Melissa Findley is an internationally-renowned travel and lifestyle photographer, Gold Coast local and passionate advocate for sustainable travel and contributing to charities wherever possible.
Throughout her career she has worked with brands like The Intrepid Foundation, Canon Australia and various worldwide tourism boards. Most recently Melissa was asked to submit an image for LIVIN x Robina Town Centre’s Collective Minds exhibition.
We sat down for a chat with the talented (and delightful) local lass about her own journey with mental health and some of the incredible places her career has taken her.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been back home for 4.5, almost 5 years now.
What do you love most about living here?
Falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, the national parks + close-by hinterland and taking a cheeky midday swim in-between editing.
Tell us how you came to be world-renowned travel photographer…
My career has been a very organic progression of everything I have ever loved. I picked up a camera as a teen and started documenting life, and I guess I never stopped. I feel very grateful every single day that this is my job, and I love what I do. My camera is an extension of me and my art created with my whole heart on my sleeve.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
Visiting many countries/ places I have dreamed of, meeting incredible people along the way, learning about new cultures and ways of life, growing and sharing the whole journey with an incredible supportive online community.
One of your images is currently showcased at the LIVIN x Robina Town Centre Collective Minds exhibition, can you talk a bit about your own mental health journey?
As a teenager I struggled with anxiety and depression, learning the art of photography helped me to be present and to shift my focus. Documenting life, different ways of life, the natural world and animals has helped changed my perspective over the years and to realise that the world is beautiful. I aim to share this beauty through my work and hope to connect with people, to inspire them to spend time in nature, persue a hobby or their dreams and talk about mental health. It’s all encompassing, and I owe a lot to the camera in my hands, and the feet I get to walk around the world with + the community who supports.
Tell us about the image you submitted and why…
I submitted a piece called “The Beacon Of Hope.” – A starry night at the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia. Built in 1848, the Cape Otway lighthouse known as the “Beacon of Hope;” a reminder to all that there is always light. Alongside a piece I wrote when I had come through a very tough period in life:
“For the days when getting out of bed was impossible. For the friends who came over uninvited and pulled you out.
For the times you lay on the shower floor crying silently in a ball. For the times you picked yourself up off that very ground.
For your darkest days, when the weight of the world had broken you.
For the times the beauty of the world made your chest swell and feel like it could literally burst.
For the people who tore your heart out and left you alone. For the people who showed up and put the pieces back together with you.
For the times you lied, how you forced your jaw to smile. For the smiles that produced uncontrollable tears of happiness to fall from your eyes.
For the strength you somehow found.
Hold on; you can make it through the storm.”
What advice do you have for someone who would love to become a travel photographer?
Create with heart and soul. Discover what it is that you are passionate about and do that. Be inspired, but do not copy. Slow down, have patience, practise a lot, learn the rules and break the rules. I strongly believe that if you lead with authenticity, you will prevail. It took me many years to get to where I am in my career and I am always learning. I don’t think I will ever stop – and that is the key. Stay curious and passionate.
What’s on the cards for the rest of 2019 for you?
Right now, I am writing this from Mexico City, I’ve spent a month on the road from an assignment in Kenya, through to Tulum, Oaxaca and the mountains of, and now in Mexico City. From here I head to Los Angeles for a meeting and then home for a few weeks before leading my first photography workshop in Nepal for 18 days amongst the Annapurna Himalaya with my business partner Carmen Huter. December is typically the month of the year where I spend time grounded at home, and see my friends and family. I love summer on the Gold Coast.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Coffee spot: Stable Coffee Kitchen
Cafe for breakfast: Cardamom Pod, Brickworks.
Restaurant for dinner: Greenhouse Canteen
How do your weekends look when you’re home: An early morning walk from home around Burleigh Headland, the Palm Beach Farmers Markets, Acai from Salt Mill + time with my friends at the beach or a good book; I love reading. And for all the places I am fortunate enough to travel to for work and pleasure, I truly love the place I am lucky enough to call home and the people that make it so.
The pop-up exhibition at Robina Town Centre will shine a light on mental health by using photography as the catalyst for a public conversation.