Tony Vaccaro, a champion photographer whose pursuit of beauty stemmed from years of childhood abuse, died on December 28 at the age of 100.
His son Frank said the cause of death was complications from surgery last month for an ulcer at his home in Long Island City. A non-denominational service will be held on Wednesdays from 3pm he 1015 46.th Road in Long Island City.
His harrowing stint as a World War II photographer unexpectedly led him into the opposite realm of fashion rarity. , Vaccaro admired realists such as Lewis Farrar, Eugene Smith, Arthur Rothstein and Robert Capa. “He invented his photography to fit his vision,” said Frank Vaccaro, copyright owner of the Vaccaro archives with his brother David.
His father’s decision to surrender that power of attorney in 2014 surprised his descendants. “Funny, he never let anyone touch his picture. We never even saw a picture of him.
At 5,000 square feet in Long Island City, Vaccaro’s archives now have the largest darkroom in New York City. There are thousands of limited editions and an estimated 800,000 negatives, all of which he shot.
Born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, Vaccaro was still a toddler when his family moved to Bonefro, Italy in 1924. As a foreman of workers on Route 66 construction near Vaccaro’s hometown, his father was “threatened by the Mafia to hire only Italians. If they don’t do what he wants, Tony’s presence will be It was intimidating,” said Frank Vaccaro. “He threw everything away and went straight to Italy.”
After living in Bonefro for nearly two years, Vaccaro’s mother, who was expecting twins, had a stroke and died. Eighteen months later, Vaccaro also lost his father, who had fallen into depression and died after losing his wife. Orphaned at the age of five, his Vaccaro was then raised by his uncle. His uncle had physically abused him so much that years later, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, a physical examination had to show swelling in his back caused by child abuse. “He died with permanent sores on his back from being beaten,” his son said. “He said he was always focused on finding the beauty in the world that it should have as a reason to live in this day and age.”
During her abuse as a teenager, Vaccaro spent her nights in bed perusing encyclopedias, studying reproductions of Greek torsos, sculptures and paintings. Vaccaro came to America and discovered his photo. After serving more than two years and receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, Vaccaro was offered the wages of a colonel and sent to film various industries as part of a propaganda program established to retrain Germans. stayed in Europe for
In later years, Vaccaro admitted that he wanted his legacy to be world peace, and that by filming war, no one ever wanted to go to war again. “He was wrong, but he believed it,” his son said, adding how disappointed Vaccaro was at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Bruce Weber, who featured Vaccaro in his new documentary Treasures of His Youth: Pictures of Paolo di Paolo, shared the same hometown as Vaccaro. Weber said on Friday, “Tony taught me a lot. He was like a great teacher that you want to look up to and his pictures always told the truth. Tony always I’ve seen the best. He saw our world as a playground and a paradise.The world will miss Tony Vaccaro.”
The Vaccaro family returned to the United States on Thanksgiving 1939, and Vaccaro entered Isaac E. Young High School as a ninth grader. His petite height – 5 feet 6 inches and 110 pounds. – also a factor in that placement, at the time he could not speak English.After the war, Vaccaro traveled to the mainland United States for the first time in 1948. I was. They got along so well that after landing, Vaccaro took the subway A train to Berlin before parting ways with Upper He to Manhattan. His stay was short-lived, however, as the photographer returned to Paris to save The Weeknd magazine, and after that effort fell through, Vaccaro settled permanently in the United States a year later.
Borrowing his cousin Ford, he traveled alone across America with the aim of “getting to know this country where I fought,” his son said. When Vaccaro went to buy a magazine for them, he noticed a magazine cover asking if Fleur Cowles was the best editor alive at the time. She married Look publisher Michael Cowles and headed Flair magazine.
Convinced to work for her, Vaccaro returned to New York along Route 66. For only $48 he bought a bushel of apples for the trek and filled up the gas tank. After running out of gas and money in Jersey City, he ditched his rented car, crossed the George Washington Bridge into New York, printed his wartime photographs, and took a box of his photographs to Luke’s office. and asked to see Cowles.. After a long wait, she appeared, peered into his photographs, and asked if she could shoot such a fashion. Despite telling a lie, Vaccaro answered confidently. He was hired on the spot to become Flair’s chief lensman, replacing the then-established Lewis Farrar and Arthur Rothstein. He later joined Look as chief fashion photographer, where Rothstein was promoted and other prominent figures such as Stanley Kubrick worked.
Vaccaro’s long career in fashion has included portraits and shoots for leading designers such as Givenchy and talent such as Sophia Loren. His fluency in Italian made him a prime candidate for the magazine’s Rome correspondent in 1951, a position he held for 20 years. Fashion also associated him with his wife Anja. In 1963, when Marimekko co-founder Alumi Her Latia debuted her designs in the United States by parading four of her models at the East 57th At a street storefront, Vaccaro instantly fell in love with a fourth model, who later became his wife.
Like Vaccaro, the Finnish beauty was also an orphan, and nodding to that, her sons Frank and David were never instructed to call them “Mom” or “Dad.” The family lived in a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park for years until the author’s next-door neighbor, Nancy Friday, offered her $335,000. .
Vaccaro was preceded by two sisters, Gloria in 2005 and Suzy in 2019.