Born in Yonkers, Daniell began taking photographs with his folding Kodak camera at a young age. After studying drawing at the Grand Central Art School, Daniell went on to earn a degree from Yale University in 1934. Then, having acquired a Leica camera during a trip to Germany, he began working as a freelance photographer in New York City, shooting pictures for such publications as Life, Time, and Esquire.
Daniell soon became well known for his exceptional portraits of artists, writers, and actors (many of whom were also his personal friends). Indeed, the majority of the artist’s photographic work concentrates on the human figure. Whether executing celebrity portraits or romantic figure studies, Daniell’s images have a “spark and sense of humor that is very human,” remarks admirer Bruce Weber.
An inveterate traveler, Daniell’s wanderlust led him round the globe twice over, and his work chronicles many of the places he was able to see. From the Tyrol to Tangiers and Morocco to Monhegan Island, however, Daniell was consistently drawn back to photographing the people he met along the way.
Eventually retiring in Maine, Daniell turned to painting after a stroke in 1988, setting a goal for himself of one completed artwork per day. He lived to the age of ninety-one, leaving behind a breathtaking body of sophisticated images that reflect the unfolding of the twentieth century.