Legendary New York City Street Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham Dies at 87


The New York Times reports that photographer Bill Cunningham has died after being hospitalized for a stroke. He was 87. Cunningham rode his bike through the streets of New York City for decades, snapping photos (with good old 35mm film) of fashionable strangers and Uptown fixtures for the Times’ Style Section for nearly 40 years.

Director Richard Press created a documentary about the charming and passionate Cunningham, taking audiences inside his tiny apartment (packed full of boxes and filing cabinets containing his work). The veteran photographer was designated a living landmark in 2009. From the New York Times obituary:

At the Pierre hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he pointed his camera at tweed-wearing blue-blood New Yorkers with names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Downtown, by the piers, he clicked away at crop-top wearing Voguers. Up in Harlem, he jumped off his bicycle — he rode more than 30 over the years, replacing one after another as they were wrecked or stolen — for B-boys in low-slung jeans. In the process, he turned into something of a celebrity himself. . . . He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand. . . . Mr. Cunningham particularly loved eccentrics, whom he collected like precious seashells. ‘When I’m photographing,’ Mr. Cunningham once said, ‘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.’

You can watch Cunningham’s beloved weekly video series On the Street over here.