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Dear Kay,

I was so, so sad to learn of the death of Bill Cunningham, the legendary photographer of street style in New York. But soon, after spending time reading about the deep love so many people had for him, I realized that the proper emotion when thinking about Bill Cunningham is JOY. What joy he brought to his work! Even in his final report for the New York Times, he is delighted and amused by what he sees.

“The fashion show is on the street—always has been, always will,” he said. Cunningham rode his bicycle around the city, dressed in a uniform of a French work jacket and khakis, camera ever ready to catch anybody wearing a distinctive look. For more than 40 years, he documented high society and rogue fashion. To him, it was all the same.

Here is a wonderful collection of Cunningham’s short “On the Street” videos. Just let them roll, one after another, and you’ll see what I mean. I actually laughed out loud as he marvels at the sight of two men in perfect gray suits at the Easter Parade. “Absolutely spectacular!” he declares. Yes, they are. And so is Cunningham’s joy at seeing them.

A 2010 documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, follows him around. There’s a bittersweetness to it—he lived a monastic life—but the important thing here is the sweetness of his perspective. He was exhilarated, dazzled, and surprised, every day. You can see Bill Cunningham New York on, to rent or free for Amazon Prime customers.

Among his endless memorable quotes:

“I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses. I’m interested in clothes.”

“If we all went out looking like a slob like me, it’d be a pretty drab world.”

“If you don’t take money, it can’t tell you what to do. That’s the whole thing.”

Oh, what a guy! Absolutely spectacular!



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  • He was a gem!

  • What a lovely tribute. You have captured my feelings about Bill Cumningham exactly. Thanks

  • BC was an enormous inspiration and beacon for my younger self. I owe him SO MUCH. A GIANT. I agree about the joy – and oh! I am so, so sad.

  • Very sad day indeed. I loved that film so much – it made me fall in love with him. He was such a unique and singular artist/journalist that I can’t even imagine who could take up the mantle, let alone receive and handle his unbelievably vast archives.

  • You said it all so beautifully.

  • Please write my eulogy and keep on file. Kthxbye.

    • You can write mine, too.

  • Thank you for dedicating today’s column to Bill Cunningham. There will be a huge gap in the so-called “Sunday Styles” section – as Mr. Cunningham documented true style. He had a gifted eye, and used his gift in an un-assuming manner. His art is irreplaceable.

  • I will miss his reporting – lovely eulogy.

  • Yes. Exactly.

  • And didn’t many of his readers – myself included – harbor an oh so small and oh so very secret hope at one point in their lives that one day we’d be at the corner of 57th and Fifth, in a smashing outfit, and we’d be deemed worthy of Bill’s camera? Even if we never made it to the paper, just to be interestingly enough dressed – and note I did not say “well” dressed, since that’s a concept that has died — to have Bill Cunningham raise his camera to his eye would have been a thrill!

  • Thank you for sharing the videos. I will miss Bill’s eye, and his special spot in the Sunday Style section. I think that he encouraged so many of us to think about style in our personal life, with the assurance that wherever we were, we could look interesting. Its time to see that movie again!

  • I loved his trend spotting weekly videos. He was just mahvelous!

  • Sadly, up here in southern Ontario, I didn’t know of Bill Cunningham. But as a photographer myself, I am so interested in his eye and his (camera) perspective. Thank you for sharing so I can learn more about his life and his legacy. He will obviously be missed.

  • As you point out, Bill Cunningham lived a monastic life, but that was because he approached his work like a religion, with a striking, moving combination of discipline and joy. The documentary is a must-see for this reason; it isn’t about fashion at all, it is about finding one’s life’s purpose. What a unique, principled, talented individual he was.

  • When we heard the sad news last night while watching baseball, it struck us how alike Bill was to another of our idols, Vin Scully. Both passionate observers and chroniclers, neither concerned with his own celebrity, each working till almost 90 with their own style and on their own terms. What great role models. Thanks, Bill.

  • I was unaware of Bill Cunningham until seeing the wonderful documentary you mentioned. Sweetness and joy indeed, thanks for the eulogy.

  • I did see BC once when visiting NYC. Alas, he wasn’t interested in my Land’s End….

  • Thank you for bringing this documentary to our attention. I never would’ve found it otherwise. What a lovely man.

  • I’ve watched the documentary on Bill Cunningham numerous times and it never fails to lift my spirits. He was such a delightful man. I will miss him. I think I’ll watch it again tonight.

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