What an Opportunity but No Picture

Michael Coyne, a Senior Fellow at PSC, has been sharing his experiences while on assignment in South East Asia.

The wailing voice rose to a high pitch then dropped into a low groan. I located the entrance to the building from which the sound was emanating.

Crash, bang. The cymbal and bells in the hands of a hooded man set up a syncopated rhythm to accompany his incessant howling. Before him was a makeshift altar illuminated by a single candle. Behind the devotee crouched another man propping him up as he stumbled at the height of his veneration. “Ask them if I could take picture,” I said to my interpreter who was standing in the doorway but wouldn’t come in. “No, no, no”, said the hooded mystic’s crouching supporter. My anxious looking interpreter began backing away, edging up the street. “Come back”, I called. “I need permission to take a picture”.  Reluctantly he came back muttering, “I don’t like, don’t want to go in there.” Again we asked for permission to take a photograph. Another man who was carrying a large knife, which was still dripping blood from the pig’s throat he had just slit, waved me in but indicated no pictures.

By now a group of people had gathered behind the still wailing man who seemed to be in a trance. They draped paper decorations around their necks. Facing the altar they paid homage and then threw the paper decorations in a pile. Someone threw a match on the paper mound. It flared, then burnt and was soon just a heap of ash on the floor. Two birds were brought in and their throats were slit. The blood was gathered in the manner of the pig’s blood from the earlier sacrifice. By now my interpreter had totally disappeared so I mimed my request to photograph the event. The response: an unequivocal no.

The people began to drift off, seeming oblivious to the hooded one still apparently in a trance and continuing to howl with extreme fervor. Outside I watched women cooking the sacrificed animals.

I have been travelling through the hills in northern Thailand photographing the Hmong and Karen tribes. What I had witnessed was a Hmong shaman performing an animal sacrifice. A shaman’s job is to bring peace and harmony to families and animal sacrifice is part of this tradition.

I eventually found my interpreter at the far end of the village, gossiping and sucking a sugar stick. He belongs a different tribe from the one involved in the shamanist ritual but, even so, he couldn’t or wouldn’t explain what had frightened him and why he was unable to look at the ceremony.

I don’t know why the Hmong wouldn’t let me take pictures of this event but it’s their right to say no and it’s my choice to respect them.


Karen villager.

Tribal girl with baby.

Check out Michael’s previous guest posts:

On The Road with Michael Coyne

Waiting in Bangkok

Khlong Toey

Revolution in Thailand

The Sea Gypsies are Dying

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth: We Are Printers Too

Fehily Contemporary
3a Glasshouse Road, Collingwood VIC 3066
Exhibition Opening: Saturday 1 February, 3 – 5pm 2014
Exhibition Dates: 30 January – 22 February 2014

Sonia Leber’s work was proudly printed by Peter Hatzipavlis at The PrintShop@PSC using our Fine Art Print services.

The exhibition will feature a selection of prints from Leber and Chesworth’s video work We Are Printers Too.

Shot in the soon to be demolished former headquarters of The Age newspaper in Spencer Street, the photographs scan this vacant, purpose-built building that once produced the daily news, exploring the architectural and industrial by-products of communication, in a building which, though left behind a decade ago, still carries echoes.

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth, Zaum Tractor, Eternal Pools (2013), archival inkjet print

PSC Pop Up Exhibition

PSC is being featured in a pop up exhibition at Southgate on level 2 just opposite the new Blue Train. The exhibition showcases the creative vision, exploration and distinctiveness of some of our students and graduates. Take the opportunity to check it out!

The Sea Gypsies are Dying

Michael Coyne, a Senior Fellow at PSC, is sharing his experiences while on assignment in South East Asia.

The Sea Gypsies are dying. On the island of Koh Lao they are dying at the rate of one a week, mainly from childbirth and starvation. According to Father Joe Maier of the Mercy Centre, “They don’t even recognize basic foods such as bananas. They have no concept of how to live on dry land.”

The Moken, which is the name they use to refer to themselves, thought only about the colour of the sea or sky, the moon and sunset so they would know where to find the best fishing. The sea spirits would show them signs of approaching storms. They resided on land only during monsoons or when they buried their dead.

