The last time I saw Bill Cunningham was at the Sesame Street Gala where instead of taking a selfie I took a picture of Bill Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham was a fashion photography who took to the streets of New York to make them as iconic as the runways and fashion magazines. One month after seeing this iconic legend I learned he passed on Saturday at 87. He had been hospitalized recently after having a stroke.
A designated a living landmark, the New York Landmarks Conservancy that made him a living landmark in 2009, Cunningham rode his bicycle through Midtown, he was normally dressed in a uniform of sorts, his blue French worker’s jacket, khaki pants, black sneakers and his 35-millimeter camera slung around his neck, ever at the ready for the next fashion statement to come around the corner. For almost 40 years he 40 worked for The New York Times. He was a creature of habits a man still living in another time.
In 2008, Mr. Cunningham went to Paris, where the French government bestowed him with the Legion of Honor. In New York, he was celebrated at Bergdorf Goodman, where a life-size mannequin of him was installed in the window.
In 2010, filmmaker Richard Press and Philip Gefter of The Times produced Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary about Cunningham. The film was released on March 16, 2011. It shows Cunningham traveling through Manhattan by bicycle and living in a tiny apartment in the Carnegie Hall building. The apartment has no closet, kitchen,TV or private bathroom,just filing cabinets and boxes of his photographs. The documentary also details his philosophy on fashion, art and photography, as well as observes his interactions with his subjects while taking photos. He ate breakfast at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese cost under $3. He slept on a single-size cot and when he was asked why he spent years ripping up checks from magazines like Details, which he helped Annie Flanders launch he said: “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”