We’ve lost Bill Cunningham

The New York Times has reported that Bill Cunningham, its beloved fashion photographer, has passed. He was 87.

I am not a person overly concerned with fashion (just ask my wife or students), but I would dip into his work from time to time not so much to see what was trendy but because his approach to documenting fashion focused more on the people and how they used it to represent themselves then on the designers. His version of street photography was engaging and, as his editors said, highly ethical. That’s something to be admired.

“When I’m photographing,” Mr. Cunningham once said, “I look for the personal style with which something is worn — sometimes even how an umbrella is carried or how a coat is held closed. At parties, it’s important to be almost invisible, to catch people when they’re oblivious to the camera — to get the intensity of their speech, the gestures of their hands. I’m interested in capturing a moment with animation and spirit.”

In 2010, a documentary about him was made that he reluctantly appeared in. According to the Times article, he went to its premiere not to be a part of the show, but to document it. 

Mark E. Johnson

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