Renowned American street style photographer Bill Cunningham passed away on Saturday at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. Born in 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts, Cunningham was considered to be one of the fashion industry’s most influential figures.
For over forty years, Bill Cunningham zipped through the buzzing streets of Manhattan on his bicycle—in his signature, cobalt blue, French worker’s jacket he purchased from Bazaar de l’Hôtel de Ville in Paris—with his camera hanging around his neck to chronicle fashion trends for his On The Street column in The New York Times, which launched in 1978. With a resume that saw stints at Women’s Wear Daily and The Chicago Tribune, the visionary photographer took breathtaking pictures of socialites, celebrities, and fashion fixtures, along with inspiring style snapped on the street. Famous faces he photographed included actress Greta Garbo; fashion icon Iris Apfel; philanthropist and wife of the late designer Oscar de la Renta, Annette de la Renta; and Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who once said, “We all get dressed for Bill.”
Along with capturing the uptown glamour at high society galas, Cunningham documented the more eccentric and flamboyant men and women that roamed the streets of New York City. Before taking up journalism, Cunningham was a milliner under his namesake label William J. His clients included the likes of Marilyn Monroe, but he had to shutter his business when he was drafted to serve in the Korean War. In addition to his glowing accolades—CFDA Outstanding Photographer of the Year (1983) and Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture (2008)—Cunningham was the first American journalist to interview both Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier. Humble, unassuming, and frugal, the fashion reporter (who was once a resident of Carnegie Hall) lived a private life out of the public eye until the release of the documentary Bill Cunningham New York in 2011. Cunningham’s charming persona and genuine admiration for clothes made him a beloved and respected figure with an unparalleled talent for capturing candid style.
Take a look at the moving trailer for the award-winning documentary Bill Cunningham New York below.