During the 2004 tsunami the boats belonging to the Moken Sea Gypsies were destroyed. The tsunami also depleted the oceans of seafood in the areas where the Moken once fished from their Kabang – small handcrafted wooden boats carved from a single tree trunk. Thai Moken have now been permanently settled in villages. They are stateless and have no official papers. Consequently, any Moken fishermen who do manage to get to sea are pursued and put in jail by Burmese or Thai officials.

There are approximately sixty Moken Gypsy families living on Koh Lao. It’s a short ride to this island on a long-tail boat from Thailand’s mainland.

The village houses are built on stilts. Under these shacks are piles of oyster shells, bottles and all forms of garbage. The women sit amongst the garbage smoking, playing cards and breastfeeding their children. The men struggle to find work and what they do find is low paying jobs or illegal fishing, which lands them in jail.

If I had encountered the Moken few years ago it would have been impossible to photograph them because the people then believed that if they had their picture taken they would become trapped inside the camera.

The Mercy Centre, an organisation established to support the Mokens, has built a school on the island where the children are taught Thai, English and Moken. They are also taught their traditional spiritual beliefs and practices, and learn to value their culture.

Fr Joe Maier says, “The Moken people might struggle to eke out a living, but their spirit, like that of the sea, endures”.

Check out Michael’s previous guest posts:

On The Road with Michael Coyne

Waiting in Bangkok

Khlong Toey

Revolution in Thailand

Revolution in Thailand

Michael Coyne, a Senior Fellow at PSC, is sharing his experiences while on assignment in South East Asia.

Revolutions come in many forms. They all have their own shape and style.

The anti-government protest happening in Thailand at the moment is one of the more colourful revolutions I’ve been too. In Iran it was mostly black cloaks, turbans, chadors and dark suits. Most of the students at the protest in Tiananmen Square were wearing white shirts and grey trousers. The favourite colour in Central Africa seemed to be green or khaki. But the blockades around Bangkok are awash with the national colours of red, white and blue. Lanyards, flags, armbands, hats and even spectacles are saturated with these shades.

And then there’s the noise, yet another feature of revolution Bangkok-style. Whistles are definitely de rigueur; everyone has a whistle, the only requirement being that they are blown as frequently as possible. When the whistles are not being blown, speakers harangue the demonstrators or pop groups play loud but unfathomable music. This noise goes on throughout the day and night. Unfortunately there’s a blockade not more than five hundred yards from where I’m staying. But, of course, the upside to this proximity is ready access for the purpose of getting pictures of the event.

The blockades are located near overhead rail stations requiring pedestrians to push their way past both demonstrators and street vendors, who are doing a roaring trade in take away food and sales of the obligatory whistles.

The demonstrators themselves are occupied with blowing whistles, sleeping, eating and taking ‘selfies’ dressed in their colourful clothes or in t-shirts replete with slogans such as Shutdown Bangkok and Restart Thailand.

At this point in time it’s entertaining and amusing taking pictures of the protest. But it is, nonetheless, worth keeping in mind that during the two months of these demonstrations eight people have been killed and more than 500 have been injured. These events have a habit of turning nasty when you least expect it.

Check out Michael’s previous guest posts:

On The Road with Michael Coyne

Waiting in Bangkok

Khlong Toey


How to Accept Your Offer for Full Time Study at PSC


How to accept you offer

Congratulations on receiving an offer of a place to study at PSC and welcome to the PSC Community!

In order to accept your offer of a place in our full time Bachelor or Advanced Diploma of Photography courses you are required to attend the college on one of the enrolment days.

Your offer pack is in the mail and contains everything you need to know in preparation for enrolment day.

Contact Melina on (03) 9682 3191 or mrookes@psc.edu.au to confirm your intention to enrol and book an enrolment appointment .

Don’t forget to bring you tax file number and verification of Australian citizenship if you are planning to apply for FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP.

Congratulations again and see you soon!


Negotiated offers & direct applications

If you didn’t receive an offer you have the option of submitting a negotiated offer through VTAC or applying directly to PSC.

New applicants will need to attend an interview and bring in a folio of work. Contact us for more information.

