rest in peace

Tributes paid after underwater, fine art photographer Lucas Murnaghan dies

Photographer Lucas Murnaghan
Lucas Murnaghan (Photo: Chee Sim)

Fans of the photography of Lucas Murnaghan have been stunned and saddened by news of his death this week. Murnaghan’s official Instagram made the announcement on Tuesday, saying he died following a battle with a rare form of cancer. He was 45.

Besides his photography, Murnaghan was also a well-respected doctor who previously practiced orthopedic surgery at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. He also co-owned surf shop, Surf The Greats.

(Photo: Lucas Murnaghan)

It was through taking photographs of surfers that he began to explore underwater photography in 2016. He started to work with Ontario’s LGBT Triggerfish water polo team and quickly established his own style. It culminated in a photo book and exhibition, Beneath the Surface: An Underwater Photographic Exploration, in 2019.

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)


“In the early hours of March 23, 2021 we said goodbye to Lucas,” said the posting announcing his death.

“It’s difficult to sum up the fullness and richness of who Lucas was here. He was a doting son, brother and uncle; a devoted doctor; an assured athlete; an entrepreneur; a loving partner; a loyal friend; and a bold and unabashed creative. As a doctor he was dedicated to the principle of ‘growing athletes’, working diligently with pediatric and adolescent patients to help them achieve their athletic goals. As an artist he was fearless in his physical and conceptual explorations of vulnerability, confidence, shame, pride, loneliness and solitude.

“Lucas’ start in photography began by documenting the local surf scene on the Great Lakes. Always striving to master his craft, he was soon shooting classic surf breaks and surf competitions around the world, but his creative heart was in the fine art, underwater photography that he became known for.

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)


“In 2019, after a decade of practicing medicine, Lucas stepped into a second career as full-time co-owner and operator of ‘Surf the Greats’. Side-by-side with his partner Antonio, Lucas devoted himself to the surf community, creating a space for connection, in and out of the water.

“In February 2021, while shooting big waves on Oahu’s North Shore, Lucas was diagnosed with a rare cholangiocarcinoma. He and Antonio returned to Toronto where he received treatment at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre before going home to be with his family.

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“Lucas was beautifully intricate and complex. He was a scientist and an artist, a doctor and a patient, an elite athlete who carried the burden of illness, extremely confident and daringly vulnerable. For many in his community he was an anchor point — a calm and comforting presence in an increasingly chaotic world. Without him we feel untethered.”

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)


Lucas’ partner of the past 14 years, Antonio Lennert, who is CEO of Surf The Greats, also posted a lengthy tribute to him on his own Instagram.

“Today, I lost the love of my life,” he stated. “Not only the love of my life, I lost my greatest mentor, my business partner, my best friend. We fell in love over a chance encounter while I was living in California 14 years ago, and just knew that we were meant to be together.”

 

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He concluded by saying, “I feel a sense of relief that he will no longer suffer, and find comfort in the fact that his memories will stay with us forever.”

“I’m as heartbroken as many many people will be, but time will heal us and his legacy will never be forgotten.”

Others to pay tribute included gay, diver Aidan Faminoff, who said, “I can’t believe this. It was an honor to be able to work with Lucas. Such a beacon of light he was.”

Singer Jake Shears commented, “So fond of the times I got to spend with Lucas, such a radiant human.”

Related: In the deep end: Stripping down for underwater photography

In March last year, Lucas gave a powerful Tedx Talk in which he talked about the struggles he had earlier in life to come out as a gay man, his work as a doctor, his illness, and why he loved being underwater.

“Water has always been my place of refuge,” he said. “When all the world around me was too much to bear, I could sink beneath the surface, and everything else would slip away.”

(Photo: Lucas Murnaghan)

“I have personally always found solace in the water, and I try to share that emotion with my audience through the images that I create,” he told GayStarNews in 2017. “‘I’ve always had an affinity for water, so I’m in my happy place when shooting in it.”

Check out more of Lucas’s beautiful work via his Instagram.

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)

 

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A post shared by Lucas Murnaghan (@lucasmurnaghan)