In every great community there wanders a wise person who has seen it all and for LIC that person is Tony Vaccaro. Over the last 90 plus years of life, Tony served humanity first in WWII, then as a prolific photographer of fashion, commerce and celebrity, all while staying committed to his family and community. Wishing to make a move from Madison Avenue, he came to LIC in 1972, choosing a place on 47th Avenue for his work studio. The ‘ Italian Village’, as he refers to it, was an inspired place of industry and grit, artistry and intellect, culture and peaceful restoration. In 1985 he decided to make it his full time residence.
Having survived the hardship of war, traversing the globe on pressured assignments, and battling the front lines of the NYC photography business he found that when at home in LIC it was the silence that gave him contentment. One of his first endeavors here was to rally his neighbors to work together and keep the streets clean, he explains, while showing me notes from them proclaiming he helped make it a ‘paradise’.
Over the years Tony has collected art from local creatives which hang on his walls with a mixture of the unknown and uber famous, the great and the forgotten, piles of collected history filling every inch of the apartment he now shares with his sister, Sue, and son, David. He is dangerously generous with his work, always willing to give and inspire. We can all view his large original prints of Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Coretta Scott King, Jean Renoir, Ana Magnani and Shirley MacLaine (whom he still speaks with regularly) on display at Manducatis Rustica.
Good fortune placed me across the street from Mr. Vaccaro over 8 years ago and with all the stories I’ve heard and things I’ve seen in his archive, each interaction brings new insights from a veteran of life. Rather than holding on tightly the past 90 years, Mr. Vaccaro keeps his welcoming eyes wide open to the new neighbors settling into town. He muses, “..the success of LIC is that it’s closest to the culture center of the world and what they have done along the waterfront is just marvelous, it’s the left bank of the east river.” As the village of LIC begins it’s new renaissance it’s a special gift to have such a treasure among us sprinkling wisdom and kindness.
Sometimes forgotten in the hustle, the greatest value in this land of ours is it’s people and as he sits back in silence Tony Vaccaro fits the portrait of a great survivor, friend, mentor and LIC citizen.
by Jesse Winter