Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro (born December 20, 1922), better known as Tony Vaccaro or Michael A. Vaccaro, is an American photographer who is best known for his photos taken in Europe during 1944 and 1945 and in Germany immediately after World War II. After the war, he became a renowned fashion and lifestyle photographer for U.S. magazines.
Born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, as the second child of three (and the only boy) of his parents, who were Italian immigrants, he was baptized Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro. His father Giuseppe Antonio Vaccaro (b. October 14, 1874) was from Bonefro in the region of Molise in Italy. In 1926, the family moved back to Bonefro, where Tony spent his youth.
With the outbreak of World War II, Vaccaro moved back to the United States in order to escape the Fascist regime and military service in Italy. In the U.S., the seventeen-year old Vaccaro finished his education at Isaac E. Young high school in New Rochelle, New York. In 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Europe in 1944.
Vaccaro fought in 1944 and 1945 as a private in the 83rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in Normandy and then in Luxembourg and Germany. His task as a scout left him with enough free time during the day to take photographs. By the end of the war in Europe, Vaccaro had become an official photographer for the division's newspaper. In September 1945, he was discharged from the army. Vaccaro stayed in Germany, where he obtained a job first as a photographer for Audio Visual Aids (AVA) stationed at Frankfurt, and then with Weekend, the Sunday supplement of the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. Until 1949, Vaccaro photographed throughout Germany and Europe, documenting post-war life.
After his return to the U.S. in 1949, he worked for Flair and Look before joining the magazine Life. Between 1950 and 1973 Vaccaro worked extensively as a celebrity and fashion photographer. A cursory list of his subjects include:
Muhammad Ali, Karel Appel, Louis Armstrong, Filippo Bentivegna, Leonard Bernstein, Humphrey Bogart, Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Breuer, Gianni Bulgari, Alberto Burri, Alexander Calder, Maria Callas, Frank Capra, Martine Carol, Leo Castelli, Charlie Chaplin, Claudette Colbert, Leonard Cohen, Le Corbusier, Fleur Cowles, Giorgio de Chirico, Willem de Kooning, Robert De Niro Sr., Vittorio De Sica, Nina de Voogt, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Marlene Dietrich, Phyllis Diller, Enrico Donati, Dovima, Marcel Duchamp, Anita Ekberg, Queen Elizabeth, Jinx Falkenberg, Claire Falkenstein, Federico Fellini, Enzo Ferrari, Henry Fonda, Lisa Fonssagrives, Pierre Mendès France, John Frankenheimer, Clark Gable, Eva Gabor, Hubert Givenchy, Peggy Guggenheim, Cary Grant, Sunny Hartnett, Helen Hayes, Florence Henderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Hans Hoffman, François Hollande, Bob Hope, Hubert Humphrey, Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Coretta Scott King, Eartha Kitt, Florence Knoll, Ed Koch, Wanda Landowska, Sugar Ray Leonard, Gina Lollobrigida, Anita Loos, Sophia Loren, Ali MacGraw, Shirley MacLaine, Anna Magnani, Manolete, Marcel Marceau, Somerset Maugham, Margaret Mead, Willy Messerschmitt, Mario Micossi, François Mitterrand, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Byron Nelson, Louise Nevelson, Richard Nixon, Dan Normark, Barack Obama, Georgia O'Keeffe, Pier Pasolini, Paul of Greece, Geraldine Page, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, George S. Patton, Pele, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Armi Ratia, Abraham Rattner, Ronald Reagan, Debbie Reynolds, Maria Riachi, Phil Rizzuto, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Jane Russell, Eero Saarinen, Dominique Sanda, Guido Chigi Saracini, Mike Schmidt, Peter Sellers, Gino Severini, Dmitri Shostakovich, W. Eugene Smith, Jimmy Stewart, Anne St. Marie, Antonio Tapies, Dorothy Tristan, Gwen Verdon, Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters, Frank Lloyd Wright, Andrew Wyeth, Minoru Yamasaki, Michael York, and Franco Zeffirelli.
Photographs from his extensive wartime archive - despite some 4,000 pictures having been lost in an accident in 1947 - were published in 2001 in his book Entering Germany: Photographs 1944-1949 and 2002 in the book "Shots of War - Tony Vaccaro". In 1994, he was awarded the French Légion d'honneur at the celebrations of the fifty-year anniversary of the Normandy landings. In 2002 German public television (ARD) showed the film "Schnappschüsse vom Krieg" (Shots of War). In 2004 Vaccaro received the German "Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse" and in the Parlement de la Bretagne his exhibition "Shots of War" was shown for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of France. This exhibition was also shown at the "Scuderie del Quirinale" in Rome in 2009 and at the MEMORIAL in Caen in 2014. A museum named after Tony Vaccaro was inaugurated in Bonefro (CB) August 24, 2014.
