New York Times Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham Dies – A Pioneer Who Left Behind a Legacy

Bill Cunningham NYC

The ‘most important’ fashion photographer in the world. Bill Cunningham has passed away at age 87. A sad time for the fashion industry. 

Bill Cunningham is regarded as one of the most important fashion photographers who ever lived. He began working as a hat maker and his fascination with fashion soon lead him to begin his long standing career with the New York Times.

His photography was noticed by the NYT with a shot of Greta Garbo in 1978 where he captured her in an unguarded moment, wearing beanie, sunglasses and a big coat. A ‘street style’ revolution was born.

Bill Cunningham NYC

Bill began to photograph what people were wearing on the streets of New York, riding along on his bike, capturing all walks of life going about their daily lives. Trends began to emerge and Bill’s eye for fashion saw these people feature in the NYT in his section called ‘Street Style’.

He was known to be a humble man, wearing only his iconic blue French ‘cleaners’ jacket and taking photographs of all things fashion. He spent all of his life on the street searching for the next trend and movement in fashion – “The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been. Always will be” Bill said.

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour once said “We all get dressed for Bill”.

He was one of the most loved photographers in New York, but he was nothing like the paparazzi – he was just a quiet man with an artistic eye. Bill was a photographer most of his life, and has said to have kept a negative of every single photo he has ever taken. He has literally documented fashion trends on the streets of NY for over 40 years, and has seen it all.

Bill lived in a cramped one bedroom studio, surrounded by filing cabinets and has said to not care about money or possessions – just fashion. Bill just recently passed away, however he has left behind a legacy to the fashion world and the NYT is feeling a little empty without him.

Street Style

Oscar de la Renta noted “More than anyone else in the city, he has the whole visual history of the last 40 or 50 years of New York. It’s the total scope of fashion in the life of New York.” 

For all those who love fashion, I recommend watching the documentary. It was amazing to see how one person’s passion can touch so many people’s lives. Bill once said “It’s not work, it’s pleasure. That’s why I feel so guilty. Everybody else does work — I have too much fun.” A true artist who loved his work and wanted to share it with the world.

Check out the trailer. 

Olga Dumitriu
Client Account Executive 

Olga is a Manager of Brand Projects at Truly Deeply. For more than 25 years Truly Deeply have been working with brands to position them for growth. Olga’s expertise is to engage with brands and manage the project lifecycle to ensure optimum outcomes and experiences for clients. Olga has experience working with corporate, health, food and education clients.
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