Test shots and Juicy T-time with Andrei Suleik
If you haven’t heard of Andrei Suleik, we bet you’ve seen his photos. A quick stalk on his IG and it’s rows and rows of Manila’s hottest celebrities. A Google search of his name will give you headlines such as “the future of celebrity portraits” and “Jadine’s photographer”. His personal hashtag (#AndreiShotThe) is a complete portfolio of Andrei’s skill and talent. We turned the tables and put the spotlight and the camera on the man behind the photos.
“I’m trying to be relaxed and I’m applying what I’ve learned from my models. I’m trying it now but I’m not so confident,” the photographer shares when asked on how its like being on the other side of the lens. “Also, hindi pala lahat ng akala kong maganda, maganda sa camera. And hindi pala lahat possible!” he laughs.
From Film to Photography
Andrei never thought that he would be a photographer. “Nagulat na lang ako na photographer na ako ngayon,” he jokes. Ever since he was a child, he wanted to be a film director. He moved from Cotabato to Davao to study Communications. Later, he moved to Laguna and then to Manila to finish his degree. “I really move when I don’t feel growth,” he shares. Andrei admits that he failed some classes due to peer pressure and the desire to be one of the cool kids. “I wanted to be with the cool people, very 16 year old,” he shares.
In Manila, he pursued another creative route and focused on becoming a director. He interned for a couple of film houses, hoping to shadow some of the big names in the industry. It was this time his mom bought him his first camera. He took behind-the-scenes photos, and from then on, Andrei pushed photography over film. “Akala ko film na talaga, pero nagbabago pala talaga, depende sa tao,” he shares passionately.
He has zero background on photography and no formal education on it. “Hindi ako technical. Give me any camera and I’ll use it,” Andrei points out. But don’t expect him to be carrying around just any camera anymore. A day prior to our shoot, Andrei just signed-in as one of Fuji’s ambassadors. A feat he is eternally grateful for. Currently, he’s using the Fuji XT3.
Great Responsibility + Great Connection = Great Photos
When asked about how his creative process is on shoots, Andrei stresses the importance of prep-time in a shoot. “I have to be comfortable. Both me and the subject have to be comfortable with each other para mailabas namin yung gusto ni client.” He stresses that it’s so important for him and the subject to know each other well enough before the actual shoot happens. This way, there’s no pressure on each other’s end come the actual shoot.
This first step is vital so Andrei and the subject can give comments and direction to each other during the shoot. Consider this as a trust-building exercise. “Sa umpisa, mangagapa pa talaga kayo. You’ll see it in the photo–what works and what doesn’t work.” Authentic body language, Andrei points out, is super important in photos and it’s something any photographer can’t forge. “Hindi pwede na sa akin naka-depend yung buong direction. When it comes to photos, it’s always give and take. It’s a collaborative effort. Always.” He cites that some of his best photos with Nadine has always been a collaboration on what she wants and what he wants. “If it’s not a collaborative effort, it won’t work.”
At the same time, the photographer points out that his photos are not just for show-and-tell. “Gusto ko may mapuntahan yung photos. Hindi lang yan pang-Instagram.” He shares that photos are a way for him to book future projects and to flourish his skill, not just an easy way to score likes and double taps. “This is why if someone invites me for a random shoot, I always tell them na kailangan pagisipan mabuti yung shoot para may mapuntahan,” Andrei stresses. “Sayang naman if sa social media lang.”
A Shoot Sans a Camera
While this 20-something has already photographed numerous dream shoots, there is one nightmare shoot that he’ll never forget. He invited Alex Godinez and Chris Lopez for a prenuptial shoot in their home. “They already had a prenup shoot but I invited them for another one,” Andrei starts. On the way to the couple’s home, the weather was humid and Andrei’s camera moistened.
“When I turned it on, nag-short circuit siya and I only had one camera with me. There was a full team, stylist, HMUA, so nagkapal mukha ako and asked if we can resort to iPhone photography. They were super humble, walang pake, sure daw.” They were eventually able to use the broken camera with a non-functioning screen, which was a lot like shooting with a film camera. The whole shoot is up on Andrei’s website and the photographer now brings two cameras with him to any shoot.
Aside from two cameras in tow, Andrei brings speakers to a shoot to set the overall vibe for him and the subject. He usually plays lively Spanish songs but points that it can also depend on the desired vibe of the set and shoot.
He shares that despite all of his current success, he always looks to his family and friends for support and inspiration. “The more you see them succeed, the more you want to succeed as well. I’m lucky that the people I have in this lifetime, walang competition. They don’t focus on competition, but they focus on themselves. I try to apply it to myself as well. Feeling ko for other people, that’s what they should focus on. Focus on their craft instead of the competition.”
“You need to surround yourself with people na totoo. If you work with people with the same interest, you’ll all work to help each other. If you surround yourself with people that are not okay, you’ll really end up adopting that.”
Andrei’s Favorite Photo
Amidst all of the photos he’s taken in his early career, Andrei’s favorite photograph is a self-portrait he took on the dawn of his 26th birthday last year. “I took this photo the moment I woke up on my 26th birthday. Ako lang, walang anything, ako lang and ung camera pwinesto ko tapos shoot. I plan to do this for every year. A portrait of myself right after my birthday salubong.”
With just 4 years in the industry, Andrei’s luster is far from over. And it’s not because he has some fancy camera deal or is the go-to photog of the biggest celebrities. Forging genuine emotion in photos isn’t easy in this filtered world of ours, something Andrei seems to capture effortlessly. Is there a formula for the perfect photo? Maybe none. But if there were, we would count genuineness as one essential element. Genuinity is harnessed through trust, communication, and being completely honest—things you can see in Andrei’s process and work.
And let’s be clear, he is not just some celebrity photographer, he’s Andrei Suleik.
Catch more of him in our next article where we get even more personal with Andrei and what he does beyond the camera. Read it here!
Production & Creative Direction: Nigel Garcia
Assisted by: Stevie Eigenmann
Photography: Ed Enclona
Layout by: Dana Malang
Interview by: Patricia Herbolario
Stylist: Xeena Morales
Clothing from: Uniqlo
Set Design: Jed Daya
Grooming: Alyssa Espiritu