‘Without the great photographer Bill Cunningham, there would be no street style.’
Fashion designers, journalists, friends and fans are today mourning the loss of Bill Cunningham, the legendary New York Times photographer who passed away on Saturday, following a stroke.
The 87 year-old was widely credited as the man who paved the way for the street style photography phenomenon, a ‘real life’ chronicler who editors and A-listers dressed for, long before photographers like Tommy Ton burst onto the scene.
‘Without the great photographer Bill Cunningham, there would be no street style,’ wrote designer Michael Kors on Instagram. ‘Talent, taste and kindness in abundance!!! RIP Bill.’
Cunningham’s dedicated approach to his work was inimitable – at 87, come rain, shine, or, in the case of many a February fashion week, blizzard, he would hit the streets of New York, riding his bicycle and wearing his signature blue jacket.
His subjects adored and respected him, with stars like Rihanna and Gigi Hadid, who may usually shun the paparazzi, desperate to be seen by his lens. ‘First rule in this thang….when Bill asks for a picture…pose bitch!!!’ Rihanna wrote on Instagram. ‘He made everyone important stop and adjust,’ added Lena Dunham.
Born in 1929 in Boston, Bill started his career in the 1940s as a milliner in New York. After the war, he returned to fashion in 1953, landing a job as a staff photographer for Women’s Wear Daily. He went on to work at the New York Times for almost 40 years, capturing the social scenes at fashion weeks and celebrity parties around the world in his photo essays for the title.
‘The best fashion show is definitely on the street.’ – Bill Cunningham
‘In his nearly 40 years working for @nytimes, Bill Cunningham was both a dedicated chronicler of fashion and an unlikely cultural anthropologist, one who used the changing dress habits of the people he photographed to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more individualistic,’ the editors of the New York Times said in a statement.
‘Bill put it this way in an essay he wrote for @nytimes in 2002: “Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times.”