Moving to London from the beaches of Sydney a decade ago to pursue a career in music photography and video direction, Dave Ma started a ‘zine’ to showcase his work with emerging bands, which led to a chance meeting with the then-unsigned band, Foals. A friendship with the band developed into a long-running creative partnership, with Dave photographing press campaigns and directing music videos for well-known tracks including Miami, and most recently Birch Tree.
Dave has worked withsome of today’s most exciting music artists including A$AP Rocky, Nick Cave, Diplo, Skrillex, Bastille and Rudimental, however his repertoire extends well beyond music photography, with a newly discovered passion for capturing spectacular, aerial landscape photographs. Having spent so much time on planes travelling around the world, Dave began to realise that the best TV screen was the window right next to him. This kick-started a desire to shoot aerial views whilst flying, and, after realising that by playing with the colours in his shots he could make terrains look ‘otherworldly’, his first series of aerial landscapes were featured on the Jagwar Ma single artwork for Come Save Me.
To push his landscape images of the Scottish Highlands beyond realism, Dave reworked his striking photographs for the Ballantine’s Finest Sleeve and Tin with a bold two-tone colour palette to reflect the energy and youthful personality of the Finest blend. For the first time, tactile technology has been used on the Ballantine’s Finest Sleeve to reflect the look and feel of the rugged terrain of this corner of Scotland. For the Ballantine’s 12 Year Old Tin, Dave added depth to his stunning photograph with a rich blue colour palette to reflect the complexity of flavours in this distinguished 12 year old blend.
How did you get into your line of work or has it come to you naturally?
I was always headed towards something visual even if I wasn’t fully aware of it growing up. It seems so obvious now, that as a kid, the books I connected with were photography books or medical anatomy books. For me it was always visual things. But more specifically I think the work came through an early love of music and wanting to capture the bands I was into. I was given an old Nikon camera when I was 13-14 and that was the beginning. It was empowering as a kid thinking; I’ve got this little apparatus that I can carry around with me and snap a picture of something that captures my eye.
How would you describe your style?
This is a hard one. I don’t know I can. Though I most enjoy projects where there’s a real world experience that everyone involved goes through over the course of the project. Either an adventure, or a place or people. So I guess that experiential side of things is always under the surface and I like to think that adds an air of realism to the abstraction or story.
What was the vision behind your designs for Ballantine’s whisky?
Like I do with bands, I wanted to learn about where it all comes from, and coming up to Scotland and getting to discover the back story to Ballantine’s and the environment that is up here was where I started. Coming up here was all part of the process and I wanted to find an image that somehow represented the environment. Then specifically the aerial stuff came out of a lot of the travelling around and being on tour with bands. Just flying back and forth between LA and London and looking out of the window and just seeing these incredible landscapes and the view from above.
How long did it take to bring this projectfrom concept to completion?
On and off for half a year from conception to final package. It was a really easy going process to be honest. The actual shoot was super quick from our initial conversations last year to being in a helicopter snapping the highlands. And then I took some time to process the images and whittle things down to our final images.
You have shot portraits of A$AP Rocky, Bastille, Diplo and Foals – where did you getinspiration forthese projects?
When I’m shooting portraits or music videos it’s all about connecting with the artists in a moment and bringing something of their personality out.
Why do you think it is important tochampioncontemporaryart and its artists?
I honestly believe art is the most powerful form of exploration of the human condition. Whether it’s a photograph, or a brush stroke on a painting or a song – if you find a piece of art that connects with you or expresses the world in a way you couldn’t put into words – your life is enriched. Even if it simply entertains in a light way. You travel with it. We need new musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers to hold a mirror up to the world we live in today.
What do you hope the drinkers of Ballantine’s will make of your creations?
I guess this is a question that relates to any time you make something and you commit to what it is. At a certain point you just to have to go with your gut and just do what feels right and then put it out there. You have to let people make up their own mind about what it means or whether they like it or not; you can’t really control that stuff. I guess I hope the connection with each blend is apparent in the images and that they represent visually where Ballantine’s comes from and what it is. Particularly with the designs like the red and blue on the Finest Tin and the darker tones and blues on the 12 -Year- Old and how that represents the identity of those two blends; the 12 Year Old is aged in hard oak barrels for a longer period of time and has a deeper character to its flavour and that that was the influence for the darker colours and the deeper colour tones on that gift pack. If people pick up on that, that would be really cool. I love that when you put something out into the world that isn’t necessarily overt, or made apparent, that there’s always someone somewhere who picks up on it’s meaning; that’s a gratifying moment.
Do you have a favourite tipple?
A well-made Old Fashioned!
What’s next for you?
A couple of things brewing. Mostly moving image projects. We’ll see!I’m mostly excited about my brother’s new Jagwar Ma album which is out really soon. I got an advance copy on vinyl and I’ll be spinning that as soon as I get home.
The 2016 Ballantine’s Artist Series Limited Edition gift packs will be available globally from October 2016.For more information, visitBallantines.com
Finest Tin |thewhiskyexchange.com
12 Year Old Tin |thewhiskyexchange.com
Campaign film |Ballantine’s present Dave Ma – A unique perspective of Scotland