John Pond, the well known travel writer and editor, wrote this obituary for my father Michael on 19 April 2011:

Last week I learnt of the passing of Dr Michael Armstrong, one of Australia’s greatest travel photographers. Michael was well known in the travel industry due to his photography that illustrated the travel articles of his wife, award winning travel writer and author, Diane Armstrong.

I first met Michael in his “day job” as a GP, diagnostician and medical author. I was looking for a new doctor and all my friends recommended Dr Michael. We became fast friends due to our mutual love of photography and would talk and compare photos for hours, debating the virtues of digital imaging versus film.

Michael met Diane at university and they married soon after completing their respective courses in 1959. Next to medicine and family, photography was Michael’s passion and he would spend hours in his darkroom perfecting photographs. Michael’s work was hung in many galleries.

Retiring due to ill health from his medical practice at age 68, devastating his patients, Michael continued with his love of photography. Whenever Diane was working on a travel article, Michael would be there shooting a photo. During recent trips to Morocco, China, Rwanda, Kenya, Croatia, Sicily, the Arctic and Antarctica, Michael was there with his camera.

Michael’s funeral was held on Friday April 15, 2011 and he was farewelled by his family and many friends. I will miss him and our talks very much.


To me, Dad was unstoppable. In four decades of watching him come home from work, I never once heard him complain about feeling tired when he came home - usually around 7:30pm. He loved working in general medicine, and his patients genuinely adored him. Whatever Dad wanted to do, he simply went and did. He loved travel photography, so when Mum had a travel writing gig booked, Dad would take a few weeks off his medical practice and accompany her as photographer. Because, why not? Teach yourself Photoshop after 50 years in the darkroom using an enlarger and chemicals? Sure! Buy a bicycle and join your son on a 500km bike ride from Wilpena Pound to Adelaide over the course of a week, at age 70? Absolutely! A two-week trek in the Nepalese Annapurnas, rated "moderate plus"? Zoom around in inflatable Zodiacs in the Antarctic? Trek through the jungles of Rwanda looking for Gorillas? Yes, yes and yes! In Dad's mind, if he wanted to do something, he simply went out and did it, regardless of any obstacles. He brought us up exactly the same way - "Whatever it is that you want to do, or love to do, just do it!! Simple as that".  

It's not only his patients who adored him. One day I remember being at a supermarket in Rose Bay, and realised that I'd left my wallet at home when I went to pay at the checkout. I asked the lady to keep my bags, and called Dad to come down, since his place was only about 10 minutes drive away. As soon as he walked in, the lady at the checkout gushed "Oh!!!! But why didn't you TELL me that you were Dr Armstrong's son!!??".

I'm not going to discuss Dad's technical skill, or artistic eye, which were both honed through 50 years of darkroom photography - they speak for themselves. But when I look through Dad's photos, it's his genuine affection for and interest in other people that stand out more clearly to me than ever now. When I look through his images, what I see is his humanity, and his personality. His images invite us to explore his subjects deeply - with a combination of wry humour and playfulness, and a sense of fascination, empathy and respect for people. I believe that everyone who knew him clearly saw those exact same traits in him.