Last month the fashion world lost one of its greats; renowned photographer Bill Cunningham. 87-year-old, self-taught Cunningham was the master of street based fashion photography, and shot real people, wearing real clothes, as he cycled around New York with a 35-millimeter camera slung around his neck, and was a front row fixture at fashion shows.
He captured fashion lovers, commuters and socialites for the The New York Times, where his On The Street and Evening Hours slots were regular features. His focus on local people, and the fashion that they embraced was a welcomed reminder that the New York Times is a local publication. His photography style, which he coined over 50 years ago, remained unique to him, with his love of fashion being at its core. Cunningham’s shy and reserved persona benefited the nature of his photography. “It’s important to be almost invisible,” he said, “to catch people when they’re oblivious to the camera – to get the intensity of their speech, the gestures of their hands.”
“Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life” Bill Cunningham
“We all get dressed for Bill” Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor in Chief
His love for fashion was felt throughout the fashion industry, and he was well respected by editors, designers, models and fellow photographers. In 2010, after 8 years of cajoling, film-maker Richard Press persuaded Bill Cunningham to co-operate in the making of documentary Bill Cunningham New York. What followed was a captivating and moving portrait of a talented, passionate and singular man…
Cunningham’s favoured New York snapping spot was Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, where he began recording the personal style of passers by, making connections between designers and wearers, and fashion and history. Since Cunningham’s passing, 6,000 people have signed a petition for this particular cross street in midtown New York to be named after the late photographer. City officials made this happen, however the dedication only remained in place for a week, but those behind the petition are hopeful that this temporary landmark could be a more permanent fixing to mark such an adored member of the New York community.
Image used to in the headline from Harpers Bazaar.