Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1962. Morell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College and his MFA from The Yale University School of Art. He has received honorary degrees from Bowdoin College in 1997 and from Lesley University in 2014.
His publications include a photographic illustration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1998) by Dutton Children’s Books, A Camera in a Room (1995) by Smithsonian Press, A Book of Books (2002) and Camera Obscura (2004) by Bulfinch Press, and Abelardo Morell (2005), published by Phaidon Press. The Universe Next Door (2013), published by the Art Institute of Chicago. Tent-Camera (2018), published by Nazraeli Press. Flowers for Lisa (2018), published by Abrams Books.
He has received a number of awards and grants, which include a Guggenheim fellowship in 1994 and an Infinity Award in Art from ICP in 2011. In November 2017, he received a Lucie Award for achievement in fine art. His work has been collected and shown in many galleries, institutions and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Victoria & Albert Museum, and over seventy other museums around the world. A retrospective of his work organized jointly by the Art Institute of Chicago, The Getty in Los Angeles and The High Museum in Atlanta closed in May 2014 after a year of travel. His work is currently included in the exhibition, “The Stillness of Things,” now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.