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Tony Vaccaro: Grit and Red Wine

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Gallery: Monroe Gallery of Photography

Art fair: Hamptons Virtual Art Fair

Artist: Tony Vaccaro

Grit and Red Wine is an exhibition of photographs by Tony Vaccaro, one of the few people alive who can claim to have survived the Battle of Normandy and COVID-19. During WWII Tony documented his experience at great risk, and later went on to become one the most sought after photographers of his day.

At age 97, he is recovered from COVID-19. He attributes his longevity to “blind luck, red wine” and determination.

Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro

On November 14. 2016 HBO Films premiered “Under Fire: The Untold Story of Private First Class Tony Vaccaro”. The... more >>
Grit and Red Wine is an exhibition of photographs by Tony Vaccaro, one of the few people alive who can claim to have survived the Battle of Normandy and COVID-19. During WWII Tony documented his experience at great risk, and later went on to become one the most sought after photographers of his day.

At age 97, he is recovered from COVID-19. He attributes his longevity to “blind luck, red wine” and determination.

Michelantonio Celestino Onofrio Vaccaro

On November 14. 2016 HBO Films premiered “Under Fire: The Untold Story of Private First Class Tony Vaccaro”. The film tells the story of how Tony survived the war, fighting the enemy while also documenting his experience at great risk, developing his photos in combat helmets at night and hanging the negatives from tree branches. The film also encompasses a wide range of contemporary issues regarding combat photography such as the ethical challenges of witnessing and recording conflict, the ways in which combat photography helps to define how wars are perceived by the public, and the sheer difficulty of staying alive while taking photos in a war zone. The film has led to a career renaissance for Tony Vaccaro.

Born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on December 20, 1922, Tony Vaccaro spent the first years of his life in the village of Bonefro, Italy after his family left America under threat from the Mafia. Both of his parents had died by the time he was eight years old and he was raised by an uncaring aunt. His love of photography was born in Bonefro where at age 10, he began taking pictures with a box camera. When World War II broke out, the American Ambassador in Rome ordered Tony to return to the States. He settled in with his sisters in New Rochelle, NY where he joined his high school camera club. His teacher and mentor Bertram Lewis guided him through a year of concentrated apprenticeship.

A year later, at the age of 21, Tony was drafted into the war, and by the spring of 1944 he was photographing war games in Wales. By June, now a combat infantryman in the 83rd Infantry Division, he was on a boat heading toward Omaha Beach, six days after the first landings at Normandy. Denied access to the Signal Corps, Tony was determined to photograph the war, and had his portable 35mm Argus C-3 with him from the start. For the next 272 days, Tony fought on the front lines of the war. He entered Germany in December 1944, a private in the Intelligence Platoon, tasked with going behind enemy lines at night.

In the years after the war, Tony remained in Germany to photograph the rebuilding of the country for Stars And Stripes magazine. Returning to the States in 1950, Tony started his career as a commercial photographer, eventually working for virtually every major publication: Flair, Look, Life, Venture, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, Quick, Newsweek, and many more. Tony went on to become one the most sought after photographers of his day, photographing everyone from Enzo Ferrari and Sophia Loren to Pablo Picasso and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Il Maestro”, as the Italian press calls him, Tony has won numerous honors and awards. These include the Art Director’s Gold Medal (New York City, 1963), The World Press Photo Gold Medal (The Hague, 1969), The Legion of Honor (Paris, 1994), The Medal of Honor (Luxembourg, 2002), Das Verdienstkreuz (Berlin, 2004), and the Minerva d’Oro (Pescara, 2014).

Since retiring in 1982, Tony has been exhibited world-wide over 250 times and has published or been the subject of ten books and two major films. In 2014, the Tony Vaccaro Museum was inaugurated in Bonefro (Italy).

The works of Tony are in numerous private and public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

In 2018, Tony Vaccaro’s photographs were featured in major one-person exhibitions in Venezia, Italy, Potsdam, Germany, London, England; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2019, Tony Vaccaro was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

Tony turned 97 in December, 2019. In April of 2020, Tony recovered from COVID-19. His photographs are available exclusively at Monroe Gallery of Photography.


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