Breaking with the traditional - Following your passion

Breaking with the traditional - Following your passion

If you’ve walked through Dublin Airport, the Aviva Stadium, or any number of Ireland’s pubs, chances are you’ve seen Al Higgins’ work.

Al is now one of the country’s leading editorial and commercial photographers with the likes of Aer Lingus, Bank of Ireland, Leinster Rugby, and Teeling Whiskey among his list of clients.

However, in 2004 before the days of success, Al was facing the daunting prospect of filling out the CAO form and finishing the Leaving Cert. Even at 17 Al knew his life was at a crossroads.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to do something creative with my life. I’d always loved art and photography, but I wasn’t sure it could be a real career choice, or if it would be financially stable. My parents weren’t too keen, they both worked in semi-state bodies and it was just something that was never on their radar.”
Photography work for a magazine editorial featured in Cara Magazine, Aer Lingus

However, creativity and a love of photography ran in Al’s blood. His father was always taking pictures and during a trip through Amsterdam Airport at 13 years old, Al’s father finally relented and a 1.6 megapixel camera was purchased for him.

His family’s love for photography coupled with the advice of his secondary school art teacher soon eroded his parents’ concerns.

“My art teacher was really in my corner, he told them ‘the course is only one year, and after that one year he’ll know if it’s something he really wants to pursue or not, it will give him a proper taste of it.’”

Al applied for the Art & Design Portfolio course in Waterford College of Further Education and credits it with setting him on his path to success.

“The course itself was amazing. Our main tutor was brilliant, she outlined exactly what we had to do and she didn’t take any nonsense. When it came the portfolio side of the year, when our deadlines were looming, she really sat on us and made us work. She pushed us hard and brought out our best work.”

Al passed all his modules with flying colours and then directly secured a place in the National College of Art & Design (NCAD) for a degree in Fine Arts & Photography.

“Doing a FET course was amazing, it allowed me to take a year and sample what I was interested in before blindly dedicating three or four years to a degree. The CAO process is deeply flawed in this regard. At 17 it’s impossible to really know what you’ll be suited to.”


Lidl's 'Serious Starts Here' campaign in association with Ladies Gaelic Football

“I used that 1.6 megapixel camera right up until college. I knew it was something I really wanted to do. My experience with FET was amazing, it made such a difference to my life. The great thing is that it is not a final decision and gives you so much space to explore where your talents lie.”