The Life of Johnny Donnels


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Every year during the French Quarter Festival, I made it a point to stop at photographer Johnny Donnels' gallery on St. Peter Street by Jackson Square.

Mr. Donnels didn't know me, but I felt like I knew him, just a little, from all the time I'd spent looking at his photographs. I happened upon his gallery on my very first trip to New Orleans, as a tourist poking around the French Quarter, and his photos of his neighborhood and its people helped seal the New Orleans mystique for me. After I finally moved here in 1999 I enjoyed visiting his gallery each year as a way to check in again with those first impressions.

Donnels died March 19 at age 84. The tributes to him have been moving, and they help commemorate a colorful and inspiring life.

Tonight, WYES Channel 12 will air Anastasia and Will Lyman's documentary about him, "The Pink Satin Suit." Here's the official description:

The Pink Satin Suit documents the struggles, perseverance and discipline that go into the making of a self-made man. Johnny Donnels is an icon of the French Quarter where he runs a gallery filled with his own art. Revealed in a lover’s embrace with the life that he has created, he is, to many, the last of the great Bohemians: a symbol of freedom and ease.

"The Pink Satin Suit" airs tonight at 10 p.m. on Channel 12 as part of its

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