Bill Cunningham, the iconic photographer whose ground-level view of New Yorkers’ fashion senses endeared him to the city for decades, died yesterday in Manhattan at 87. He had recently been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. A U.S. Army veteran and Harvard dropout, Cunningham first published a series of candid street photos for the New York Times in 1978; he soon became a mainstay of the paper, where he remained until his death.
The photographer was both respected and beloved for his approach, which found him on the streets of Manhattan (often on his bicycle) photographing passersby whose taste in clothing caught his eye. After becoming famous for his work, Cunningham eschewed the very notion of his own celebrity. “Bill was an extraordinary man, his commitment and passion unparalleled, his gentleness and humility inspirational,” said Michele McNally, director of photography for the Times. “Even though his talents were very well known, he preferred to be anonymous, something unachievable for such a superstar. I will miss him every day.”
Cunningham was named a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2009 and was awarded the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence in 2012. In between those two honors, he was the subject of Richard Press’ acclaimed documentary “Bill Cunningham New York.”