BuzzFeed News

Reporting To You

New York Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham Dies At 87

"We all get dressed for Bill," Vogue editor Anna Wintour once said.

Posted on June 25, 2016, at 5:48 p.m. ET

Bill Cunningham in 2012.
Charles Sykes / AP

Bill Cunningham in 2012.

Bill Cunningham, the legendary New York Times fashion photographer who spent decades documenting the latest fashion trends on the city's streets, died on Saturday, according to the newspaper. He was 87.

He had been recently hospitalized after suffering a stroke, the newspaper reported.

For decades, Cunningham spent his days riding around on his bicycle, dressed in his iconic blue jacket, and taking impromptu photographs of New York's most fashionable people — from big name celebrities to style-conscious average New Yorkers.

During his almost 40 years at the Times, Cunningham catalogued the city's changing styles both in print and in video slideshows for the newspaper's website.

"I suppose, in a funny way, I’m a record keeper," Cunningham wrote in the newspaper in 2002.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Cunningham first developed a taste for street photography while working for the Chicago Tribune in the mid-1960s. A fellow photographer brought him a small camera and advised him to "use it like a notebook."

"That was the real beginning," Cunningham wrote. "Everybody I saw I was able to record, and that’s what it’s all about."

"I realized that you didn’t know anything unless you photographed the shows and the street, to see how people interpreted what designers hoped they would buy. I realized that the street was the missing ingredient."

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

His life was the subject of the 2010 documentary Bill Cunningham New York, which played at film festivals around the world. "We all get dressed for Bill," Anna Wintour, Vogue editor, told the filmmakers.

The documentary provided a fascinating insight into his professional and personal lives, both of which were mostly solitary. For many years, he lived alone in a cramped studio apartment, packed with film negatives, and slept on a simple cot.

He also fastidiously avoided accepting meals or drinks at any of the numerous glittering parties he photographed each week. "I never bothered with celebrities unless they were wearing something interesting," he said.

In 2008, the French government bestowed him with the Legion d’Honneur, the country's highest civilian honor. In 2009, he was named him a New York City living landmark.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio paid tribute to the photographer on Twitter:

We will remember Bill's blue jacket and bicycle. But most of all we will remember the vivid, vivacious New York he captured in his photos.

Artist and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton shared a photo tribute to Cunningham with a drawing of a camera and blue jacket.

“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,” New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. told the newspaper. “We have lost a legend, and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend.”

Support our journalism

Help BuzzFeed News reporters expose injustices and keep quality news free.

Contribute
ADVERTISEMENT