Bill Cunningham, the legendary New York Times fashion photographer who took his lens to the streets of New York City to chronicle the ever-changing fashion trends over the course of almost 40 years, died on June 25th in Manhattan. Mr. Cunningham was 87 years old.
The Fashion World Loses a Prominent Member
The New York Times confirmed Bill’s death on June 25th after he had been hospitalized recently after having a stroke. “To see a Bill Cunningham street spread was to see all of New York,” New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a tweet posted to the newspaper’s Twitter account on Saturday afternoon.
In Antiques and Hearts, New York City’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio said Cunningham would be remembered for his signature blue jacket, traveling by bicycle and camera on waist, “but most of all we will remember the vivid, vivacious New York he captured in his photos.”
According to the New York Times, Mr. Cunningham had a huge presence in the city. He could be easily found in Midtown where he did the majority of his fieldwork whilst riding a bicycle. He would come around every corner waiting for the next fashion statement to walk past him. No one could escape his eye for fashion statements. Antiques and Hearts reported that in a 2002 interview with The Times, Cunningham said he always tried to be as discreet as possible because “you get more natural pictures that way.”
“I suppose, in a funny way, I’m a record keeper. More than a collector,”‘ he said. “I’m very aware of things not of value but of historical knowledge.”
Bill Cunningham Designated a Living Landmark
In 2009, he was designated a living landmark. Cunningham began publishing a regular series of photographs for the New York Times in 1978 after a coincidentally taking a photo of Greta Garbo that grasped The Times attention.
He was the pioneer of street style photography. Through his photos, every one could see the shift in cultures from the 70’s to present day. He recorded history with his camera and was the first to ever do it. The New Yorker dubbed Cunningham’s On The Street And Evening Hours columns as the city’s yearbook.
Mr. Cunningham’s Recognition Through the Years
In 2008, the French government bestowed Cunningham with the Legion of Honor called the Officier de l’ordre des arts et des Lettres. He also received The Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence in 2012. Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour was quoted by The New York Times to say, “That bike of Bill’s was always about more than a means to get from A to B. It represented the way this wonderful and singular man navigated through our world without ever losing his way.”
Cunningham also had his very own documentary in 2010 called Bill Cunningham New York. It’s a must-see that captures him in his true element as a street photographer. Cunningham’s funeral was held on Thursday, July 30, on East 89th Street in Manhattan. Prominent members of the fashion industry such as Anna Wintour, Annette de la Renta, and Mercedes Bass were in attendance. There were no photographers out of respect for the families wishes to keep everything simple and private.
The funeral program ended with a quote from Cunningham that read:
“It is as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty shall find it.”