5 Minutes With... Photographer Trey Ratcliff

Words by
Andy Morris
Photography by
Trey Ratcliff

11th June 2022

The internationally acclaimed gentleman explorer - whose High Dynamic Range photography has drawn praise from JJ Abrams - discusses his collaboration with Brora, Burning Man and what everyone gets wrong about NFTs. 

Trey Ratcliff photographer

What excites you most about teaming up with Brora Distillery and Diageo?
I rarely accept brand work, so projects really need to stand out right from the get-go. It's fair to say that this partnership was really unique and that's always a good place to start. It was also clear from the early discussions that Brora was more than just a brand for Diageo and that the photography would be integral to the experience offered as part of this special auction. I’m very much looking forward to travelling to Scotland for the first time accompanied by the new cask owner. Together we will capture images that bring to life the landscape that helped shape this whisky. The cask owner will then be able to select a photograph from our collection that will become a large format edition print, as well as being used to create a set of bespoke labels for the bottles to be drawn from the cask. 

Are you excited about visiting Scotland?
Firstly, I've lived in New Zealand for 10 years and I often hear the landscapes are quite similar. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing how they compare and all the little differences in the landscape. I studied geology so I geek out a little over that sort of thing.

What advice would you give someone going to Burning Man for the first time?
Go with no expectations and lots of water. You can never have enough water and worst case you'll have some to share with others who might not be as well prepared.

What surprising travel accessory do you always bring with you?
I always carry a  scarf with me. You can use it as a pillow on the plane, a secure footing for your camera on uneven surfaces, share with a new friend, and so much more. Oh, and it can keep you warm!

Best recent fashion purchase?
I got some very comfy and stylish loungewear in Auckland from sustainable activewear brand, WE-AR. They look incredible! I'll bring them to Scotland.

What do people get wrong about NFTs?
That art can be collectible and valuable whether it is in physical form or digital form. I think that most people probably only see NFTs as digital, and wonder why people would pay money to own a picture of a cartoon animal. In reality they are a digital item which can unlock some amazing real-life experiences around art, community and more. I've been quite taken aback by the community aspect of NFTs and it's a fantastic way for some really talented artists to connect with their collectors. In my case, owners of my NFTs will be able to join me for events around the world during the next couple of years. We'll explore the cities visited together and at the end I'll create a new piece of art which will be airdropped to the collectors. 

What advice would you give young photographers?
Try lots of different styles of photography to see what you like. Listen to feedback, but don't take it too seriously. If you get feedback from old-school photographers, they may try to talk you out of an innovative style you are developing that they just don't understand.

Favourite New Zealand restaurant and what should we order?
Everyone says Fergberger in Queenstown, and it is good, but I think I'm going to go with Slow Cuts in Arrowtown. The slow roasted lamb burger is unbelievable.

A good coffee table book?
Edward Curtis has some tremendous and rare work.

Artist we should check out?
Max Patte is a new favourite. He's an artist who used to work on Lord of the Rings. He makes crazy-cool sculptures and lightbox displays. I think I first saw some of his art at The Hills Golf Course in Arrowtown where a few of his works sit, including some life-size sculptures of horses which are truly beautiful. It's an amazing place overall. Part course, part gallery, with all sorts of sculpture dotted around each hole. There are few places in the world where you can be walking down the 18th only to find a pack of 110 iron wolves, weighing a tonne each, engaged in battle with a warrior!

Favourite hotel
Without doubt Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Bali. A close second would be Laucala in Fiji. To say it is an island paradise does it an injustice. An absolutely stunning location if you can manage to get there.

Holiday destination would you recommend?
I've travelled to all seven continents in the last decade and Japan will be the first location I return to, other than seeing family, when travel/restrictions allow. So I’d go for Japan or New Zealand as a recommendation. New Zealand became my home after visiting 10+ years ago. Japan is my favourite place in the world outside New Zealand. They are both beautiful and like parallel universes.

What does luxury mean to you?
I'm actually quite the minimalist. I know it doesn't sound like it when I talk about the Ritz-Carlton and my other passions, but I'm a very simple zen guy. To me, luxury is having plenty of quality time with family and friends and a great bottle of Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The “Whisky of Distinction – Port Ellen & Brora: Casks From A Bygone Era” auction closes on 14th June. sothebys.com/PortEllenBroraCasks

Visitors are welcomed through the wildcat gates at Brora Distillery, with two experiences available via Brora.com priced at £300 and £600 per person.

Brora Trey Ratcliff Bottle