You are reading

Memorial Service to Take Place Wednesday for Tony Vaccaro, World Renowned LIC Photographer

Tony Vaccaro (Photo via Instagram)

Jan. 4, 2023 By Michael Dorgan

A memorial service will be held in Long Island City Wednesday for Tony Vaccaro, a world-renowned fashion, celebrity and wartime photographer who died on Dec. 28 – just eight days after he celebrated his 100th birthday.

Vaccaro, a trailblazer in the industry, snapped icons such as Sophia Loren, Pablo Picasso as well as former U.S. President John F. Kennedy during his decades-long career.

He was also known for harrowing photographs he took while he fought during World War II. The war hero served as a private in the 83rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army on the battlefields in Europe. He was shot and injured twice and received a purple heart.

Vaccaro used army helmets to develop his film at night and then hung the prints on tree branches to dry. He also documented the post-war carnage in Europe with his camera.

Vaccaro passed away at his home in Long Island City with his family by his side. His memorial service will take place at 10-15 46th Road from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“Tony loved people more than anything and saw the best in everyone,” the family posted on his Instagram page while announcing his death. The account is managed by his daughter-in-law Maria.

“Tony wanted to reach 100 more than anything and he did. After his big birthday he told us, ‘Now I can rest.’”

Vaccaro’s birthday was celebrated in the local Italian restaurant Manducatis Rustica, located at 46-35 Vernon Blvd., where the photographer was a regular and close friend of Gianna Cerbone, the owner of the establishment. Cerbone posted a video of the event online where she interviewed many of the attendees who spoke of their fondness for Vaccaro.

A collection of Vaccaro’s photographs are on display in the restaurant.

His birthday celebration followed a five-day photo exhibition in Manhattan showcasing the best of Vaccaro’s work. The display, called “Tony Vaccaro: The Centennial Exhibit,” was hosted by the Monroe Gallery, a New Mexico-based gallery of photography.

Some of the exhibits included a World War II photograph of a dead soldier whose body is partly covered by snowfall. Vaccaro came upon the fallen soldier the morning after he died only to realize it was Private Henry I. Tannenbaum, a friend of his from New York.

Other photographs include a soldier kneeling to kiss a little girl during a celebration in a newly liberated French town in 1944 while in another image after the war, Vaccaro snapped a distraught German soldier on his return home. The photograph is titled “Defeated Soldier.”

“If I had to pick one image that I love more than the rest is my ‘Defeated Soldier,'” Vaccaro said while commenting on the photograph in 2021.

“After the War, German soldiers were depicted negatively. Here is a young German soldier returning home finding only rubble where his home used to be. His family, wife and children were all killed. We must not divide ourselves Germans, French, Italians we are all the same no matter what country we are from or color of our skin. When you cut me we all bleed the same blood.”

“White Death,” Pvt. Henry Irving Tannebaum, Ottre, Belgium 1945, by Tony Vaccaro (Photo provided by the Monroe Gallery)

The trauma of the war and its aftermath left an indelible mark on Vaccaro and he vowed that he would never again bring a camera to war. When he returned to the U.S. in 1949, he embarked on a career in fashion photography and documenting famous figures in art and film.

He worked for magazines including Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and Flair. Some of his subjects also included the Eisenhower family, Georgia O’Keeffe, Eartha Kitt, Jackson Pollock, Frank Lloyd Wright, Greta Garbo, Maria Callas, Federico Fellini and French couturier Hubert de Givenchy.

He strove for naturalism in his fashion shoots and sought to remove anything artificial.

“I put my subjects in an environment — their favorite environment — and then I took photos,” Vaccaro said previously.

In a promotional video for The Centennial Exhibition, he said that patience was one of his most important attributes in being a successful photographer.

“That’s why very often I was the best photographer because I waited for the right moment,” Vaccaro said.

The Fashion Train, New York City, 1960, by Tony Vaccaro (Photo provided by the Monroe Gallery)

Gwen Verdon, New York City 1953, by Tony Vaccaro (Photo provided by the Monroe Gallery)

Vaccaro was born in Greensburg Pennsylvania on Dec. 20, 1922, to Italian parents. He spent his early childhood in Italy after his family had to flee the States under threats from the Mafia.

