The world lost another icon today. Bill Cunningham, the beloved street style photographer for The New York Times, passed away in New York on Saturday. His death confirmed by The Times, he was 87, and had recently been hospitalized after having a stroke.
We mourn his loss, but not only for the fashion community. Mr. Cunningham worked for The Times for almost 40 years, observing not only shifts in fashion, but in culture. After all, trends come and go, and he documented those, but what he was most interested in was individuality. A rarity in the industry, he was an extraordinary individual himself. Quiet and oftentimes recounted as kept to himself, his celebrity never made him blink. Actually, it was quite the opposite. He preferred to remain the observer, silently capturing people, whoever they may be, and their style, as it were. That’s just one of the things that make his photographs so special.
“When I’m photographing,” The Times quoted Mr. Cunningham as saying, “I look for the personal style with which something is worn—sometimes even how an umbrella is carried or how a coat is held closed. At parties, it’s important to be almost invisible, to catch people when they’re oblivious to the camera—to get the intensity of their speech, the gestures of their hands. I’m interested in capturing a moment with animation and spirit.”
But Mr. Cunningham, in his blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants and black sneakers, was most certainly celebrated. He was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2009, as well as profiled in The New Yorker to name a couple. A documentary about him, Bill Cunningham New York, was released in 2010.
In Mr. Cunningham’s documentary, Anna Wintour says, “I’ve said many times, we all get dressed for Bill.” And we still will.