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Rest In Peace: Michelle O’Brien

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS: The following was posted on Michelle’s FB page: After a brave 10 month battle with leukemia Michelle passed away peacefully whilst with family on Wednesday morning, July 10th. A funeral for Michelle will be held at Our Lady Help of Christian’s Church, cnr of Manson Road and Bowman St, Hendra, Qld, at 11:00 am Saturday July 20th.

All welcome, please no flowers but a donation to the Leukemia Foundation would be greatly appreciated, envelopes will be available on the day.

(Thanks to Stephen Perris, Byron Bay Photo Magic, for sharing.)

Michelle O’Brien, (Ascot Photo+Digital, Hamilton, Qld) has tragically lost her battle with leukemia, passing away on Wednesday, July 10, with husband and business partner Matthew by her side.

Matthew and Michelle O’Brien.

Though she celebrated her 40th birthday not long ago, Michelle had already chalked up 25 years in photo retailing, in Victoria and for the last 11 years, Brisbane. She was also an active contributor to PMA in Australia.

Michelle to me was an inspiration to the photo trade,’ PMA Australia chairman, Phil Gresham wrote when informing PMA members about the industry’s loss of one of Australia’s best independent retailers.

‘In tough times she didn’t sit back and woe the demise of the photo lab business and blame digital like so many others…You only need look at Ascot Photo’s website at  to understand what she was so capable of.

We will miss her smiling face at PMA meetings and I know you will join in sending sincere condolences to Matt, their children and family.’

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle last year and was thoroughly impressed by her intelligence, determination, positivity and ability to find solutions to the challenges put in the way of the contemporary independent photo retailer.

The theme of the interview was essentially how Michelle and Matthew exploited their  independence to the max, to create exactly the kind of store they and their customers wanted.

Michelle seemed to personify the saying ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. During that interview, she made some some comments which encapsulate the positive, no-nonsense approach she had to running the business:
Michelle O’Brien said that now that customers were keeping a closer watch on the purse-strings, it didn’t mean they wouldn’t spend. If you’ve developed a good customer relationship ‘they want to shop with you – they just need to justify it to themselves.’

Consequently, the retailer ‘needs to find a product customers can justify spending money on – and you can make a profit on’.

The other tip was to avoid a negative in-store atmosphere: ‘There is no need to be negative. There’s no point complaining that the post office is doing passports or whatever.

‘Customers pick up on that negativity in store.’

Just a week ago she sent out a message to the industry via PMA:

‘Please let the industry know I have loved every minute of my time since beginning as a part-timer in Warrigul (at Roylaine Studios) at 15 years of age, and as owner of Ascot Photo with Matt for the last 11 years.’

– Sincere condolences to Matt O’Brien and his young family.

– Keith Shipton


  1. Stuart Morris Stuart Morris July 11, 2013

    I have had the pleasure of doing business with Michelle and Matt for most of the 10+ years at Ascot Photo & Digital.
    Michelle was without doubt a savvy and determined business woman. She was also a wonderful human being and brave to the end. She will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with Matt and his family.

  2. Kylie Unsworth Kylie Unsworth July 15, 2013

    Michelle was a caring and fantastic person.I went to her small business every time I needed a passport photo. She was always so professional and caring. We would talk of her family and how quickly time passed us by. Very sad to hear of this. We will forever remember such a vivacious, kind and living person. Rest in peace and bring comfort to your loved ones.

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