Creative profile: Melissa Findley
This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, autumn 2019, issue 110
A passionate environmentalist, this Queensland-based photographer talks about the creative process behind her evocative work in travel.
Where do you live?
The Gold Coast, Australia. I love waking up and starting my day by the ocean, the national parks, the laid-back culture and hearing the waves crash against the shore as I fall asleep each night.
What are the most memorable locations you’ve worked on?
Nepal, Bhutan, New Zealand and Patagonia have been highlights for me. I am drawn to wide open spaces and the vastness of the mountains.
How would you describe the style of images you capture and what stories do you try and show through your lens?
Travel documentation, looking at vast landscapes. I focus on the environment, the human element and local stories. I attempt to capture the essence of beautiful and indescribable moments, putting them into images to accompany their stories.
When you work with tourism boards and travel brands, how do you inject your personality into the images?
I’m lucky that my clients give me full creative freedom, as I am driven by my emotions and create from that place. My whole heart is on my sleeve in my work.
Could you tell us about your involvement with charity and conservation organisations?
My intention has always been to use my work to create good; using my camera as my tool to provoke conversation. I photograph the natural world and its beings for a living and want to do all I can to help protect it. I truly believe in kindness and that art can be an incredible thought-provoker. If my photography can bring awareness to that very cause, it’s worth it.
What customer feedback do you receive about your best-selling prints and zines?
The most important feedback I receive is about the ability to move someone with the imagery in my printed work. In a world flooded with so many digital images, hearing the emotion evoked from my body of work is the highest honour.
Secondly, I receive a lot of feedback about the quality of the zines and prints. Supporting small, local Australian businesses and doing what I can to protect the environment are two passions of mine. For that reason, I ensure the process for my zines remains 100 per cent locally made on recycled paper, with environmentally friendly vegetable inks and clean green printing processes.
What’s the biggest threat to our planet today as a result of tourism?
I worry about the impact on the environment at popular tourist destinations as many operators are not equipped to handle an influx of visitors. In addition, our single-use plastic consumption is excessive.
Other simple ideas such as eating a more plant-based diet, pledging to go plastic-free, taking all the rubbish with you, and not accepting plastic straws can make a big difference. And there are bigger campaigns to support, such as stopping whaling, protecting our forests and our reef, and defending our wildlife and the beautiful planet we call home.
Every job has its downsides. What are the challenges involved in the work you do?
Photographing this sublime world comes with its own set of challenges. Most of the time as a creative, I find myself very far outside of my comfort zone, pushing for my craft.
There is alot of sacrifice behind the scenes. Over the years I have struggled to keep a regular routine with the time-zone changes, flying weekly and balancing a personal life while living on the road. What people don’t see is the sleeplessness, the anxiety, the incredible amounts of planning and preparation it takes to ensure I’m in the right place at the right time.
It means I may be waking up at 3am, hiking a few hours before sunrise, sleeping in tents in less than ideal conditions, all at the mercy of Mother Nature. Giving up comforts and the convenience of home is a trade-off for the memories I make and the life I live.
How can creative people help educate and inspire travellers about our planet?
There’s a responsibility to have a positive influence, to begin educating and encouraging others to educate themselves, to inspire and engage – our actions have tangible outcomes. The threats to our planet’s future are real and immediate. We simply can’t wait for ‘someone else’ to sort it out. It begins with the individual. Never underestimate the smallest change and how it can make a big difference.