bill cunningham, the legendary ny times fashion photographer, died this past weekend at 87. i was taken aback by the out pouring of love he received on social media. literally every single person that i follow on instagram posted a message in the few hours after the news broke of his passing. it was so beautiful and moving.
bill started his career as a hat maker, then moved on to fashion. he worked briefly for women’s wear daily. he loved photography and loved capturing people with personal style in the streets. he reported for the ny times for almost 40 years capturing street fashion and the nyc social party scene.
he became a style icon himself, running around midtown in his bright blue french workers jacket, chinos and black tennis shoes. i just love that color of blue he wore. the french government bestowed on him the legion of honor in 2008. the new yorks landmarks conservancy made him a living landmark in 2009, and in 2010, a documentary, bill cunningham new york, premiered with great reviews. he never saw the film, however, he did work the opening party, capturing the scene and the fashion.
i never met bill, but i did see him in action on several occasions. many times seeing him riding his bike around mid town with his camera around his neck or at uptown social events. most recently at the new york botanical garden’s orchid dinner. watching him was like poetry in motion.
bill was a legend and an icon. he will be known for so much more than just being the first street fashion photographer. one thing i have always heard is that bill was a gentleman. i think arthur ochs sulzberger jr. summed it up perfectly in the times when he said, “his company was sought about after by the fashion world’s rich and powerful, yet he remained one of kindest, most generous and humble people have ever met…we lost a legend, and….a friend.”
like i said, i never met bill, and i have very little first hand knowledge of him, but i always got the sense he was kind, gentle, and down to earth. he touched people, he made people feel special. he was a true portrait of a gentlemen.
RIP Bill Cunningham (March 13, 1929- June 25, 2016)