José Azel was born August 18, 1953, in Havana, Cuba. He attended Cornell University, where he began shooting pictures as a hobby. After completing his master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, he was hired as a staff photographer at the Miami Herald.
Together with fellow photographer Bob Caputo, Azel founded a photojournalism group in 1993 called Aurora and Quanta Productions. Dedicated to international, in-depth photojournalism, he specializes in broad geographic reporting. Adventure and an interest in environmental problems have led him to locations as diverse as the icy waters off Antarctica and Alaska to the game reserves of Kenya and the jungles of Borneo.
His coverage of the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics earned him the prestigious World Press Photo Foundation Amsterdam Olympic Award and the Marion Scubin Sport Award. In 1988 he devoted the majority of his time to a 48-page article on cocaine for National Geographic. His work resulted in an invitation from Tufts University to serve as a guest lecturer at a major conference on drugs. He has also been a lecturer for the National Press Photographers Association Flying Short Course.
Azel's photos have appeared regularly in Smithsonian, Life, Connoisseur, the London Sunday Times magazine, and Germany's GEO.
Azel lives in Lovell, Maine.