Photographer, artist and man with a mission
The beauty of the USC campus was irresistible to Gerard Mills. Gerard moved to the Sunshine Coast from the northern rivers district of NSW over three years ago to be near his daughter, Grace, who is a student at USC. A man who has devoted much of his life to education, art and photography, the USC campus wildness brought all of these together like preordained alchemy.
Gerard studied art and trained as a teacher at the Catholic College of Education in Sydney in the 1970s. It was there that a De la Salle brother mentored Gerard into photography. Gerard struggled to perfect his final semester painting of a maidenhair fern lyrically pushing through the wheels of an old tram. The brother remarked, “There's an instrument for what you're trying to do – it's called a camera. For God's sake go and buy yourself a bloody camera!” The 21 year old immediately took up his ricoh and wore it out within six months.
Gerard made his first connection between art, photography and a love of nature on his first teaching post in the northern rivers district of NSW. There, he began photographing flowers and the sky and began a camera quest to capture birds in flight. He got very good at it and fell in love with wildlife photography. His work since has been published in text books in the United States and he travelled extensively around Australia in his spare time as a photojournalist for Ansett and Air Queensland in-flight magazines.
In the early 1980's, Gerard left teaching and went back to Sydney to study to be a priest at St Patrick's Seminary. There, he got a classical education, studying philosophy, ancient Greek and latin, as well as theology. The priesthood was not to be and he went on to work for many years for Catholic Education. A sea change in the 1990's saw him become a storekeeper at Woody Point, north of Brisbane.
Gerard is now retired and living on the Sunshine Coast with a new quest. Like the classical heroes he read about in the seminary, his own odyssey is to spend 10 years photographing all of the USC campus wildlife. It's an epic campaign for him every day and he speaks of it with passion as if his deep reverence and love of all creatures great and small – his truthful calling.