By the age of 5, both of his parents had died, and he went to live with an uncle and aunt. His sisters were taken to an Italian orphanage.

“I was raised by my uncle, who physically abused me,” Vaccaro told the New York Post in December. “But he did give me my father’s box camera, and my love for photography was born.”

Vaccaro and his siblings returned to America before war broke out in Europe and lived together in New Rochelle, in Westchester County.

He attended Isaac E. Young High School before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944. He fought in Normandy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, taking pictures along the way.

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Vaccaro was awarded the French Legion of Honor, among many other awards and recognitions.

His photographs and experience of the war were the subjects of a 2016 HBO documentary called “Underfire, The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro.” The documentary was nominated for an Emmy award.

Vaccaro is survived by his sons Frank and David from his marriage to Anja Lehto — a former fashion model from Finland — and two grandsons. Vaccaro and Lehto separated in 1979; she died in 2013.

Tony Vaccaro with test strip in New York, 1968 (Photo provided by the Monroe Gallery)

HBO Documentary – “Underfire, The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro”

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Advocates pen letter blasting Mayor Adams’ legal motion to suspend right-to-shelter

Homeless advocates penned a letter to a Manhattan Supreme Court judge opposing Mayor Eric Adams’ recent legal motion calling for the suspension of the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter law amid the ongoing migrant influx.

The letter, sent last Thursday and released Tuesday, comes in response to Adams last week filing a court motion to exempt the city from its legal mandate — established by the 1984 Callahan v. Carey consent decree — to provide shelter to single adults and adult couples when it “lacks the resources and capacity” to do so. The mayor and top administration officials say they’re not seeking to abolish the right-to-shelter, but rather “clarity” from the court that would give them more “flexibility” in finding suitable housing for tens of thousands of migrants.

Rockaway’s piping plovers among endangered species commemorated on U.S. Postal Service stamps

A day before the city reopened nearly 70 blocks of public beaches along the Rockaway peninsula for the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Postal Service and National Park Service hosted a special event at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel to honor the piping plover, an endangered shorebird featured on new stamps.

In attendance were members of the NYC Plover Project, a nonprofit with more than 250 volunteers, who have been on the beaches since March preparing for the summer swim season, who celebrated the newly released stamp sheet commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Bayside High School hosts annual Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair

Bayside High School hosted its annual Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair Friday. Students from the Career and Technical Education Humanities and Nonprofit Management program each pitched their socially responsible products to students, staff and others in attendance.

Each of the 11th grade students in the program have been taking a college credit course from Farmingdale State College called Social Entrepreneur. The students were divided into 17 groups of five and tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to create businesses while also being socially responsible. The Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair grants them with the opportunity to work on pitching their products to potential customers.

Annual Memorial Day ceremony held at Korean War memorial in Kissena Park

On Friday, May 26, the second annual Memorial Day Ceremony in Kissena Park brought live music, local dignitaries, veterans groups, a presentation of the Colors by members of the Francis Lewis High School JROTC, a flower-laying ceremony and more to the Flushing community.

Those in attendance included Councilwoman Sandra Ung, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, state Senator John Liu, veterans groups, local students, Boy Scout Troop 253 and others.

Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade honors fallen heroes

Rain or shine, the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, touted as the largest Memorial Day parade in the United States, has been a staple of the quaint Queens neighborhoods since 1927. Thousands lined the parade route under clear blue sky along Northern Boulevard from Jayson Avenue in Great Neck to 245th Street in Douglaston on May 29 to honor the brave men and women who answered their call to service and made the ultimate sacrifice while defending their country.

Many onlookers sporting patriotic attire waved Old Glory and cheered on the parade of military vehicles, veteran and military groups and marching bands led by Grand Marshal Vice Admiral Joanna M Nunan, the first female commander of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. This year’s parade marshals were retired Master Sergeant Lawrence Badia and Vietnam veteran Richard Weinberg.