'La Dolce Vita' of Tony Vaccaro - Albuquerque Journal

‘La Dolce Vita’ of Tony Vaccaro

“Georgia O’Keeffe on her portal,” Abiquiú, New Mexico, 1960, by Tony Vaccaro. (Courtesy of The Monroe Gallery Of Photography)

When photographer Tony Vaccaro first met Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiú 1960, the artist refused to speak to him for five days.

On assignment from Look magazine, Vaccaro had traveled to New Mexico by train with art editor Charlotte Willard.

O’Keeffe had been expecting a different photographer, one of her favorites, such as Ansel Adams, Todd Webb or Richard Avedon.

Trying his best to charm her, Vaccaro cooked O’Keeffe a steak and fixed her broken washing machine, to no avail.

Suddenly, the topic turned to bullfighting. Vaccaro mentioned he had photographed the great Spanish matador Manolette.

The artist pivoted in her seat to face him. She never looked at Willard again.

“Georgia O’Keeffe kept me waiting for over a month,” the 96-year-old Vaccaro said in a telephone interview from his home in Long Island City, N.Y. “She wanted nothing to do with this kid. At that time I was pretty young and naive. She said, ‘Talk to me about Manolette.’ After that, we became great friends.”

“Extras on the set of ‘8½’,” Lazio, Italy, 1962, by Tony Vaccaro.

That perseverance served Vaccaro well during World War II and on film and fashion sets across a nearly 80-year career. Santa Fe’s Monroe Gallery of Photography is hosting “Tony Vaccaro: La Dolce Vita,” an exhibit of more than 40 photographs through Jan. 19, 2020.

Vaccaro was drafted into World War II at the age of 21. By the summer of 1944, he was on a boat heading toward Omaha Beach six days after the first landings at Normandy. He was determined to photograph the war, bringing his portable 35mm Argus C-3. He fought on the front lines, developing his photos in combat helmets at night and hanging the negatives from tree branches.

When it all ended, he shot “Kiss of Liberation: Sergeant Gene Costanzo kneels to kiss a little girl during spontaneous celebrations in the main square of the town of St. Briac, France, Aug. 14, 1944.”

“I stopped at a cafe and suddenly I see this GI and this little girl kneeling down,” Vaccaro said. “I quickly race there and he started to kiss this little girl three times: to the left and to the right and back again.”

“Kiss of Liberation: Sergeant Gene Costanzo kneels to kiss a little girl during spontaneous celebrations in the main square of the town of St. Briac, France, August 14, 1944,” by Tony Vaccaro.

Vaccaro credits an abusive childhood with helping him survive the carnage. He was orphaned when he was 4 years old, when he was adopted by an uncle in Italy.

“He had no idea how to raise a child,” Vaccaro said. “I was black and blue from this man. I had become like an animal to go into every little hole or corner to survive the war.”

After the war, Vaccaro remained in Germany to photograph the rebuilding of the country for Stars And Stripes. Returning to the U.S. in 1950, he started his career as a commercial photographer, eventually working for virtually every major publication: Look, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, Newsweek, and many more. Vaccaro went on to become one the most sought-after photographers of his day, photographing everyone from President John F. Kennedy and Sophia Loren to Pablo Picasso and Frank Lloyd Wright.

The 1960s found him on the film sets of Federico Fellini’s “8½” and “La Dolce Vita.” One image shows a bevy of women posing from the windows of a three-story house.

Tony Vaccaro

“One of those houses was really a house of ill repute,” Vaccaro said of “Extras on the set of ‘8½.’ ”

His attention turned to the woman displaying her legs from a window on the lower left.

“Those are all wonderful models,” he continued. “I’m aware one of the ladies was a girl who played around with men.”

He still carries a camera and puts in six or seven hours daily without a break, creating prints in his studio and identifying jobs for his staff. On Nov. 1, he was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.

Home » Entertainment » Arts » ‘La Dolce Vita’ of Tony Vaccaro


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
IPCC to host panel discussion on 'PIVOT'
ABQnews Seeker
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) ... The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) is hosting a hybrid panel discussion for co-curators and artists included in the 'PIVOT: Skateboard Deck Art 'exhibit, ...
2
Hunting for the truth: Podcast tells of the unintended ...
Arts
'Missed Fortune' begins on Apple Podcast ... 'Missed Fortune' begins on Apple Podcast on Monday, Aug. 15.
3
There are many options for keeping hummingbirds happy
Arts
The first on my list of ... The first on my list of tried and true attractions will be Agastache. I know it as licorice mint hyssop.
4
Albuquerque author releases next two volumes in fantasy adventure ...
Arts
The first three chapter books in ... The first three chapter books in the adventure series are 'The Dragon Flyers,' 'The Dragon Flyers: City of Dragons' and 'The Dragon Flyers: Land ...
5
Fake pregnancy takes a surreal turn in lonely woman's ...
Arts
This is a debut you won't ... This is a debut you won't want to miss.
6
Montana museum is dedicated to the life and art ...
Arts
Charles Marion Russell produced more than ... Charles Marion Russell produced more than 4,000 pieces of art, and one of the larger collections of his works is housed at the C.M. ...
7
Ojibwe artist Patrick Collins uses painting to find himself ...
Arts
Patrick Collins will be showing his ... Patrick Collins will be showing his work at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
8
Upstart magazine Iconica showcases New Mexico lifestyle, artists
Arts
Quarterly publication features fashion, art and ... Quarterly publication features fashion, art and music across the state
9
'Art of Indigenous Fashion' showcases the works of Native ...
Arts
The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native ... The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art exhibition 'Art of Indigenous Fashion' runs from Aug. 19 through Jan. 8, 2023.