George Ancona grew up in Coney Island, New York, running with a pack of friends through the streets to the beach spending days swimming, looking for coins in the sand, and sneaking into the amusement parks.
His parents came from Yucatan in Mexico. His father came to New York to study and his mother came later to visit her two brothers. They met, fell in love, and married. The family lived in an immigrant neighborhood where they were the only Spanish speaking family. There George acquired a Brooklyn accent, his work skills, and street wisdom.
When George was twelve he began to work after school for an auto mechanic, then a carpenter, and after at the Spook House. He would collect junk and old newspapers in a two-wheel cart and sold it all to a junk dealer, providing money for movies and hot dogs.
At Mark Twain Junior High school George discovered the beauty of type in a printing and sign painting class. That's where he learned to paint signs for the Coney Island amusement rides. At Lincoln High School George spent after school hours designing, painting and drawing for posters, illustrations, and competitions.
While in high school George attended Saturday classes at the Brooklyn Museum Art School where he met Rufino Tamayo, who arranged for him to study at the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico, where George took courses in drawing, sculpture, and fresco mural painting.
Returning to New York, George studied at Art Students League and The Cooper Union night school. When he finished studying he began to work in art studios and entered the world of publishing as an apprentice, then a designer, and finally as an art director for Esquire, Seventeen Magazine, and then advertising agencies.
During these years George began to take photographs. He noticed that the photographers he worked with as an art director were having more fun than he was. They would go off on assignments and come back with wonderful pictures and stories. George was hooked and he never looked back.
His photographs were published in magazines and advertising, which eventually led me to filmmaking. As a cameraman George shot documentaries around the world and did several films for Sesame Street and other television clients.
George was approached by friend and children's book writer, Barbara Brenner, who wanted photographs for her new book, Faces. George loved the work and again never looked back. Since then he has published well over 100 books for young readers, including It's Our Garden (Candlewick), Murals: Walls That Sing (Marshall Cavendish), Come and Eat, Join Hands, and more.
George lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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Read a Q & A with George Ancona.