Originator of the cultural phenomenon of streetstyle photography, Bill Cunningham, passed away at the age of 87 in Manhattan on Saturday, June 25, 2016. A sweet and friendly person, Mr. Cunningham had a great eye for capturing the photojournalistic side of fashion, thus humanizing this seemingly clique-y and unpenetrable industry. From the high-end fashionistas to the everyday joes walking the streets of New York City, he appreciated it and captured it all.
Bill Cunningham was the fashion photographer for the New York Times for almost 40 years. He photographed everything – people on their way to work in skirt suits with running shoes, New Yorkers wandering around in fanny packs, Park Avenue princesses toting around Birkin Bags and many a fashion editor on their way to a runway show. A legend in his own right, Mr. Cunningham’s work was so well known that the French Government bestowed him with the Legion of Honour in 2008. In addition, Mr. Cunningham was so synonymous with Manhattan that he was designated a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2009. This same year, the New Yorker described his two columns On The Street and Evening Hours New York’s official yearbook.
Unmistakable in his blue windbreaker and khakis, zipping around on his trusty bike (which he replaced 30+ times over the space of his lengthy career thanks to theft and them simply giving out), he had a front row seat to fashion’s evolution over the decades. He noted that fashion went from general formality (ladies in dresses and gloves, men in suits and hats) to a more original, laid back and individualistic tone.
While Bill himself was no fashionista, he greatly appreciated fashion and snapped hundreds of thousands of pictures immortalizing old money blue bloods, rappers in Harlem, Margiela-wearing fashion insiders downtown to ladies who lunch at the Carlisle.
I will greatly miss Mr. Cunningham’s photographs and columns which really humanized New Yorkers. I loved how it both made me envious of the New York stylistas and made me laugh at the sometimes hideous and embarrassing outfits that confident and/or clueless Manhattanites donned about one of the world’s most stylish and vibrant cities. You owe it to yourself to watch Bill Cunningham New York, a wonderful documentary summarizing his career, adorable personality and photographic inspiration and process. I’ve taken the liberty of including in this post some of Mr. Cunningham’s work – some of my favourite shots taken over his lengthy career with The New York Times.
I tip my hat to you, Mr. Cunningham. Rest well.
*All photos courtesy of the New York Times unless otherwise marked.