Many of us here at Dreamers & Doers have bonded over our love of music and music festivals. We have attended quite a few together and we know that nothing tells the story of a music festival better than photographs—even video can not always capture a single moment as good as a high-quality picture.
Over the course of the last few years we have met so many talented photographers, one of whom is Marc van der Aa. Whether he’s shooting landscapes, music festivals, portraits, or vacation pics, he manages to capture small moments in large frames—allowing the moment enough room to tell a complete story.
Marc’s fascination with photography began when he was a teenager, buying his first SLR at the age of 18. He traveled the world pursuing his passion and once he finished studying journalism in Holland, Marc left Europe and moved to Argentina to study photography. He has shot a vast number of dance music festivals and his work is used by some of the top artists in the genre.
We caught up with Marc this week via email and we are very happy to share that exchange as our first official Dreamers & Doers interview.
[we asked Marc to fill in the blanks] My name is Marc van der Aa, I am a photographer. I am 35% dreamer and 65% doer. I would describe myself as restless, adventurous, and curious and I am most inspired by new experiences. I dream of a better future and I will try contribute to that by showing people unique and beautiful moments of life, as I am very privileged to experience so many of them.
Dreamers & Doers: What was the first camera you ever owned? What’s the best camera you ever shot with?
Marc: The first real camera that I bought was a Nikon F50 (film) when I was 18. I used it for several years, until I switched to Canon several years later. The nicest camera I ever worked is probably the Hasselblad, though this is only really useful if you are doing commercial studio photography. I have been very happy with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D for quite some now.
DD: What was the first photograph you took that you were proud of?
M: The first time I ever won a prize with a photograph was when I was 18. It was a silhouette picture of a skateboarder jumping through the sky against a beautiful sunset in southern France. I should still have the negatives somewhere back in the Netherlands.
DD: What was the first event you ever shot? Did you ever dream you’d be able to travel the world as a photographer?
M: The first event I ever shot with a major artist was Armin Only Mirage, back in Buenos Aires five years ago. Since then, event photography has become more important every year and it has taken me to some incredible places.
Travelling has always been part of my life, ever since I started exploring the world as a 19-year-old kid with a backpack. I spent my days taking pictures and writing stories, which became my main motivation to start studying journalism. Since then, I haven’t stopped travelling. I worked for a newspaper in Spain, I did voluntary work in a Colombian warzone, spent years as a guide in Patagonia, toured with artists and documented indigenous ceremonies high up in the Andes. Travelling is part of my life. The experiences you get from it are unique and priceless.
DD: What was the best advice you were ever given?
M: I have always been quite stubborn about taking advice from others. I think life is about chasing dreams. If you know yourself well enough, you can turn a dream into a plan and calculate the time you need to accomplish that plan. If you can achieve it within the time you thought you could, then you can always look back happily, not having to regret things in your past. As long as you can come up with new dreams to chase, there is always a destination at the horizon that motivates you to get there.
DD: What advice would you give to your younger self?
M: My life has been a roller-coaster of great moments and experiences, in which I have been able to accomplish more dreams than I ever had as a kid. I don’t think I would want to change anything about that.
DD: Other than event photography, what other subjects catch your eye? Is there a dream location or a subject you have yet to shoot?
M: Event photography is something that kind of exploded over the last two years, since I moved to Mexico City. Nowadays it is good for 85% of my agenda. When I lived in Argentina, I did mostly landscape photography, photojournalism and together with two partners I ran Farbone Studio, focussed on fashion and publicity. Together with a good friend I also have a press team for extreme sports. With Shakedown Team, we mainly shoot international rally races such as WRC and Dakar. So photography-wise, I have been able to look around and shoot a large variety of different subjects over the years.
There are definitely some items left on the bucket list though… I have two things left that I want to shoot some day, being the northern lights in some far northern country and a more complicated one, to shoot lightning above a volcano in eruption. Someday…
DD: What are some of your future aspirations?
M: I will become a father in two months, so that is a very big challenge ahead. It will be a new chapter in my life that I can´t wait to start.
DD: What surprises you most about your job?
M: Life has so many surprises. I am just happy to be able to be inspired by the things around me everyday.
DD: Can you tell us about one of your most memorable experiences as a photographer?
M: Ten years ago I was asked to document a new Inca Trail in the highlands of Peru. I set off with a small group of western tourists – the first group of western tourists ever to enter the area – for a six day hike through the mountains, visiting local villages where no white man had ever gone before. Sharing moments with the people in those remote mountain villages remains one of my most unique experiences.
DD: Are there other photographers/artists you look to for inspiration?
M: There are so many of them! I love the work of David Allan Harvey. He is so good in documenting everyday life around the world in such a unique way. Harvey wanders around so many different places, becoming part of the places he shoots. For travel photography, I am a huge fan of Steve McCurry. His portraits and documentary work show a different world that’s out there and that I can only dream of to get to know some day. War photographer James Nachtwey is another example of a photographer that can capture an image that will stay with you for days.
I love photographers that are able to submerge in a different society and photograph it like if you were actually there. For me that is true photography. Capture unique moments in unique places that will never repeat themselves again.