The cause of death was complications from an ulcer surgery last month at their home in Long Island City, said his son Frank. The naming service will be held on Wednesday at 3 pm at 1015 46Th Street in Long Island City.
His troubled time as a World War II photographer led him unexpectedly into the rarefied world of fashion. Other photographers did not influence him, but Vaccaro admired realists such as Louis Farrer, Eugene Smith, Arthur Rothstein and Robert Capa. “He invented photography for himself,” says Frank Vaccaro, who owns the copyright for Vaccaro Records with his brother David.
In the year His father’s decision to hand over that power of attorney in 2014 surprised his offspring. “It’s funny because he didn’t let anyone touch the photos. We’ve never even seen his photos – no one has,” said Frank Vaccaro.
Now located at 5,000 square feet in Long Island City, Vaccaro Records also boasts the largest darkroom in New York City. Thousands of limited editions can be found there and an estimated 800,000 negatives – he shot them all.
Born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, Vaccaro was an infant when his family moved to Bonefro, Italy in 1924, first traveling by sea via Milan. As a foreman building Route 66 near Vaccaro’s hometown, his father was “threatened by the mafia to hire only Italians.” Tony’s existence was in jeopardy unless they did what he wanted,” Frank Vaccaro said. He dropped everything and immediately left for Italy.
After living in Bonnefro for two years, Vaccaro’s mother, who was nursing the twins, died of a brain hemorrhage. Eighteen months later, Vaccaro succumbed to depression after the death of his wife. Orphaned at the age of five, Vaccaro was raised by his uncle; Years later he was recruited by the US Army for being so severely abused that his physical examination needed to show the scars on his back from child abuse. The boy “died of permanent wounds on the back of the beating,” he said. “He always said that he dedicated himself to finding beauty in the world to be a reason to live in this time.”
During those teenage years, Vaccaro pored over art encyclopedias in bed at night, studying Greek torsos, sculptures, and copies of fine paintings. Vaccaro discovered photography when he came to America. After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army after more than two years of service, Vaccaro was promoted to colonel and photographed various industries in Europe for a propaganda program to retrain Germans, his son said.
In his later life, Vaccaro hoped that his legacy would be world peace, and that by photographing the war, he believed that no one would ever want to go to war again. “He was wrong, but he believed that,” said his son Vaccaro, saying how saddened he was by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
Bruce Weber, who portrays Vaccaro in the new documentary “Treasures of His Youth: The Photographs of Paolo Di Paolo,” shares the same hometown as Vaccaro. “Tony taught me a lot,” Weber said Friday. He was just like a great teacher and what you want to see and his pictures always speak the truth. Tony always saw the best in things – he saw our world as a playground and paradise. The world is going to miss Tony Vaccaro.
Vaccaro’s family returned to the United States on Thanksgiving in 1939, and Vaccaro enrolled at Isaac E. Young High School in the ninth grade, meaning he failed three years of Italian studies. His short height – 5’6″ and 110 lbs. – was the reason for that assignment, as well as his inability to speak English at the time. After the war, Vaccaro returned for the first time in 1948 with Irving Berlin, traveling Stateside for six weeks. He was so popular that after Vaccaro’s landing, he left before breaking up. He took an A subway train to Berlin, though his stay was short-lived when the photographer returned to Paris to help save Weekend magazine. After that effort failed, Vaccaro put down roots in America a year later.
Borrowing from Cousin Ford, he crossed America alone, hoping to “know this country I fought for.” In the year While visiting relatives in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day 1949, Vaccaro went to buy magazines for them and noticed a magazine cover claiming that Fleur Cowles was the greatest editor alive at the time. Married to publisher Michael Cowles, she then helped launch Flyer magazine.
Believing it would work for her, Vaccaro drove back to New York on Route 66. With only $48 to his name, he bought a bushel of apples for the trip and filled up the gas. After running out of gas and money in Jersey City, he took out a borrowed car, drove across the George Washington Bridge to New York, published his wartime photos, unwittingly showed up at Locke’s offices with a box of photos, and asked to see Cowles. . After a long wait, she shows up, scans the photos and asks if he can shoot in that fashion. Although he later told his family he wasn’t sure and lied, Vaccaro answered confidently. He was hired on the spot and replaced then established Louis Farrar and Arthur Rothstein as the Flyers’ lead lensman. He later joined Rothstein as the chief fashion photographer, where he ascended and worked with other notables such as Stanley Kubrick.
Vaccaro’s long fashion career includes portraits and shots for leading designers such as Givenchy and talents such as Sophia Loren. His fluency in Italian made him the first choice for the magazine’s Rome correspondent in 1951 – a position he held for 20 years. Fashion also connected him with his wife Anja. In the year In 1963, Marimekko founder Armi Ratia launched her designs in the U.S., showing four models on East 57th.Th In front of the street store, Vaccaro fell in love with the fourth model on the spot, who later became his wife.
Like Vaccaro, the Finnish beauty was an orphan and, as a nod to that, her sons Frank and David were never taught to call her “Mommy” or “Daddy.” The family lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park for years until their neighbor Nancy, the author, offered them $335,000 on Friday. At a family meeting, Vaccaro insists that they accept it, imagining – wrongly – that such money will never be offered again.
Vaccaro was predeceased by two sisters – Gloria in 2005 and Susie in 2019.