Gillian Maclean’s long-held interest in photography started in her early twenties, while living and working in Australia in the 1980’s. After seeing a local photography course advertised, she said “I decided to sign up, the only trouble was, I didn’t own a camera. I took my hard-earned savings and purchased my first Canon EOS and a Karl Zeiss lens.”
The course was sufficient to get Gillian’s creative juices flowing; she particularly enjoyed Street Photography.
“I remember one year getting up at 2:45am to catch the train into Sydney city so I could photograph the war veterans at the huge ANZAC parade. This is still one of the things I love about photography, it makes you get up and make the most of what any one day has to offer - to ‘seize the day’ and its photographic opportunities.”
Gillian’s hobby unexpectedly came to an abrupt end when all her photography gear was burgled. “...I simply couldn’t afford to purchase another camera, so everything went on hold for another thirty years!”
Several decades later, and now Invercargill based, Gillian purchased another camera and eventually signed up to courses at the WEA (Southland Education). This reignited her passion for photography, but she wanted to continue learning, which prompted an online search for other courses available locally.
She was thrilled to find the New Zealand Diploma in Photography - Level 5, could be completed through SIT2LRN distance learning, part-time over four years. “It would allow me to stay employed as a financial administrator, as well as study. It was perfect, I could make this work!”
As a mature student, Gillian didn’t know what to expect when she enrolled to study via distance learning.
“It didn’t take long before I was navigating my way around Blackboard, introducing myself to classmates, downloading my study materials and submitting justifications and assignments. The information received prior to the course sets you in good stead from the very start.”
“My tutors are only an email away and are there to ask and answer your questions...”
The diploma covers all aspects of photography; starting from the basics, each paper guides students onto more advanced photographic theory and techniques.
“Although you can, and many do complete more than one paper per intake, I have chosen to complete one paper at a time,” Gillian said. “For me, it isn’t all about the diploma at the end... It is about learning everything I can while utilising the opportunities and motivation from the course materials.”
“The course has exceeded my expectations. I have taken so much away from every paper.” Gillian found NZDP101 and NZDP106 - papers on mastering Photoshop - especially useful. “I can now utilise Photoshop to its fullest and bring the best out of my images, post-edit.”
Gillian admits the reality of juggling work and study can be challenging for anyone, and says the only way through it is to get organised.
“Winter months when there is little light after work, wet weekends, colds, flu, Covid and all other life hurdles, can wreak havoc with your week... Having a study plan, allocating time... will work well towards achieving weekly course goals.”
Studying part-time has delivered benefits. It’s allowed Gillian a mid-year break for her annual holiday, as well as the time to remain an active member of the Southland and New Zealand Photographic Societies.
Gillian achieved two major highlights in 2022: she entered four images into the National Sony Exhibition, from this she won a bronze medal. She also took home the Eric Young Memorial Trophy for Best Landscape Projected Image, ‘Tasman Glacier Lake’, and the overall Ron Willems Medallion for Digital Photographer of the Year.
She then achieved her Licentiate Honours (LNZPS) through the New Zealand Photographic Society. Gillian puts these successes down to what she has learnt during her SIT2LRN programme and being a member of the Southland Photographic Society.
When Gillian initially signed up to complete an NZDP, she said the thought of four years’ study felt extremely daunting. That was three years ago; with only a couple of papers remaining, she will complete her qualification in 2023.
“My motivation is stronger than ever. Whatever self-doubt there was when I signed up, has gone; I feel confident in my abilities and my dedication to completing the course. I feel confident as a photographer.”
Gillian is excited to see what the future holds. “I have had such an awesome year full of accomplishments beyond my expectations. I am so passionate about photography I know I will continue to pursue it as a hobby, where that will lead me remains unseen.”