He began insidiously with candid street shots, as a self-trained photographer. He preferred authentic style to celebrity style that was often not purchased or even chosen by the celebrity. According to Hilton Als in The New Yorker, “He loved ‘the kids,’ he said, who wore their souls on sleeves he had never seen before, or in quite that way.”
He was charming and had an affable, self-deprecating wit. His work has become a true reflection of style and is unlike any body of photojournalism that I am aware of. He has, it seems, a cult-like following. I wonder, can we say, Bill Cunningham created Street Style? I think that could be correct. Below, my photo of a photo tribute at Bergdorf Goodman. Source:
Bill Cunningham died recently, in June 2016 after suffering a stroke. It is a loss that was felt deeply by so many fans. I have been a devotee of his original and iconic On The Street column that was published, often in collage style, in the New York TImes from February 26, 1989 onwards. I was living in Manhattan at the time, and live now, very near his “haunt”. Needless to say, I felt his loss keenly.
He truly loved fashion and individuality and had a voice so different from the “celebrity-driven” fashion that we see today that is trend-focused and can often ring false.
On the Street was a democratic pursuit, he photographed people in all walks of life just as they were. His “perch” was at 57th and Fifth near Bergdorf Goodman. In my shot above you can see some of his work, and his bicycle which is how he navigated the city.
I adore this illustration by Anna Higgie, that gives a special and nuanced version of Bill Cunningham.
I think the quote that is most famous, and best sums up his philosophy and career is this:
“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.” ( source, Wikipedia)
and: “I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is.” – Bill Cunningham
Below, a close-up of my photo, (where you can see a sample of his columns, with his bike layered over it: a meaningful juxtaposition , the bike, his way of traveling and scouting out photo opps, and a large collage of his work. My photo is of a photo, snapped in front of Bergdorf’s window. Photo credit:
photo source: The New York Times
But my real intent is to introduce those of you to this great work if you do not know of him. Since so many of my followers are international, I think there may be a few of you out there. Another thing I want to do is to introduce you to Carol Dietz, @carolelizabethdietz on Instagram. As the New York Times Art Director, Carol enjoyed a close relationship with Bill and her Instagram feed is chock full of candid videos and photos of him. These will provide great insight into the life and accomplishments of this wonderful man. Truly, they are a treasure trove.
It also must be said that Carol Dietz, has amazing style; eclectic and completely her own.
As well, there are several Pinterest boards, and I wanted to feature one here: this, too, will give you a visual diary of his work. Here is the link I know you will enjoy. I will close with these shots from this board.
As a blogger with eclectic, unorthodox style, Bill’s work has special meaning for me. Did you know of Bill Cunningham, and if so, how did he influence you? What are your favorite memories of his work? Please share.