Born in North Carolina, Childers attended the UCLA Film School where he directed student films and began his photography career by studying with Robert Heineken and Edmund Teske. Childers created the mixed media work for the record-breaking run of the hit off-Broadway musical “Oh! Calcutta!” for Kenneth Tynan in New York. Tynan subsequently invited Michael to work for Sir Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre in London, and he remains the only American photographer invited to photograph productions at this prestigious institution. He went on to become a founding photographer for Andy Warhol’s Interview and After Dark magazines. For Dance magazine, he produced many covers including those featuring the Joffrey Ballet, the Royal Ballet, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. He also co-authored the book, Bejart: The World of Dance.
From his Melrose Avenue and Venice studios, Childers photographed more than 200 magazine covers, including GQ, New York, TV Guide, Esquire, Los Angeles, Elle, Paris Match, Life, London Sunday Times Magazine, and both English and Italian Vogue. He created more than 150 album covers and film posters for major motion picture studios and worked as a special photographer on dozens of films, including Grease, Marathon Man, The Year of Living Dangerously, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Pennies from Heaven, The Terminator, Hammett, Torch Song Trilogy, Endless Love, The Champ, and Oceans 12.
In 2003, Palm Springs Desert Museum presented a forty-year retrospective of Michael’s work titled Icons and Legends: The Photography of Michael Childers. The three-month show was enjoyed by more than 55,000 visitors. Michael received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Hollywood Photography at the Temecula Film Festival in September of 2004, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Hollywood Photography from the Provincetown Film Festival that same year. At the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2006, La Dolce Vita: The Photography of Michael Childers was presented. Also in 2006, the Palm Springs Art Museum (née Desert Museum) presented Celebration of Three Hollywood Photographers: George Hurrell, Sid Avery, and Michael Childers. And in October 2006, the Tom of Finland Foundation inducted Michael into their Hall of Fame for his erotic photography. Also, he was included in a group show, “I Shot Andy Warhol” at Fahey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles. In 2013, he received the Crystal Lens Award from Palm Springs Modernism Week and the Distinguished Photographer Award from the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Received Lifetime Achievement award at the Hamptons Art Fair in 2013.
In the summer of 2007, the “Rockin’ Hollywood” exhibit at the Queen Mary Gallery in Long Beach featured portraits of rock-n-roll icons and music legends, which was viewed by over 30,000 people.
His photos are in the Seattle Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the British Film Institute Library in London, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Palm Springs Art Museum, University of California, Riverside, Photography Museum, Laguna Art Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Marion Center for the Photographic Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, Scripps College Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Patrick and Beatrice
Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Begovich Gallery at California State University Fullerton, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, LACMA, Yale Univeristy’s Beinecke Library, Yale University’s Center for British Art.
Michael is a sought-after lecturer on photography by many colleges, performing art centers and cruise ships with his various lectures/shows on working with famous performers, artists and architects of our time, including “Icons & Legends” and “Art & Fame.” In February 2014, Michael was a featured speaker at The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival in Rancho Mirage, CA. “Author Author,” a collection of celebrated modern and contemporary authors, playwrights, poets and screenwriters, has been exhibited in over a dozen major American libraries across the United States. The exhibition and a lecture by Michael was featured at Harvard University in 2015.
In 2011, a “David Hockney” “Andy Warhol” exhibition was shown at the Talisman Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. In October 2011, the Carmel Film Festival featured “Famous Faces on Film.” Michael’s “Distortions” show was exhibited at the Michael Lord Gallery, February-March 2012. Backyard Oasis, part of the Getty Museum’s Pacific Standard Time, was at the Palm Springs Art Museum January-May 2012. His iconic photograph, “The Hockney Swimmer”, is the cover of the Backyard Oasis book and has been featured in international publications, including Time Magazine, The London Telegraph, Vanity Fair and American Vogue. In March 2014, Michael had a successful show of color field landscape photography entitled “Fusions” at Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Desert, CA. In May 2014, a selection of Michael’s photographs was included at Archangel Gallery’s “Special Collectors” exhibition in Palm Springs as well as an upcoming group show in the fall. “Mythic Moves” opened at Melissa Morgan Fine Art in March 2015, and “Author Author” will be on view at Harvard University’s Gutman Library last October.