Alloway Railway Tunnel's Inspiring Student Photographer

I was delighted when the Alloway Railway Tunnel Project Committee welcomed me to document the progress of the mural installation in photographs. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and for all the people I got to know along the way, and it has been a privilege to see first-hand the talent and dedication of the mural artist, Chris Rutterford and everyone involved in the project.

 I had just started a college course as a first step towards returning to work after spending many years as a full-time mum.  My youngest child was in primary school, and I felt it was time for me to pursue my interest in photography.  My passion for photography developed during lockdown, when I would head outdoors to walk and search for beauty in nature to photograph.  However, I found that I was more-or-less taking the same types of photographs over and over again. I realised that I needed help to develop my photographic knowledge and skills.

I enrolled for HNC Photography at Ayrshire College in September 2023 after completing an evening course in photography the year before. The HNC course is largely based on submitting practical assessments on various aspects of photography, including Portraiture, Documentary Photography and Event Photography.  It was with a view to fulfilling the Documentary Photography element of my course that I became involved with the AllowayRailway Tunnel ART Project.


Community Involvement

 A huge mural will transform the old tunnel. However, the mural is not being painted by an artist in isolation, but by members of schools, colleges, care homes, community groups etc in partnership with the muralist Chris Rutterford. Thus, everyone who participates in one of Chris’ workshops can proudly take ownership of their individual contribution.

My daughter and her friend painted a goose at one of the workshops and both were utterly delighted when a photo used by BBC Scotland TV included their goose on the mural!  It is wonderful that individuals who have contributed to the production of the Mural can actually see their contribution in situ.   

I attended workshops run by Chris with Alloway Primary School at Burns Cottage and this enabled me to record not only the progress of the mural installation, but also the making of the mural from its very earliest stages.

The high point of the ART Project so far has been the completion of Phase 1 of the installation.  This was marked by a Tunnel Launch event in April 2024.  Among the attendees were trustees from the ART Project, Allan Dorans MP, Officials from South Ayrshire Council, the President of the World Burns Federation, the Vice-President of the Alloway Burns Club, and many of the volunteers who have helped the Project in so many ways.  


Making Connections

Getting ahead in the competitive field of professional photography relies to a large extent on making connections.  Thanks to documenting the progress of the mural in photographs, I have been fortunate to meet many established professional photographers and to be invited to take photographs at a number of prestigious local events.

Among the professionals I have met are Alasdair from our local newspaper The Ayrshire Post, who was thrilled with my photograph used on the permanent signage at the entrance to the Tunnel; Rachael from BBC Radio Scotland; and a crew from Scottish Television.

I have learned a lot from watching these professionals go about their job of photographing dignitaries, members of the general public, local school children and the mural. Photojournalism is a hard area to break into. These contacts with press, radio and TV all help me build a network of contacts which will be invaluable to me in future.

Thanks to the contacts I have made and the experiences I have had, I am beginning to find my feet as a photographer. The past year has been an exciting time, a busy time and a challenging time.  The change in me as a photographer over the past year has been immense, as has the change in me as a person.  I have learned so much and so very quickly!

In addition to making connections with individual photographers, I have also been fortunate to make connections with local events.  My photographs have been published widely in local newspapers and leaflets, on the ART Project website and FB page, in the Ayrshire Magazine and Alloway and Doonfoot’s Going Out and elsewhere.

Thanks to this exposure, I have been invited to take photographs at many events, including the 2024 Children’s Boswell Book Festival.  While there, I was asked to also take some photographs of the main BookFestival at Dumfries House, for use in future publicity materials.  I have also taken photographs at the 2024 Girvan Folk Festival, for Ayrshire College and at other local events. These are ideal platforms from which to launch myself as a photographer.


Alloway Railway Tunnel Project

I was born in Austria and lived in various parts of Europe before coming to stay in Alloway in 2007.  Since moving here, I have been a regular user of the cycle path which runs through the Alloway Railway Tunnel.  I cycled there with my daughter and walked there with my dog.  Initially, for me, there was nothing noteworthy about the tunnel, it was just a rather dowdy place in my local environment. Now, it is getting much-needed love and attention.  It is wonderful to see its transformation. The artwork is stunning.

Chris has done a fantastic job of involving the whole community in this transformation and in bringing the beauty of nature to his paintings of plants, trees and animals. The way he engages with workshop attendees amazes me.  He has the gift of putting everyone at ease to bring out their best.  Chris has created a real dynamic between himself, the mural and the community.

Next year, when I continue with my studies with HND Photography, I will certainly stay involved with the ART Project and, as far as possible, will use the contacts I have already made to help me fulfil the photographic requirements of my course.

My long-term ambition is to become a professional photographer.  It could be in press photography, portraiture, nature photography or something else entirely.  Over the past year I have expanded my knowledge and skills and have grown in confidence, and I am rapidly developing the business sense which is essential in order to pursue a freelance career.

 I will continue to take opportunities as they come along, just as I took the opportunity to be involved in documenting the progress of the mural in the Alloway Railway Tunnel - and I haven’t looked back!


Rosa Finucane

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