Bill Cunningham, acclaimed NY Times fashion photographer and beloved fixture in New York, has died at age 87. He was hospitalized a few days ago after suffering a stroke, and the Times has confirmed he passed away today.
Cunningham, who was born in Boston, worked for the Times for nearly 40 years, chronicling decades worth of street styles. He was frequently spotted biking around New York in his signature blue jacket, eventually reaching local celebrity status—in 2009, the New York Landmarks Conservancy bestowed upon him the well-deserved title of "Living Landmark." In 2010, he was the subject of the celebrated documentary film, Bill Cunningham New York; you can watch the trailer below.
The Times recently re-published a 2002 essay Cunningham wrote about how he got his start making hats in New York after World War II, and why he loved street fashion:
The main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don’t see at the fashion shows. 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.
I go out every day. When I get depressed at the office, I go out, and as soon as I’m on the street and see people, I feel better. But I never go out with a preconceived idea. I let the street speak to me.
Cunningham was also a welcome commenter on city life outside of fashion, offering up praise for everything from the Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square in 2014 ("The spirit really is like a mid-winter carnival. It's really a New York fantasy, if ever there was one,") to this past January's massive blizzard ("I know people could shoot me, but it was terrific.") He also made a charming tribute video to Citi Bike when the program launched in 2013. "It's great for the New Yorkers who always have been totally impatient," he said of the program. "When they walk on the sidewalk, they don't stop for anyone. And it's really hilarious to watch them come around the corner when two of them meet face-to-face and neither one will stop! But at any rate, now they're all on bikes."
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the Times’s publisher and chairman, said of Cunningham: “His company was sought after by the fashion world’s rich and powerful, yet he remained one of the kindest, most gentle and humble people I have ever met." He added, "We have lost a legend, and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend."