The fascinating story of Bill Cunningham, the famous photographer who doesn’t want to be famous

Every morning Bill Cunningham takes his bicycle, parked in front of the building where he lives in Manhattan. With his photo camera always by his side, he starts a new day, exploring the New York City streets. In every moment something interesting could happened or an amazing person with an excentric outfit could apear in front of his lances. And Bill always has his eyes wide open!

 

”Real fashion is on the streets”, he sais. After he took thousands of pictures and published so many of them in the past more then 50 years he became one of the most popular and most respected street fashion photographers in the United States of America and beyond.

The famous Anna Wintour (former editor in chief of Vogue magazine and actual artistic director for Condé Nast media company) said in the documentary movie dedicated to Cunningham that if Bill ignores you, it’s like death, you don’t exist in fashion”. Anna Wintour revealed in the same movie that she knows Bill since she was very young and he was taking her first pictures, of course, on the street.

Bill Cunningham Receives Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence

Bill Cunningham and Anna Wintour

He doesn’t accept ”gifts” and he sends them back

Everybody in the fashion bussiness knows Bill. Many event organizers would do almost anything to have him in their big night for some beautiful pictures. Others send him all kind of gifts, but Cunningham sends them back. He doesn’t want to feel like he owns anything to anybody so he has the same filosophy all the time. When he is doing his work at fashion events or at other ceremonies, he never eats or drinks, not even water. And after he ends up his job he goes to the next event. He always rides the streets with his bicycle. This way he keeps his good shape and he can feel the city pulse much better. Designer Oscar de la Renta used to say that “More than anyone else in the city, he has the whole visual history of the last 50 years of New York. It’s the total scope of fashion in the life of New York”.

Celebrities likes him

Born William J. Cunningham, he was a student at Harvard University, which he dropped out, and then he began making hats under the name ”William J”. After a while he started building a carrier from his passion for photography. Cunningham began photograph regular people and celebrieties from time to time passing in the streets of Manhattan, and focusing on their way of expressing their personal style by clothing. According to the famous bussiness man David Rockefeller, Brooke Astor (from the famous Astor family) asked that Cunningham attend her 100th birthday party. And he was the only member of the media invited.

Cunningham is working for The New York Times, but he owns the copyrwrite for all his photos. He decides which of his photographies are going to be published in the newspaper. So he stays at the office until he’s one hundred percent happy. And I have to mention also that Bill Cunningham prefers the authentic style of shots per roll of film.

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”Bill Cunningham New York” documentary

In 2008 he was awarded the Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Ministry of Culture and in 2010, the director Richard Press and Philip Gefter of The Times produced the documentary Bill Cunningham New York. The film was released on March 16, 2011. It shows Cunningham traveling through Manhattan by bicycle and his way of living in a small apartment in the Carnegie Hall building. The apartment doesn’t have a closet, a kitchen, or a private bathroom, but is filled with a lot of file cabinets which contains most of his photographs. The documentary also details Bill’s philosophy on fashion and art, as well as his interactions with the persons photographed by him.

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He celebrated his 86th birthday

Just a few days ago Bill Cunningham (born March 13, 1929) celebrated his birthday at The New York Times where his colleagues made him a special surprise: personalised cupcakes with Bill’s pictures through the time.

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Bill Cunningham New York Trailer

The “Bill” in question is 80+ New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirées for the Times Style section in his columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours.”

UPDATE: Bill Cunningham had passed away on Saturday, June 25, 2016, at age 87.

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