Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Michael Brian Watkins’ career in photography has spanned nearly 20 years. A 17-year veteran, Michael has made a name for himself as a U.S. Navy photographer and combat photojournalist. As a former member of the Navy’s Combat Camera team, Watkins’ global reach has covered Special Operations missions including hostage rescues, Iraqi Counter Terrorism Task Force missions, Special Forces combat missions, counter terrorism and humanitarian operations in the Philippines, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations in Afghanistan, the American evacuations from Beirut in 2006, Detainee Operations in Guantanamo, the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina in 2005 and the Brittish Patroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. His documentary photographs and videography have received international exposure and have been published by Reuters, Getty, AP, Fox News, CNN, CBS, PBS, USA Today, The Washington Post, All Hands Magazine and numerous other publications. Michael is a 2005 graduate of the Military’s Advanced Training in Photojournalism at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.
Michael’s first photographic duty station was the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN) 72. There he excelled in portraiture, flight deck operations and aerial photography. His talent and keen eye were quickly recognized. He was selected to be the personal photographer to the Commanding Officer and photographed high-profile events as well as celebrities, high-ranking officials, and distinguished visitors. As an aerial cameraman and aviation photographer, Watkins coordinated and directed a 22-ship multi-national force battle group photo for original use in the movie “Pearl Harbor,” and later “Transformers.”
Michael’s work has received multiple awards gaining him national recognition. His special operations work in Iraq made it to the public in the 2008 charitable art exhibition “Eye of the Storm” premiering in Los Angeles spotlighting the work of nine of America’s top decorated combat photographers where his work sold for more than $700.00 per print to benefit the Wounded Warrior Foundation. His awe inspiring images of the war on terror also made it to the front page of the Washington Post and were featured in the book “Top Secret America” by two time Pulitzer Award winning journalist Dana Priest. His combat video footage can also be seen in the PBS Frontline documentary “Top Secret America” as well. In addition, Michael was awarded the Navy’s top first place award in photojournalism from the Chief of Naval Information (CHINFO) for his coverage of the Fighting Seabees in Afghanistan as well as multiple honorable mentions in the 2011 Military Photographer of the Year competition. Michael also received the top Navy-wide CHINFO first place award for desiging and producing the battalion’s deployment cruise book.
Aside from photography, Michael’s hobbies and interest include flying and scuba diving. He is an instrument rated pilot and aircraft owner as well as a PADI certified Dive Master.