Feature Image by: Belinda Howell for ‘This is Australia’, Getty Images contributor

Belinda Howell: The Teacher who is Learning

‘Aspiring’ Gold Coast photographer Belinda Howell has a bubbly enthusiasm that can only be described as ‘contagious’. Discovering the ‘This is Australia’ program after stumbling upon the Canon Collective, the literacy teacher now attends as many events as her busy schedule allows.

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You’re now a Getty Images contributor

Oh God, yes. I can’t believe it. Every time something new happens, it’s a massive boost to my confidence.

So where did it all start?

In early high school, I was always the one who photographed everyone, wanting to preserve memories. I did a photography class and spent most of my lunch breaks in the darkroom, trying to get the perfect image. Being unsupervised meant using up as much expensive photo paper as I wanted!

The interest obviously continued

I wanted to do a BA in photography, but travelling to Brisbane in my Datsun 180B was not a great option. Every time I washed the darn thing something dropped off it. I ended up doing a Creative Arts degree on the Gold Coast. The passion continued when I travelled solo overseas; I was so naïve, I walked the streets of Manila photographing the homeless with absolutely no idea how dangerous the streets were.

Yet you were nervous going to your first Canon Collective?

Yes! I bravely booked myself into a Shorncliffe shoot. I told myself if I pick up just one new thing a day then I’ll be just that little bit better than the day before. I still have this attitude. Talking to the Canon organisers has been a massive confidence boost. The other photographers have always been encouraging and I’ve learnt so much simply being around people who share the same passion. We all feel free to bounce questions off each other.

And now you’re part of ‘This is Australia’

I’d been to three Canon workshops in Brisbane and travelled to Sydney for the Getty Images workshop with Rebecca Swift. I wasn’t going to do the workshop because the level required said ‘Expert Photographer’ and I thought, well, that’s not me”.

My friend and work colleague from school, Marnie Griffiths also does Canon workshops and when I mentioned “But it says Expert” she just laughed and said “I don’t care what it says”. I bit the bullet and said I’d come too. I’m willing to give anything a crack. I take things on board, listen to what people tell me and vow to get just that little bit better every day.

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Did Sydney live up to expectations?

It was unreal. I did the workshops and they later asked if I was available for a Sunday workshop. It took about a nano-second to decide to cancel my flight home and stay the extra day. I got to the workshop and was amazed there were only three of us invited – and the other two were professional photographers. I was completely out of my league and thought, “Oh my God, do they realise who they’ve invited?”

I had one battery and one memory card for five hours of shooting. The stylists appeared and there was a crew to film the event. I told them, “I’m still an amateur, be gentle with me!” but they couldn’t have been nicer, and gave me the confidence to continue. They knew I was a beginner, but liked the style of photography I was doing. They could see I may have some potential. My memory card ran out in no time of course – a real rookie error.

What was the potential they saw in your style?

I like images to be emotive. My favourite subjects are families and children. After years of teaching primary school I’m very comfortable with kids and I know I can capture their spirit in a shoot. Being accepted by Getty Images gave me the chance to shoot to a brief and share what my little Australian family looks like with the world.

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Is diversity in images important to you?

Totally. It’s what makes Australia the amazing place it is. I’ve photographed people from South Africa, Asia and India and I’ve got lots of Maori friends from New Zealand and friends from the Cook Islands. I love photographing anyone willing to share who they are – with me and the world.

One of my subjects came out of the blue. I went to mum and dad’s in Mt Tamborine to shoot some macro images. When I arrived, dad was working in his garden in an old hat and overalls. It backs on to beautiful rainforest and there he was outside his old wooden shed… A nearly 70 year old ‘Englishman’ who emigrated fifty years ago, pottering around in his piece of paradise. I thought, “It doesn’t get more Australian than this” and started photographing him instead.

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Fast-track yourself to become a contributor in ‘This is Australia’ program with Canon and Getty Images.

Photography by Belinda Howell.

Follow her passion for learning on Instagram @belindahowellphotography

Getty Images: This is Australia Collection

Photograph by Attila Csaszar, Getty Images Contributor

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