Living in NYC, you never know who you’re going to see, sit next to, or spot on the sidewalk of fifth avenue. This morning after a quick trip to the apple store (yet again) I noticed an old man a nikon and a bicycle. The three most recognizable things of photographer Bill Cunningham.
Of course at the time, I was in a rush to get to class, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.So I decided to introduce myself. If your unfamiliar with who Cunningham is, he is an 84 year old fashion photographer for the New York Times, known for his candid street photography.
After introducing myself and speaking to him about his work, while he snapped candid shots of people walking the streets of 57th and 5th, I walked away eager to learn more.
In 1948 he dropped out of prestigious Harvard University, and moved to NYC where he initially found a job in adverting. Soon after, he quit his job and started making hats under the name “William J” but his business folded when he was drafted into war.
After serving a tour in the US army, he returned to New York and started writing for the Chicago Tribune. During his years as a writer, he contributed significantly to fashion journalism. While working at Tribune and at Women’s Wear Daily, he began taking candid photographs of fashion on the streets of New York.
Cunningham photographs people and the passing scene in the streets of Manhattan each and every day. He says that “most of his pictures are never published”. Oscar De La Renta has said ” More than anyone else in the city, he has the whole visual history of the last 40 or 50 years of New York. It’s the total scope of fashion in the life of New York.”
Cunningham has made a career for himself taking unexpected photographs of celebrities, socialites, and fashionistas, many of which value his work. In 2011, there was a documentary about Cunningham traveling through Manhattan by bicycle and living in a tiny apartment in the Carnegie Hall building. The apartment has no kitchen, closet or private bathroom and is mainly filled with filing cabinets and boxes of his photographs.