Tony Vaccaro: Photographing WWII

Bridgeman Copyright artist, the renowned lifestyle and fashion photographer Tony Vaccaro has lived an amazing life. He has traveled the world, photographing the most prominent personalities of the 20th century while working for Flair, Look and Life magazines – including Picasso, Duchamp, Muhammad Ali and Sofia Lauren.

His photography career started however in less glamorous circumstances. In 1943 he joined the Allies in World War II taking a newly bought camera with him. Tony Vaccaro was sent to fight on the front lines as a combat infantryman in 1943 (aged 21) – but secretly brought his Argus Cs 35mm camera.

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Tony Vaccaro on the wing, 1944/45

Vaccaro’s images are from the heart of the battlefield and tell the graphic truth of war.   His first pictures were taken through a hole in his coat but he couldn’t hide the camera for long – and was finally given permission “to take any picture you want”.

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Kiss of Liberation, 1944 (b/w photo), Tony Vaccaro (b.1922) / Private Collection

After Vaccaro was discharged from the army in 1945 he stayed in Germany, where he obtained a job first as a photographer for Audio Visual Aids (AVA) 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.

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Little German Gang, Frankfurt, 1946-47 , Tony Vaccaro (b.1922) / Private Collection

After the war Vaccaro went on to pursue a career as a commercial photographer, and in a bid to put the war behind him he locked away these photographs for many many years. It was only in the mid 1990s that he revealed this extraordinary body of work.

The Last Step, 1944 (b/w photo), Tony Vaccaro (b.1922) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images

Find out more:

See more WWII photography by Tony Vaccaro here
See more fashion photography by Tony Vaccaro here
See more celebrity photography by Tony Vaccaro here

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