There are few people in the world who I feel, in my humble opinion, to really be something else. Call it special if you must. Monsieur William (Bill) J. Cunningham is one of them.
He is a photographer of the New York Times. But he leads an unusual life. I find the aspects I can understand admirable.
I love his candid photographs, as I am sure many do. To me they show reality, the real street style. And through the things he chooses to photograph there lies a sense of Bill’s values. His values amaze me, and I find him truly unpretentious. He has a level of acceptance I have yet to find in anyone else.
Bill asks for no fame nor publicity, he goes on his way being the photographer and person that he is. Judgement has left him seemingly unchanged. I can only wish to view and comprehend it all through his eyes. Or maybe I don’t. He has come to success by truly just being himself.
It fascinates me how little we know about his life. There seems to be a mysterious previous chapter to this man’s life, before his Harvard days. Assumptions have been made that he came from wealth, but that doesn’t mean much to me. Because Bill isn’t defined by that. To him, “Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom are the most expensive”. I like that money isn’t the reason for him to take a picture. There’s an impulse to it. That lets his pictures be what they are. It reflects passion to me.
He has so much appreciation for his subjects. Those of the fashion world must thank him all the time, for his priceless documentations of what fashion is and was. It says great things that Anna Wintour and Brooke Astor hold their respect for him. All the honors and medals hasn’t changed what that great man riding through New York on his bicycle delivers.
I recommend Press and Gefter’s film “Bill Cunningham New York” to those who are interested in this man I’ve been writing about. It offers a rounded view into Bill’s days and work. Apparently, Bill has kept every photograph he has ever taken, and many are unpublished. I expect after his death, there will be more and more captured moments, discovered from his numerous filing cabinets, revealed.
“Fashion is — you know the point of fact is, it’s the the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”
– Bill Cunningham
Thank you for reading