Happy Birthday, Tony Vaccaro

Tony Vaccaro is a very special person. I have always found his photographs extremely appealing and very human and have had the good fortune to meet him in person on more than one occasion. Much has been written about Tony in the last few years – his photographs from World War II especially are much admired and discussed and he was awarded the French Legion d’honneur in 1994.

Tony Vaccaro was born on 20 December 1922 in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the only son of Maria Domenica and Joseph A. Vaccaro. Both of his parents died tragically young and Tony spent his youth in his father’s hometown of Bonefro in Italy. He could barely speak or understand Italian in those early years and concentrated on reading body language, a skill that is very evident in many of his photographs.

Tony bought his first 38mm camera in 1942 and the rest, as they say, is history. He became – in his own words – a “soldier photographer”, armed with rifle and camera, documenting the horrors of war. His images of World War Two are some of the most amazing and shocking photos I have ever seen – very close and very personal. A few years ago when I met him New York he said to me: “I couldn’t talk about the war for 60 years and now I can’t stop”.

However, we shouldn’t forget the rest of Tony’s amazing body of work: he documented the rebuilding of Germany in his inimitable style; created fantastic and iconic fashion shots and got very close to the greats of film, art and architecture.

Do I have a favourite photo? A very difficult question as he has taken so many amazing photographs that will forever stay in my head. I have selected five images for this – a very hard task indeed! Every one of Tony’s photos is special and I wish him the very best for his 90th birthday and many, many happy returns!