On May 5, 2015, Tony, assisted by his family, opened a photographic studio in Long Island City, NY, USA. The studio contains his archive of over 500,000 negatives, a digital scanning and printing facility, a state of the art darkroom, and a museum of sorts of all the equipment he used over the years.
On February 16, 2017, Tony suffered a stroke which somewhat affected his storytelling and his cherished ability to cook. Later in 2017, Tony celebrated his 95th birthday. He still carries a camera, a Leica M3, and produces a roll of film every two weeks.
Awards & Honors
- 1963 Art Directors Gold Medal, New York City, NY, USA
- 1969 World Press Photo Gold Medal, The Hague, Netherlands
- 1985 Key to the City and "Tony Vaccaro Day", New Rochelle, NY, USA (May 8)
- 1994 Legion of Honour, Paris, France (May 23)
- 1994 Le Trophee du Hommages, Caen, France
- 1994 La Flamme de la Liberte, Caen, France (June 12)
- 1995 Medal of Merit, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
- 1995 Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres, Paris, France
- 1996 United States Postal Service: First Day of Issue, Georgia O'Keefe stamp (May 23)
- 1996 Diplome de Citoyen d'Honneur, Rochefort, France (August 4)
- 2002 Medal of Honor, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg (June 16)
- 2002 Foire aux Noix, Bastogne, Belgium (December 21)
- 2003 Das Verdienstkreuz, Berlin, Germany (August 26)
- 2004 Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit, German Consulate, New York City (February 21)
- 2015 Minerva d'Oro, Pescara, Italy (January 22)
- Vaccaro, Tony. Luxembourg by Tony Vaccaro, 1944-1945. Luxembourg, 1995, Lions Club.
- TONY VACCARO: LA MIA ITALIA. Berlin, 1996. Galerie Bilderwelt.
- Tony Vaccaro: Deutschland 1945 - 1949. Berlin, 1999 Galerie Bilderwelt.
- Vaccaro, Tony: Entering Germany: Photographs 1944-1949, Taschen Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-8228-5908-7.
- Shots of War - Vaccaro, Tony, Berlin, 2002, Galerie Bilderwelt,. EAN: 9783905597349
- Vaccaro, Tony: Frank Lloyd Wright, Kirchentellinsfurth, 2002, Kultur-unterm-Schirm in collaboration with
- Tony Vaccaro : la mia Italia, fotografie 1945-1955. Padova, 2005, Associazione culturale "Balbino Del Nunzio di Padova" in collaborationn with Galerie Bilderwelt, Berlin.
Tony Vaccaro. Retrospektive. 70 Jahre Fotografie. astfilm productions Berlin in collaboration with Galerie Bilderwelt and Reinhard Schultz
- Gadsden, R.: Tony Vaccaro: The Formative Years, Praesens Verlag, Vienna; 2005. ISBN 3-7069-0345-8.
- The Globalist: Entering Germany, January 24, 2004. Accessed March 30, 2007.
- The Globalist: "Shooting" Germany: 1944-1949, January 24, 2004. Accessed March 30, 2007.
- Goepel, K.: Bild-Ikonen zum Kriegsende: Tony Vaccaro s Werk, Icons, AKG-Images, August 15, 2005. In German. Accessed March 30, 2007.
Shots of War - 1944-1945 - Tony Vaccaro, Galerie Bilderwelt,Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-905597-34-9
Lee Miller, Tony Vaccaro - Scatti di Guerra, Punctum Edizioni, Roma 2009 ISBN 978-88-95410-34-0
Des Plages du Débarquement à Berlin, 1944-1945: Photographies de Tony Vaccaro, Musée national de la coopération Franco-américaine, Blérancourt
- http://tonyvaccaro.studio/ official site
- Tannenbaum, S. V.: PVT Henry Irving Tannenbaum – Some background on the family of the dead soldier pictured on one of Vaccaro's most famous photographs: White Death – Requiem for a dead soldier. (Photo shot on January 12, 1945, Battle of the Bulge.)
- Dolice. J.L.: Announcement of Vaccaro one-man exhibition of 50+ of his original vintage photographs of famous women held in March 2008 sponsored by The New Rochelle Council on The Arts, a Westchester County, New York, USA non-profit Community Arts Council.