Goodbye to Bill Cunningham
Bill Cunningham, the beloved fashion photographer for The New York Times, passed away Saturday at the age of 87. Mr. Cunningham spent his entire adult life documenting fashion on the streets of New York City, taking millions of photos of those he found beautiful and interesting. To pay the bills, he worked for “The Man,” as he called the Times, and lived very simply. Everyone knew and loved him, but very few people seemed to know him intimately. In 2011, Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary about his life, was released, and the world got a better glimpse of him, much to his obvious discomfort.
I’ve watched the film several times over the last few years, and watched it again through tears last night. Though he preferred to stay in the background in life, Bill Cunningham’s death leaves a gigantic void in the world of photography and fashion journalism. He was truly an icon, without any exaggeration, and I pray that he knew how much he meant to so many people. Mr. Cunningham possessed an enormous respect for the beauty and individuality of regular people, and he was full of passion and integrity. Some of his best advice came from the recent film, in which he told a colleague, “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”
In the film, we see Bill’s small apartment above Carnegie Hall and his many filing cabinets filled with his entire life’s work. It’s the kind of collection that belongs in a museum, and hopefully that’s exactly where it will end up. When Cunningham was awarded the French Order of Arts and Letters, he said, “It’s as true today as it ever was: he who seeks beauty will find it.”
The New York Times is running an entire section about Bill Cunningham, and I’m linking to this touching article from 2013. Bill Cunningham New York is currently available for streaming on Amazon, and it’s a wonderful profile of this lovely and caring man who sought beauty in all he did.