José María Mora was a Cuban-American portrait photographer active in New York City during the 1870s and 1880s. The son of wealthy Cuban landowners, Mora was living in Paris and training as a painter in 1868 when the start of the Ten Years’ War forced his family to flee their home in Havana and resettle in New York City. Unable to continue his study of painting once he joined his family in New York, Mora found employment with celebrity photographer Napoleon Sarony who trained him in the photographic portrait business and the art of painted retouching -- an early form of photo-manipulation. After two years with Sarony, Mora founded his own portrait studio and went on to become a friendly rival to his former mentor and contemporary stage photographers such as Benjamin J. Falk.
Mora specialized in producing cabinet card portrait photographs of Gilded Age celebrities, including actors, opera performers, writers, and prominent members of New York City Society.