Manuello Paganelli grew up in Santo Domingo, Italy and Puerto Rico. After a mentorship with Ansel Adams, he worked as a photojournalist at the Chattanooga Times. In 1989, he began to explore Cuba, its land, its people, and its complex relationship with the USA. In 1995, he had his first solo photo show of his work on Cuba and that same year earned him a fellowship grant. The Washington Post wrote "Manuello Paganelli's Cuban photographs are a brilliant window on a land and people too long hidden from North American eyes. Working in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, Paganelli brings an artist's eyes and a native son's sensibility to his superb photographs."
In the early 1990s, he started work on his Black Cowboys series with a selection being featured at the Annenberg Space for Photography. In the summer of 2012, this same series was selected for the Photo Vernissage at the Manage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. His award-winning work has graced the covers and pages of many well-known magazines including Bloomberg Business Week, Bloomberg Market, Forbes, Newsweek, Men’s Journal, People, Time, Reader’s Digest, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and many more.