Save The Date: July 6, Free screening of Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro

June 22, 2024 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography


black and white photograph of Tony Vaccaro  holding his camera whle seated on an airplane wing during WWII



Monroe Gallery of Photography is honored to announce a major exhibition of more than 45 photographs celebrating the life and career of Tony Vaccaro. “Tony Vaccaro: The Pursuit of Beauty” The exhibit opens on Friday, July 5, with a public reception and Gallery conversation with Frank Vaccaro, son of the photographer, 5 – 7 pm.  


Monroe Gallery will sponsor a free screening of the HBO Documentary Film “Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc Tony Vaccaro” on Saturday, July 6, 4 pm at the Jean Cocteau Theater. 


Free tickets here.


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.


 In 1943, with the Allied invasion of Europe imminent, a newly drafted 21-year-old Tony Vaccaro applied to the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He had developed a passion for photography and knew he wanted to photograph the war. “They said I was too young to do this,” Tony says, holding his finger as if taking a photo, “but not too young to do this,” turning his finger forward, pulling a gun trigger. Not one to be denied, Tony went out and purchased a $47.00 Argus C3, and carried the camera into the war with him. He would fight with the 83rd Infantry Division for the next 272 days, playing two roles – a combat infantryman on the front lines and a photographer who would take roughly 8,000 photographs of the war.


 In the decades that followed the war, Tony would go on to become a renowned commercial photographer for magazines such as Look, Life, and Flair, but it is his collection of war photos, images that capture the rarely seen day-to-day reality of life as a soldier, that is his true legacy. Tony kept these photos locked away for decades in an effort to put the war behind him, and it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that this extraordinary body of work was first discovered and celebrated in Europe. In the United States, however, Tony has yet to receive his due and few people have heard of him.


 Though the narrative spine of the film is a physical journey in which Tony brings us to the places in Europe where many of his most powerful photos were taken, over the course of the film we also trace Tony’s emotional journey from a young GI eager to record the war to an elderly man who, at 93, has become a pacifist, increasingly horrified at man’s ability to wage war. Tony believed fiercely that the Allied forces in WWII were engaged in a just war, but he vowed never to take another war photo the day the war ended, and he didn’t.


 In addition to numerous interviews with Tony, the film includes interviews with a number of other people, including Tyler Hicks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the New York Times; Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who has covered conflict for 30 years for the New York Times, Time, National Geographic, and other major publications; Anne Wilkes Tucker, a photography curator and curator of the comprehensive exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY; James Estrin, a Senior Photographer for the New York Times and editor of the Times’ Lens blog; and John G. Morris, who was the photo editor of Life Magazine during World War II and was Robert Capa’s editor.


 Concurrently, Monroe Gallery is featuring a major exhibition of photographs by Tony Vaccaro. The exhibit continues through September 15, 2024.


Tony Vaccaro died on December 28, 2022, eight days after celebrating his 100th birthday. Orphaned at age 6, he immersed himself in studying classic European art and by age 10 had a box camera. He photographed WWII from a soldier’s perspective, documenting his personal witness to the brutality of war.  After carrying a camera across battlefields, he become one the most sought-after photographers of his day, eventually working for virtually every major publication: Flair, Look, Life, Venture, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, Quick, Newsweek, and many more. Vaccaro turned the trauma of his youth into a career seeking beauty. This exhibit explores the extraordinary depth of his archive and features several new discoveries being exhibited for the very first time.


Tags: combat photography documentary films documentary movies new exhibit Santa Fe events war photographer WWII