Gaffney was educated at the Royal College of Art in London. While at college Gaffney began to develop a career as a portrait photographer. Between 1971 and 1973, he was shooting for Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine. He also photographed Marianne Faithfull and Serge Gainsbourg. Among his other portraits are Cecil Beaton, Jean Muir, Spike Milligan (1974) and Man Ray (Paris, 1975), all of which are in the National Portrait Gallery.
In 1985 Gaffney moved to New York when his wife was offered a job there but he was unsuccessful in establishing himself as a photographer in the city and returned to painting in 1989. Later, Kathleen Turner saw some of his work in New York and encouraged him to start working as a photographer again and he completed a shoot for Dazed & Confused.
- Joe Gaffney An interview with iconic photographer Joe Gaffney, who has recently returned to fashion photography. Megan Schertler, Dazed, 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- bio joegaffney.com, 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
- Joe Gaffney National Portrait Gallery, 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.