Johnny Donnels (1924-2009) won acclaim for his pictures of the people and places in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where he had a gallery near Jackson Square for more than 50 years. He lived in the Quarter most of his life and was playwright Tennessee Williams’ neighbor in the 1940s.
His work, chronicled in his 1999 book Johnny Donnels’ Into Photography, has exhibited at the Kennedy Center, Harvard University, the Ford Times Collection of American Art, the National Academy of Design, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and Historic New Orleans Collection.
“He was a good architectural photographer and human interest photographer,” said John Bullard, director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. “He documented life in the French Quarter as well as anyone has.”
Born in New Orleans in 1924, Donnels began his career as a painter after returning to New Orleans following his service in World War II. For a time, he worked as a police sketch artist. In the 1960s, Donnels bartered a painting for a camera, and a career change followed.