Waiting is a big part of my working life as a photojournalist. Waiting to be contacted, waiting for permission, waiting for the light and waiting for the right moment to happen. Recently, I was waiting at a Timor Leste prison for permission to photograph the inmates. I sat behind the metal bars watching the sun going down hoping we could start taking pictures before it got too dark. Getting into a prison as a photographer is not always easy. Permission has to come from the guards, warden and often politicians, all of which takes time. Everyone has a vested interest in what I see and photograph except regrettably the prisoners themselves. Waiting was uncomfortable, the buckled chair wobbled and threatened to collapse each time I moved. Across the compound I could see men with the word prisoner, emblazoned in bold letters on their shirts. I’ve photographed prisons in other countries. Sometimes it’s easy to get in and on other occasions I’ve waited days, weeks, even months to be told no, I can’t come in. Once when I was at a prison in the Philippines a guard with a gun strapped across his chest, performed karaoke for me as I waited to meet the prisoners. On this occasion I was lucky. I got permission, passed security, went through the gates and then I waited for the prisoners, also the captive audience of the guard’s karaoke via loudspeakers. A poorly performed Elvis Presley numbers doesn’t make waiting any easier!
Dr Michael Coyne has worked as a photojournalist for over 30 years, covering significant events in places as diverse as China, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa. His work has been featured in magazines such as: Time, Life, Newsweek, and National Geographic. Michael's extensive work has been featured in a number of solo exhibitions around the world. He spent eight years in the Middle East documenting the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. He covered the Iranian revolution and the Iran/Iraq war, for his work he received a number of awards.Michael has had many successful books published and three documentaries films have been produced about his life and work. In April 2003 Michael was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for Service to Photography and in 2007 the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) awarded him an Honorary Fellowship.