Finbarr Healy joined Wexford Camera Club as a beginner in 2017. His keen sense of what makes a good subject for a photo and his willingness to work hard at making the best possible shot of that subject have ensured steady progress from Beginner level to Advanced. He won the trophy for (WCC) Photographer of the Year in both 2018 and 2019, rewards earned by dedicated hard work and a good eye. His enthusiasm for photography is infectious.
“I always had a keen passing interest in photography but never did anything about it. I had bought magazines, looked at books, and went to the World Press Exhibition in Ireland 3 times over the years. On a visit to NZ in April 2017, I was driving back to my accommodation in darkness when I saw a silhouette. This wasn’t a well-known photographic location like Hook Head or the Cliffs of Moher. I went back for sunrise at 7.30 the next morning. Balancing the camera on my jacket on the roof of my hired car, I took the shot. It was the defining moment. I said to myself…..
‘Wow! Not bad ! If I can be lucky enough to get this shot, imagine what I could do if I joined a camera club and began learning about photography?’ So I sought out Wexford Camera Club when I got home. I joined it in May 2017 and haven’t looked back since.”
Initially Finbarr “looked on from the sidelines” – absorbing all he could: judges’ comments on challenges, talks by invited speakers and club members, critiques of members’ photos brought in on USB sticks. Some months later, he entered his first challenge in the Beginners’ section: he won first prize. He acknowledges with gratitude the helpful advice given by experienced club photographers.
Among the invited speakers who influenced his work was Des Clinton who gave an excellent talk on how to create a panel. Finbarr was very taken both by the content (shot at fairs, festivals, religious processions) and the presentation of Des’s work. Another who made an impression on him was Claudio Nego who visited the club several times – he gave instructive talks in advance of challenges and also judged them. Finbarr found him “passionate, remarkably generous in sharing his knowledge and skill…just brilliant! His critiques were inspiring. I learned an awful lot from listening to him and from accompanying him on a shoot in Wexford town one morning”.
Having explored a number of subjects, Finbarr realised that one specific area captivated him. “Seascapes and landscapes, abstract themes and nature, are interesting and rewarding, but street photography is my passion. Shooting subjects in candid situations offers a unique opportunity to capture the unexpected well as the ordinary business of daily life.”
His first camera served Finbarr well: a Canon 70D, a good robust body with one lens, 18-135mm. However, when he gravitated towards street work, he moved to a more compact option – a Fuji X- T1, another good all-rounder – and weatherproof.
As well as learning from other photographers in WCC and elsewhere, Finbarr spends time googling relevant material for upcoming challenges. Looking at images online gives him ideas to try out. He is also influenced by a number of modern photographers whose work he admires, e.g., Linda Wisdom, a London-based street photographer and Dougie Wallace (also London-based), a distinctive documentary photographer, renowned for his unique approach.
Talking to Finbarr shows clearly how rewarding he finds taking pictures. “It gives me a lot of pleasure: it’s challenging to go out, having prepared and planned the shoot, and then to come home and study the images I’ve taken. I’ve learned that trying hard doesn’t always mean I’ll get the shot I want, but when I get something special, it’s very satisfying”.
He was excited to win the POTY award – surprised too. And he hopes everyone realises that even a beginner can win this award – it’s for the photographer who does best at their own level: “if you work hard at challenges, you can reap the reward”.