Long-serving ABC cameraman Peter Donnelly dies in Hobart

One of ABC Tasmania’s longest-serving cameramen has been remembered for his intelligence and love of his craft.

Peter Donnelly, 79, died in a Hobart hospital on Thursday after a protracted illness.

He worked for the national broadcaster for 40 years before retiring about a decade ago.

His interest in cinema began when he saw a neighbour’s lantern slide and movie collection.

Trained as an industrial chemist, Donnelly’s passion for photography led him to buy his first camera in 1960, the year television came to Tasmania.

He began his career as a freelancer for ABC News when the rate was seven guineas an assignment.

He was hired as the first assistant to renowned cameraman Neil Davis in 1962 and when Davis was posted overseas in 1964, Donnelly was promoted to cameraman.

Over decades at the ABC, Donnelly worked with film formats as they evolved, from 16mm reverse black and white film, to colour in 1975 and digital formats in the 1990s.

“Generally we were all self-taught,” he told the ABC’s Backchat several years ago.

“We had to get the right shots to construct a story and you either had it or you didn’t.

“The third roll of PX reversal film that I ever loaded into my new Bolex camera got a run on the 7 PM News.

“What a magic feeling that was, to see my first story appearing on the 21-inch black and white Astor,” he said.

His career included working on Australia’s first current affairs programs, Line Up, This Day Tonight and Landline.

“I loved working in the field and being a yachtsman,” he said.

“They assigned me to any yachting stories, which I loved.”

Fellow ABC cameraman David Brill remembers joining the ABC as Donnelly’s assistant in the 1960s.

“He was very, very kind to me,” he said.

“He was trained as an industrial chemist but his great love was cinematography and story telling.

“He was a very, very smart man – he should have been a barrister or a historian.

“His knowledge of the world, his writing skills, he was very, very clever.”

Donnelly is survived by his wife Katherine.

ABC AU