Information Session – Picture Berlin 2014

Photography Studies College
65 City Rd
Southbank VIC 3006

Wednesday 22nd January 2014

The Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive and PSC are delighted host an information session with Australian artist and Picture Berlin 2013 particpant Melanie Irwin. Melanie’s practice blurs distinctions between sculpture and performance and her recent works examine the body’s relationship with built structures and found geometric objects. She will be talking about her work, and the experience of applying for, funding, and participating in Picture Berlin.

This is a free information session for Melbourne based photographers and artists interested in advancing their practice, making professional connections, and gaining experience in the thriving art and cultural centre that is Berlin.

Picture Berlin is a 6-week summer program designed for emerging artists working in contemporary art and photography. Founded in 2009 by artists for artists, it continues to be run by artists as a hybrid program merging the concentrated studio practice of an artist residency with the support of the art academy.

Applications for Picture Berlin 2014 close 8th February – visit the website for further information about the programs and fees.

Ignite Your Imagination!

Ignite your imagination and passion for photography in 2014 by undertaking one of our part time courses suitable for both beginners and more experienced photographers.

Our 20 week program provides the opportunity to:
• Learn what makes your photos work
• Build your visual awareness
• Understand how to use light creatively
• Get better results
• Share your photos for review and feedback
• Produce a folio to sure with family and friends

New courses start:
Tuesday 11 February 6-9pm or
• Wednesday 26 February 6-9pm or
• Thursday 20 March 6-9pm

In addition to our 20 week program you also have the option to enrol in our part time full semester option and work towards obtaining your Advanced Diploma of Photography.

Contact us on (03) 9682 3191 or info@psc.edu.au to find out more and to arrange a personalised tour of the college.

We look forward to meeting you and taking you through our latest exhibition – have a peak by clicking the link below!

Tour the Summer Show with the Communications & Students Team

Khlong Toey

Michael Coyne, a Senior Fellow at PSC, is sharing his experiences while on assignment in South East Asia.

I always try and get to a location early so I can check out the place, light and environment.

For the last few days I have working on a project in Khlong Toey, an area in Bangkok which is recognised as a slum district. I had been photographing children from the area who are being supported by the Human Development Foundation – HDF.

HDF have children in their care who are abandoned, physically challenged or suffer from AIDS. I had organised to see Children’s Day, an event that was worth attending because you never know when a picture opportunity might happen.

Because I was early for the event, I spent some time walking around Khlong Toey looking to shoot pictures of life on the streets. I have worked in this area of Bangkok on a number of occasions so I’m aware of the challenges and opportunities that this slum district presents.

The early morning sunlight was long, low and warm, just how I like it when shooting on the street. I managed to get a couple of colourful images. But the image that appealed to me most of all, was a shot I did of two women relaxing at an ice-making plant.

Ice workers in Khlong Toey.

Check out Michael’s previous guest posts:

On The Road with Michael Coyne

Waiting in Bangkok

Waiting in Bangkok

Michael Coyne, a Senior Fellow at PSC, is sharing his experiences while on assignment in South East Asia.

Bangkok is waiting; waiting for something to happen. Will there be a clash between government supporters and opposition supporters? Will the army take over – today, tomorrow, this weekend, or will they wait until the scheduled demonstration on Monday?

Ninety percent of my working life is spent waiting. Waiting for the light, waiting for the moment, waiting for people and waiting for something to happen.

Whenever I’m working it is a waiting game. I walk a lot. I walk, watch and observe. Sometimes I get lucky and a picture happens but mostly it’s just a lot of walking and watching. And waiting!

The street vendors of Bangkok are selling whistles, flags and other paraphernalia, cashing in on the anticipated street clashes. It’s almost like they’re preparing for a street carnival except the tourists seem totally oblivious to the coming events.

As well as working in Bangkok I have been attempting to organise trips to other locations. I have been waiting for fixers, waiting for planes and waiting for the right person.

Shooting pictures is the least part of my work. Waiting is the main game.

Demonstrators at the last clash between the Government, opposition and the army.

Check out Michael’s first post:

On The Road with Michael Coyne