FAIRFIELD, NJ — Over the last decade, Michael Downey has accumulated a substantial number of protegees and followers who swear by his photographic expertise.
Downey recently celebrated 10 years as a photography instructor at Unique Photo in Fairfield, and both his takes and his extensive portfolio on the subject are, indeed, quite unique.
The head instructor of Unique University, Downey currently owns and operates Michael Downey Photography, Inc. out of Somerville in Somerset County. He has photographed hundreds of moderate to high-end weddings throughout the Northeast, and he teaches during photowalks and workshops. Downey's images can currently be seen at New Century Artist Art Gallery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
"My role [at Unique Photo] is head instructor," said Downey. "I teach basic photography and have a good understanding of most genres, so I share those nuggets of photo wisdom as well."
Young people who have a particular interest in photography that goes well beyond merely snapping images with their smart phones have found a kindred spirit in Downey.
"I attribute my following to being a 'friend' to those who want to know more about photography," said Downey. "I'm like the guy who 'lives up the street' you'd go to before your next photographic challenge."
When Downey shoots a photograph, or when he teaches a pupil how to do so, it entails much more than simply pressing a shutter button.
"The only philosophy or thought that I encourage with one's photography is to tell a story," said Downey. "Use your camera to move, touch and inspire."
A photographer with a particular love of travel, Downey tells stories that often span the globe and encompass a worldwide cross-section of cultural interests.
"If I had to pick a favorite subject for my photography it would be cultural photography," said Downey. "Make the planet a smaller place by sharing the spirit of different cultures. My recent global excursion was in Namibia, Africa. I led a group of photographers capturing the landscapes, the wild animals (i.e. elephants, lions, giraffes) and the culture of the region. We spent time photographing a Himba tribe in their natural environment—a 'Day In The Life,' if you will.
"I've lead tours capturing the castles of Ireland, the glaciers of Alaska, and the people of Morocco. Next year I'll lead a tour of Amsterdam and Jamaica in the spring."
Closer to home, Downey's reach includes the time he spends imparting his expertise and photographic passion to local students.
"The largest involvement I have with the Fairfield community would be my affinity for the West Essex High School Photography Club," said Downey. "My outreach expands much further than that, but they are, indeed, local."