Bill Cunningham (born William John Cunningham Jr) the renowned New York Times photographer has died at the age of 87 – after recently suffering a stroke. He is considered by many to be the forefather of street style photography. He is best known for his fashion pictures of people on the streets of New York. Cunningham worked for the Times for more than 40 years where he also covered society events and fashion runways. The ultimate chronicler who was never the centre of attention, Cunningham famously passed on refreshments to maintain his role as all seeing spectator. Cunningham wore a personal uniform of khaki pants, black sneakers, white shirt and a blue French workman’s jacket – with his trusted 35mm camera hanging round his neck. He was also known for riding his bike around the streets of midtown Manhattan as his preferred mode of transport.
Despite his reticence Bill Cunningham became a celebrity himself in later years. The French government bestowed the Legion of Honor on him in 2008 whilst in 2009 the New York Landmarks Conservancy made him a living landmark. In 2010 Cunningham became the subject, with Richard Press’ Bill Cunningham New York. This insightful documentary gave a very detailed view of his daily life and how he moved with ease from street snapper to runway photographer, always ready to capture the moment. His humble abode in New York was an archive of a life’s work, with boxes upon boxes of photo negatives taking up every inch of his apartment.
Over the course of his career Bill Cunningham became rightly lauded as the pioneer of street fashion photography
Over the course of his career Bill Cunningham became rightly lauded as the pioneer of street fashion photography, taking pictures – primarily of women – in New York. From full ensembles to the most minute detail, his work became synonymous with the city he loved. He deserves every credit for his body of work and for trailblazing the way for much street style photography that came after him.