The famous American photographer Tony Vaccaro has died. His varied career spanned many decades and focused on everything from World War II in Europe to fashion and lifestyle in the United States. He was 100 years old.
Vaccaro died at his home in Long Island City on December 28, 2022, just 8 days after his 100th birthday, due to complications from ulcer surgery that was performed in November.
“It is with a heavy heart that we wish to inform you of Fr [the] Tony Vaccaro passed away last night,” his family wrote in a December 29 Instagram post. “In my home with my family by my side. Tony wanted to get to 100 more than anything and he did. After his big birthday he told us: ‘I can rest now’.
“Tony loved people more than anything and saw the best in everyone. He would wake up in the morning saying, ‘What a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky’.”
Vaccaro was born Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro on December 20, 1922, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to Italian immigrant parents.
In 1943, Vaccaro joined the United States Army, serving in Europe during World War II. Although he initially tried to join the Army Signals as a combat photographer, showing that his high school photo was accepted, the 21-year-old was considered too young and inexperienced. Instead he became a soldier in the US Army’s 83rd Infantry Division, fighting in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Assigned to be a scout, Vaccaro was still able to use his skill with a camera and document his unique perspective of the world war. He would go on to take over 10,000 photographs during and after the war while in Europe. He captured poignant and powerful images that would later become some of the most enduring images of the war.
Although he often shot with a camera instead of a gun, Vaccaro still bled for the Allied cause: he was shot and received a Purple Heart from the Army for being wounded during combat.
After the war, Vaccaro continued to work as a photographer, taking pictures of everyday life, celebrities and major events. He worked a lot for major American magazines such as Time to document the fashion and lifestyle of Americans.
Celebrities, leaders and titans were frequent subjects of Vaccaro’s photographs, and the photographer captured portraits of everyone from artist Pablo Picasso to US President John F. Kennedy.
Vaccaro’s work was published in two books: Entry into Germany: photos 1944-1949published in 2001, i Footage of the warpublished in 2002.
Vaccaro leaves behind two sons, two grandsons and a daughter-in-law.