A talented photographer and designer, Margot Donald worked in various commercial studios in Sydney and later in London. She produced sets, backgrounds and photo-murals, as well as portraits and general photographs for the studios.
photographer, was born in the Sydney suburb of Roseville into a large working-class family. Her father, cartoonist William John (Will) Donald , gave her a Box Brownie camera when she was thirteen, formalising an early interest in photography. She soon undertook a short course in hand-tinting and colouring with Jean Cazneaux and in 1939, at the age of fifteen, started work as a junior colourist in the 'sophisticated’, American-influenced Russell Roberts Advertising Studio, Sydney, where she remained until 1942 then moved to the more conservative Falk Studios (founded by Walter Barnett ). Greater work opportunities for women during World War II perhaps eased Donald’s entry into the studio system, but her steps towards an enviable expertise resulted from her own persistence and hard work: taking advantage of the facilities and knowledge of those around her to learn camera operating, gaining experience by working weekends with models (often straight off the street), then having the resulting prints critically appraised by the studio photographers – an informal, interactive version of the criticisms previously offered through amateur and semi-professional journals.
Conditions in the studio world changed for women with the end of the war. Many were taken off camera work to make way for ex-servicemen. Initially Donald retained her position behind the camera back with Russell Roberts, where a young David Moore, working as her assistant in 1947, observed her 'very special creative talent’ for setting up studio shots. This period seems to have marked Donald’s greatest visibility as a commercial photographer in Australia: publications carrying her work included Australian Photography (1947), Photograms of the Year (1947) and Contemporary Photography (1949). The repatriation of male photographers soon stifled this display of talent. In 1949 Donald travelled to London, where she was employed by the British branch of the American Lintas Advertising Studios. Lintas wanted to take advantage of her knowledge of American studio techniques, then virtually unknown in British advertising, and particularly her way with colour. Donald added to her already impressive repertoire of sets, backgrounds and photo-murals those she designed and built for Lintas.
In 1952 Donald returned to Australia and had her first professional experience of working with colour film. Her career came full circle with this return to colour and she was again working with the most advanced techniques of the period. Married, she continued to make a living in the field of commercial photography, working as a colour retoucher in large laboratories in East Sydney and maintaining her reputation as one of the best colourists in Sydney.