VALE – Neil McDonald (1940 – 2018)

Neil has been an honorary member of the ACS since 2002. He was a very passionate supporter who cared and respected both the cinematographer and the art of cinematography in all fields.

As you are aware, Neil wrote the wonderful book on the WW2 cameraman Damien Parer which is the definitive account of this iconic cinematographer. Over the years Neil attended several ACS functions and enjoyed the company of people who had continued Damien’s legacy but he also loved watching our work up there on the screen. Neil was always proud to wear his ACS badge when he delivered his own presentations to the numerous institutes and book events where he was guest speaker.

In addition to his biography of Parer, Neil wrote on the work of former Life Magazine photographer George Silk and Damien Parer in ‘200 Shots’. This book examined how two fine photographers shaped our understanding of Australians at war. Neil continued this approach when he wrote on the ABC/BBC war reporter Chester Wilmot in the 2017 biography ‘Valiant for Truth’ and also ‘Chester Wilmot Reports.’
(‘Valiant for Truth’ was shortlisted for a 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award.)

Neil not only wrote on Australian war correspondents – he was also one of the most authoritative and knowledgeable film reviewers in the country. He wrote for many journals over the decades including ‘Quadrant’ where he would show an appreciation of the unique skill and artistry of the cinematographer in the creation of movie magic.

On a personal note Damien Parer was one of my heroes when I was growing up. I was inspired not only by Parer’s fine camerawork but I also admired his determination to show us the tragedy and suffering of the Australian troops on the Kokoda Track. If it wasn’t for Damien we would not know the truth of what happened.

I was in the Australian War Memorial Shop in Canberra where I noticed three copies of the Parer biography for sale. So I bought the lot knowing that the books were difficult to come by. Afterwards I went to a Charles Bean Foundation lunch at the Press Club where I saw a solid but unassuming man seated on his own.

I introduced myself and he told me his name was Neil McDonald – I was flabbergasted! I asked if he was the author of the very books I had just bought. He nodded and that was the start of a long and wonderful friendship. Thank you Neil for your wisdom and generosity in sharing your knowledge of our craft over all the years.David Brill AM ACS