Bill Cunningham, streetfashion-photographer

June 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Featured Items, People, Streetwear

Bill Cunningham, the New York (street)fashion-photographer died yesterday at the age of 87. He turned fashion photography into his own branch of cultural anthropology on the streets of New York. For years he chronicled the ever-changing social scene for The New York Times on what people wore — stylishly, flamboyantly or just plain sensibly. Cunningham had been hospitalized recently after having a stroke.

You could not miss Bill Cunningham easily on the streets of the fashion-cities. He was easy to spot, riding his bicycle, his body draped in his utilitarian blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants and black sneakers and with his 35-millimeter camera slung around his neck.
Nothing escaped him: not the fanny packs, not the Birkin bags, not the gingham shirts, not the fluorescent biker shorts. Cunningham worked nearly 40 years for The New York Times.

At the Pierre hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he pointed his camera at tweed-wearing blue-blood New Yorkers with names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Downtown, by the piers, he clicked away at crop-top-wearing Voguers. Up in Harlem, he jumped off his bicycle for B-boys in low-slung jeans. In the process, he turned into something of a celebrity himself.

In 2008, Mr. Cunningham went to Paris, where the French government honored him with the Legion of Honor.
In 2010, a documentary, “Bill Cunningham New York,” premiered at the Museum of Modern Art to glowing reviews.
Yet Mr. Cunningham told nearly anyone who asked about it that the attendant publicity was a total hassle, a reason for strangers to approach and bother him. He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed.

He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had, until very recently, for under $3. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall amid rows and rows of file cabinets, where he kept all of his negatives. He slept on a single-size cot, showered in a shared bathroom and, when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details (which he helped Annie Flanders launch in 1982), he said: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”
We all will miss him. He was an example for us streetfashion-photographers: patient, friendly, with a good and loving eye for the subject.

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