6 June 2024

Former teacher returns to class to turn photography passion into a profession

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Woman holding a camera in front of a harbour.

Former teacher turned photographer Sue Dowling is thrilled to be part of an exhibition featuring 25 photographers from across Australia. Photos: TAFE NSW.

After a battle with cancer, teacher Sue Dowling decided to change career paths and pursue a life-long passion with photography.

She completed TAFE studies in photography and digital imaging, opened a photography business in the Illawarra, and has now been selected as one of 25 photographers to be part of an exhibition at Sydney’s prestigious m2 gallery.

Her landscape photography caught the attention of gallery curators and she was invited to exhibit alongside creatives from across Australia.

As a recent TAFE NSW graduate, it will be Sue’s first time exhibiting her art professionally.

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“To be an exhibiting photographer after only a short time as a professional in the industry is something I’m incredibly proud of,” Sue said.

“I’m eager to share my work with the world, so it is an incredible honour to be selected for the Twenty Five: In The Landscape exhibition.”

From a very young age, Sue was fascinated with her pop’s camera and the images he captured.

“I can only hope my “eye” is remotely as keen as his was,” she said.

“Photography is a form of meditation to me; there is not a lot that is much better than observing and capturing the present moment, as I see it.

“I love rawness, vulnerability, delight, and perfection in nature – and the challenge of pressing the shutter button in that perfect split second in time that will convey what is going on at that moment as I see it.”

Multiple triangle installations.

One of Sue’s photographs of the former anti-tank obstacles at the Port Kembla Heritage Park.

Sue’s move into the photography industry came after years working as a teacher and navigating a bout of ill health.

“When my partner and I moved to Wollongong, I’d overcome my battle with ovarian cancer and decided to follow my passion for photography and take it up as my new career,” she said.

“I’d been taking photos for a long time, but I decided to enrol at TAFE NSW to hone those skills and boost my abilities in other areas of the profession.

“Studying at TAFE NSW gave me the practical skills I needed to take the next step and become a professional photographer.

“My studies boosted my confidence and I now have a much deeper understanding of the technical aspects of photography, especially editing and compositing.”

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Sue studied the Certificate IV in Photography and Digital Imaging and a Diploma of Photography and Digital Imaging.

Her TAFE teacher, former newspaper photographer Andy Zakeli, said a qualification in photography boosted students’ theoretical and practical skills.

“Our Certificate IV and Diploma in Photography and Digital Imaging empowers our students with an array of skills they need to launch their career in the industry,” he said.

“The courses provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that broaden their knowledge and expertise across a variety of photographic genres.

“To see Sue succeed in being selected for the Twenty Five: In The Landscape exhibition and start building her own business is testament to her talent and hard work.”

The Twenty Five: In The Landscape exhibition is at m2 Gallery, Surry Hills from 14-17 June. A ‘Meet the Photographer’ event will be held on Sunday 16 June. For details, visit the gallery’s website.

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