Remembering Bill Cunningham
Bill Cunningham was a street photographer who captured the normality of ordinary people through their style and clothing. It was with this ideology that he took the renowned photograph of Greta Garbo – the shot that started his career in 1978. He was instantly attracted to her jacket, without knowing who she was.
This image caught the eye of The New York Times, creating a long relationship with the American newspaper, with which he worked until his passing. Cunningham was originally born in Boston and had an Irish-Catholic upbringing. From a young age it appeared that he had an interest in style, being exposed to fashion when undertaking the role of a stockroom assistant at Bonwit Teller. He also confessed that when at church as a young boy, he took an interest in the women’s hats as well as trying to concentrate on the church service itself.
Bill Cunningham’s work is artistic and detailed; he was a self-taught photographer and started taking photographs when he worked for Women’s Wear Daily and Chicago Tribune. He took photographs of many well-known people including Anna Wintour. However, when speaking about celebrities he emphasised that he took photographs of those that captured his eye.
Bill Cunningham frequently stood on Fifth Avenue and 57th street, taking photographs of passersby. Now a petition is in place to rename the corner Bill Cunningham Corner. As the photographer said, “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life,” and his legacy continues to live on.
Photo: Jiyang Chen