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 Amazon.com, 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!