Tony Vaccaro (b. December 20, 1922), also known as Michael A. Vaccaro, is an American photographer who is best known for his photos taken in Europe during 1944 and 1945 and in Germany immediately after World War II. After the war, he became a renowned fashion and lifestyle photographer for U.S. magazines.
Born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania as the second child of three (and the only boy) of his parents, who were Italian immigrants, he was baptized Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro. His father Giuseppe Antonio Vaccaro (b. October 14, 1874) was from Bonefro in the region of Molise in Italy. In 1926, the family moved back to Bonefro in Italy, where Tony spent his youth.
With the outbreak of World War II, Tony Vaccaro moved back to the United States in order to escape the Fascist regime and the military service in Italy. In the U.S., the seventeen-years old Vaccaro finished his education at the high school of New Rochelle, New York. In 1943,he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Europe in 1944.
Vaccaro fought in 1944 and 1945 as a private in the 83rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in the Normandie and then in Germany. His task as a scout left him with enough free time during the day to shoot photos.By the end of the war in Europe, Vaccaro had become an official photographer for the division’s newspaper.
In September 1945, he was discharged from the army. Vaccaro stayed in Germany, where he got a job first as a photographer for the U.S. authorities stationed at Frankfurt, and then with Weekend, the Sunday supplement of the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. Until 1949, Vaccaro photographed throughout Germany and Europe, documenting post-war life.
After his return to the U.S. in 1949, he worked for Life and Look before joining the magazine Flair. Photographs from his extensive (despite some 4,000 pictures having been lost in an accident in 1948) wartime archive were published in 2001 in his book “Entering Germany: Photographs 1944-1949.”
In 1994, he was awarded the French Légion d’honneur at the celebrations of the fifty-year anniversary of the Invasion in the Normandie.