Although I hadn't ever met Bill Cunningham, I became touched by him. Whether it was his apparent humble manner - he was often seen in his "uniform" of a blue worker's jacket, khakis and sneakers and he had lived in a Carnegie Hall studio that didn't even include a kitchen - to his relentless hunt for that fashion moment - he rode his bike, rain or shine, around Manhattan, Mr. Cunningham was a man that transcended fashion.
Mr. Cunningham passed away on Saturday in New York City, at the age of 87. He worked for The New York Times for the last 40 years of his career. In case you haven't heard of him until now, he was a photographer of fashion - street style, more specifically.
"The main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don’t see at the fashion shows," shared Mr. Cunningham to The New York Times. "You find information for readers so they can visualize themselves. This was something I realized early on: If you just cover the designers in the shows, that’s only one facet. You also need the street and the evening hours. If you cover the three things, you have the full picture of what people are wearing.
Maybe this is why Mr. Cunningham touched so many - he wasn't looking for the show or the glitz and glamour that is often exuded with the fashion industry, but the reality that was fashion.
“When I’m photographing,” commented Mr. Cunningham via The New York Times. “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.”
It's also true that many people looked for Mr. Cunningham. In fact, for many, if you were photographed by him, it was a stamp of approval of sorts.
Yet, for Mr. Cunningham, he saw what he did in a different light - almost as "a record keeper."
Mr. Cunningham, you will be missed. Your smile, your photographs and your humble approach to life will all continue to live on
Next time I walk around Manhattan, you can bet I'll be thinking of Mr. Cunningham. And, next time you get dressed, be sure you are styling your outfit for you; I'm certain that's how he would have wanted it - just be your stylish self.
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