled Portal 5.122 “The Imaginations of a Manic Disinhibiting Neurotransmitter” (Beta) is spooky in nature: illuminating bursts of color rendered primarily in acrylic on canvas that might as well recall images from our collective subconscious.

But the series is inherently deeply personal – “coordinates coded on a map of his life”, as Lisa Guerrero Nakpil of the León Gallery describes the works in her exhibition notes. To the public, Mark is known for his successful career as a professional photographer: portraits that have graced the covers of top local and international fashion magazines, such as Thug, where he was Photographer at Large for nearly a decade; brand campaigns featuring Paris Hilton, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Kylie Jenner; finally, his rich history as a celebrity photographer.

“The Library of a Subconscious Acting Gland” aka “Alam mo yung pinagtataguan ni Bugs Bunny”

Yet, there remains a lot of unsaid. Introverted, Mark prefers to let his work do the talking, be it his photography or his more recent exploration of other mediums. Such is the nature of an artist working within the boundaries of his psyche.

In an attempt to paint the artist in a different light, we speak to his inner circle of confidants, collaborators and close friends. The result is a series of light-hearted conversations that add dimension to the celebrated image-maker.

KC Del Rosario

RED: How would you describe Mark, based on what you know of him?

KC: Mark is a creative genius, my favorite person in the world and all my heart…cloned three times.

RED: What’s the craziest night you’ve had with Mark?

KC: On one of our last trips before the pandemic, we spent the weekend in Edinburgh with friends we had just met, stayed in a castle, shot pheasants, took the train back to London, went to Annabelle, saw Björk and ended up celebrating my birthday in Paris at Silencio.

And last night, after we breathed, he spelled a name he’d never heard of in his life. Jagad Guru Siddhasawarupananda Paramahamsa. Surprising.

RED: What type of cocktail best suits Mark’s personality?

KC: A negro. Three times the whiskey and chased with a lollipop.

RED: 3 things Mark can’t live without?

KC: Art, music and movies.

Jake Verzosa, photographer

RED: What would you say to Mark if you were Mark?

JAKE: Make every day count.

RED: What is your fondest memory with Mark?

JAKE: Our first trip to Japan.

RED: One thing you want to steal from Mark?

JAKE: His cat.

RED: As a photographer, what do you admire about Mark’s work?

JAKE: His work ethic, his ability to connect with anyone, and his consistent production of high quality photography over the years.

Michael Salientes, fashion designer

RED: What’s it like working with Mark on set?

MICHAEL: Two words come to mind: ease and fluidity! I think because we’re always on the same page, coming from the same space of wanting to do something different and unique without trying too hard, the day goes by really quickly. And effortlessly.

RED: What qualities of Mark’s work do you appreciate the most?

MICHAEL: His intense and quiet focus, incredible attention to detail, appreciation and keen eye for all the intricacies of human expression, gestures, body movements mixed with wonderful lighting create a truly special mood and tone . His vision is precise and confident. It does great portraits, but does surprisingly beautiful landscapes and movie-worthy travel shots.

RED: What is your best memory of Mark?

MICHAEL: Definitely our first overseas shoot together for Mega Magazine in 2005 – Mark’s first time in Paris. It was a dreamlike shoot in many ways. We shot at the (then) newly opened Baccarat museum in Paris, which was an amazing historic hotel owned by Marie Laure de Noailles (who hosted decadent parties with guests like Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Giacometti, Gertrude Stein and Salvador Dali ) reimagined by Philippe Starck. Dripping with crystals and a ballroom adorned with wall-to-wall Venetian frescoes, it was both an exhilarating and surreal experience, to say the least.

Pauline Juan

RED: As a publisher, was the first time you saw his work promising?

PAULINA: Of course! Mark was Francis Abraham’s assistant when I first met him; Francis, at that time, used to shoot all our Insight blankets. My first encounter with Mark’s work was actually the product shoots he was doing side by side for us editors. Very simple, very commercial. This kind of work is very technical, and at the time when photographers were moving from film to digital, you had to master your equipment and the light. Mark was really obsessed with it.

Insight was the first magazine in the Philippines to publish a magazine cover using a digital camera, and although it was Francis Abraham who photographed it, figuring out how to do it and the trial and error to get there has was a team effort.

Another example, Insight was the first magazine to have two photographers (Mark and BJ Pascual) work on a composite cover image (Ellen Adarna). The final product looks effortless, but the technical expertise required to marry these images was something else!

RED: What do you think makes Mark a designer?

PAULINE: He’s getting involved. I’ve worked with many photographers who just point and shoot. Mark gets inside the heads of his subjects, and it shows in their eyes. He always tries to give more than the blank stare popular with fashion.

RED: If he was in the mood, what would he be?

PAULINE: To dream. Especially now with his work as a visual artist. When I look at his art, I always feel the struggle (art vs commercial or photography vs painting).

RED: If you’re Mark’s mother in the industry, what is your message to him?

PAULINE: I miss you, Marc!

Photograph by James Bautista

Styling by Geoff de Boissieu

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