From war to fashion photography: Tony Vaccaro at the Getty Images Gallery
When the WWII broke out, Michael A. ‘Tony’ Vaccaro was ordered by American Embassy to return to the United States. There, he signed up to a high school camera club. Only a year later, he was sent to the war front, with his portable 35mm Argus C-3 camera hidden underneath his jacket. Photography during combat was forbidden, but this did not stop him from shooting some of the greatest war photographs through his jacket’s buttonhole. Vaccaro spent 272 days fighting and capturing both the horrors and small wonders happening during the combat. He aimed at giving a personal account of the war events and took more than 8,000 photographs.
Vaccaro’s war pictures are unlike any others. What makes them exceptional is the unusual proximity to the events. Not many photographers did have a chance to come as close to the front line as Vaccaro. The photographer captured the discrepancies of war experiences. His photographs show death, but also beautiful and uplifting moments during the turbulent times. Vaccaro was not only committed to preserving images of warfare, but the war’s results. After the war ended, he decided to stay in Germany to document the rebuilding of the defeated nation for the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. The photograph Defeated Soldier pinpoints to the smaller picture, to personal tragedies, as it shows a German soldier crying on the remains of what used to be his home before the war.
When the war ended and the world saw Vaccaro’s pictures, publishers were astounded by not only their sincerity but also by their technical aspects. Promptly, the artist became one of the most important fashion and lifestyle photographers in the world. Vaccaro worked for LIFE, Newsweek, Flair, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, and aside from fashion photography, he had the opportunity to observe private sides of some of the world’s greatest artists and celebrities, including Pablo Picasso, Sofia Loren, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Enzo Ferrari, Hubert Givenchy and many more.
Vaccaro is undisputedly one of the world’s greatest photographers. His amazing ability to translate emotions onto photographic paper and to do it in a delicate and subtle way is exceptional. He is a legend and an inspiration for many other photographers. The war pictures are captivating, sometimes upsetting, and his later works show human beauty in a mesmerising way.
On view until October 28th
Getty Images Gallery
46 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DX