Vale Michael Prior photographer

Vale Michael Prior photographer

View Camera Australia is sad to report the death of Australian photographer Michael Prior. Here is Ellie Young’s tribute:

Michael Frederick Prior 1952 – 2019

Michael was a genius, a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci. His broad range of knowledge across engineering, science, photography, art and literature all attest to that. He was destined to be an engineer. He would watch any tradesmen intently and copy their moves. 

No area of scientific interest was left untouched. He collected fossils. He was an active birdwatcher. He built his own crystal sets. He loved chemistry.  Michael had a passion for trains, either steam or diesel. 

At the age of 19 Michael and his brother 16 were Kawasaki dealers Cyclex Motorcycle Engineers.

He studied Civil engineering at Monash University and on graduating, worked at John Connell and Partners, Consulting Engineers.  Three years later he was lecturing at Caulfield Institute of Technology. He started an enterprise called “Autonomous Energy Systems”.  Michael worked in the Middle East to install large-scale irrigation systems in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It was some of the happiest times in his life. On his return to Melbourne Michael worked for Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works in several departments. 

From 2007 he became a regular visitor to gold street studios view camera gathering and attended many other photographic workshops endearing himself to all he came in contact with.  

In 2013 Michael received his diagnosis of multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma has no cure, and the average time from diagnosis to demise is four years. Michael was determined to beat those odds and get the most out of his remaining time.  He travelled widely and photographed many burlesque shows in London and Australia and became a very accomplished and recognised photographer after staging several exhibitions of his work.  He travelled to New York to meet other photographers and enjoy the New York art scene. 

By this time Michael was confronting his illness and his eventual demise and started work on a book titled Death of an Alchemist. The work was based around large format pinhole photography and multiple ghostly images depicting Michael at various stages of his decline. Realising his end was near he somehow rallied and a mammoth effort by friends and associates saw the photos framed, the book finished and an exhibition staged in Flemington. The show was a great success and acclaimed by all.  Michael went into a coma on Sunday May 26 and was moved into intensive care and passed away on Tuesday May 28.

Photograph above: Michael Prior 2007. 40 x 40 cm silver gelatin print. From the series The Photographers by David Tatnall.

Michael Prior. Self portrait. 4×5 pinhole silver gelatin contact print.
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Ellie Young owns and runs Gold Street Studio & Gallery.

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Tracy Hare at 10:39 pm

    I used to work for Michael and we kept in touch over the years, one of my daughter’s was the last from my family to speak with him. April told me he said he was not going home and not long to live. I tried to call him shortly after to no avail and he passed. He knew what differences in my life he made. An amazing Mann and an incredible human being. RIP

    Thank you for all your insight, love and guidance. It’s still hard to come to terms with your loss.

  2. Barbara Robinson - (Barbara Hannay) at 5:17 am

    Hi, message to David Prior & Steve Prior.
    I am sorry for your loss! I only just found out about Michael’s passing, when I went to look for a e-mail address to tell him about my 5th solo art show – online because of the co-vid lockdown.
    It was great that Michael got to be both a very accomplished engineer and artist – photographer. I know that it was a struggle for him at first, which made his success all the sweeter. I have many happy memories of him. I ended up both a graphic designer and an artist, among other projects. However, it sounds like Michaels achievements would leave many of us behind! (Check out my website if you are interested in my recent show), for old times sake!
    Again, so sorry Michael did’nt have a longer lifespan, he could have done even more. The very best of sincere wishes, Barbara Robinson.

    • David Prior at 4:48 am

      Hi Barb, I just came across this message today. Thanks for your kind thoughts. If you like a puzzle you can find me at big pond com my name one word.


  3. Beryl Mitchell at 2:01 am

    I am very sad to learn that Michael has now gone when I read the Ballarat International Foto Biennale announcement of funding for the National Centre for Photography just now, with the late Michael Prior being listed as one of those who helped with the purchase of the site for the centre.
    I met Michael in Sydney in November 2014 when we were both in an exhibition of a book published by Mary Meyer and Bob Kersey on Australian photographers. We spent two wonderful evenings talking about life and photography in Sydney and then Michael accompanied me in December to my son-in-law’s graduation exhibition in Melbourne at Victorian College of Art and we had another wonderful afternoon and evening talking about what we loved most – photography! He was an amazing man and photographer!
    Vale Michael

  4. Amy Price at 2:34 am

    I knew Michael starting with our time in the mid-80’s when both of us were working in the emerging field of automated meter reading. He visited our offices in suburban Atlanta, Georgia for meetings and I ended up hosting him, taking him around town. It seemed that every place I chose was exactly the kind of place he would have visited. I don’t believe that either of us had met someone else who was so much like our own self: both engineer and artist with incredible curiosity about the world. We kept in touch a bit over the years, and I saw him taking the artist path in the 2000’s, realizing a long-held dream. It took me a bit longer to get there – I began to photograph in earnest around 2011, focusing on live music and street photography. Michael had so much artistic talent that one outlet was not enough, although I do see that he managed to bring the streams together in the art photography he pursued with such passion. I’m sorry we never got the chance to spend time with each other again, talking about our respective artist paths, and sad that he has passed – he fought a good long fight.

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