I am referring to Bill Cunningham, the American Photographer at The New York Times. After watching the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, I was impressed by his vibrant and fulfilling life, which was driven by his passion for fashion (and not by fame or money).
Who is Bill?
Bill Cunningham was the Fashion Photographer for The New York Times, and was renowned for his “street photography” and candid pictures which span over several decades. Everyday, he scouted the streets of New York for interesting, unusual fashion/trends and photographed them. Since 1978, his impromptu photos have formed a regular series in The New York Times. Aside from street fashion, he also covered society events & fashion shows and photographs socialites, celebrities and fashion personalities.
Bill was awarded the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French Ministry of Culture in 2008. In his acceptance speech, he said, “I don’t work. I only know how to have fun every day…It’s always the clothes.” Bill was highly regarded and respected in the New York society and the fashion world.
In the documentary film by Richard Press and Philip Gefter, Bill’s only mode of transport were his Schwinn bicycle and on foot. He led a modest life. He lived in a tiny apartment, which had no kitchen, private bathroom or wardrobe. His (what looked like a foldable) bed was set-up in between rows of filing cabinets (where all his photos were stored). To Bill, it was important to remain “independent” and was cited by CNN, “You see if you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”
Although Bill was an established photographer in the fashion world and even became icon in his own right, he did not loose himself or his personality. Bill ‘s creativity, work ethics, modesty and candidness captivated me. He chose a career based on his passion for fashion, and it shows in his work.
In today’s world, most people are probably not in jobs that they are passionate about, but those that pay well. That’s why – they are called “jobs,” I guess. And yes, I had jobs before…but as a mother now, I think about how I should go about teaching my son about values, ethics and what it is to lead a meaningful life. What I learned from Bill– do what you love and stick to your principle.
Bill (in his 80s) was still hard at work! In June 2016, he passed away at the age of 87. Bill is remembered as a legend, an artist, a photographer for his keen eye and passion for fashion!