Ansel Adams, "Print Spotting (Portrait of Phyllis Donohue)." Published in Ansel Adams, "The Print," figure 7-10, p. 158. Copyright The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.
Jim McHugh, "Ansel Adams signing Museum Set with Phyllis, 1981"
Ansel Adams ~ The Donohue Collection
Photography West Gallery is pleased to debut the Ansel Adams collection of Phyllis Donohue (1925-2018), master spotter and devoted assistant to Ansel Adams. The exhibition will be open to the public December 14, 2018 until February 1, 2019.
Carmel by the Sea, 1 Dolores - South of Ocean AvenueMap
"One of the finest people I have known." - quote from Ansel Adams' autobiography.
Phyllis Donohue was born in Surrey, England and grew up in New Zealand. She was trained as a photographic production assistant while still a teenager. After moving to San Francisco in 1947, she married Frank Donohue and when he accepted a position as a librarian at the Naval Postgraduate School, the couple moved to Monterey in 1966. In 1968, Brett Weston hired Phyllis for one week as a spotting assistant. When Weston’s project was complete, he was so impressed with her skills and attention to detail that he recommended Phyllis to Ansel Adams, who was also looking for a professional spotter. Phyllis would work for the next twenty years as Adams’ master spotter and production assistant.
Donohue’s primary duties were spotting and print preparation, but she also assisted Ansel in the darkroom. One task assigned to Phyllis was the cataloging of Ansel Adams’ negatives. The most famous negatives had been placed and dated, but there were countless others with no documentation. Phyllis assembled a diary log of all Adams’ travels over the decades, and then assigned dates and locations to every negative.
Over twenty years, Ansel Adams would often give Phyllis a photograph to mark special celebratory events like birthdays and holidays. He also inscribed personal dedications to Phyllis on many of the photographs. She treasured these photographs for their association with what was the happiest working period of her life, and protectively stored twenty-two original photographs for thirty years until her death in the summer of 2018.
This memorial exhibition, in remembrance of Phyllis Donohue’s life and work, is the first time her personal collection of twenty-two Ansel Adams photographs has been shared with the public.