California Style Camera Man

By Grace Bernal

I had a long term relationship with Bill Cunningham without ever meeting him in person.
I made numerous attempts to meet him while in New York, but alas, I was never that lucky. Bill and I have been communicating our thoughts with regard to style/fashion for a while, he on the East Coast, and I on the West Coast. The difference between the two is this 87 year old had been capturing fashion through photography for over 40 years, and I have only begun. When the New York Times didn’t publish Bill Cunningham’s column on Sunday, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t long before I learned Bill had been hospitalized and was recovering from a possible stroke. I was really hoping it wasn’t the end of an era, that this was not the curtain coming down on this phenomenal and humbling man. However, on June 25th. 2016, Bill Cunningham was pronounced dead in Manhattan from complications of a stroke.
Bill captured a history of photos for years, and I am only guessing that he was the first photographer of the streets. He was a passionate and emotional person when it came to his work, and you could hear it in his voice every time he spoke. He was considered the most important person in the world in France, which is quite an acknowledgment for an American.
Cunningham was born in Boston to William Cunningham, a government employee, and his shy wife. Ever since childhood he used a camera to photograph people on the streets, events and whatever was interesting.
For about 50 years Bill Cunningham was out photographing the streets by day, and the evening hours by night. In 1949, and long before photography Cunningham began making hats and selling them under the name of William J. He wrote publications for the Chicago Tribune, and Details Magazine. But, The Times hired Cunningham in the late 70s after they saw a photograph he took of Greta Garbo.
There is so much to say about the cycling “Gentle Man” with the blue jacket he saw it all through his photography and in the Big Apple. New York City will never be the same without this beautiful soul. Cunningham, a true and incredible legend who was able to build a life doing what he loved, was famous despite himself, and did not care. He made money but there is a rumor that he did not cash his paychecks. He did what he loved until the end, and no one could cut through the nonsense like he did. His photographs showed his love for people, and spoke truths! I will never stop wondering how this 87 year old went through life with his camera in tow. He knew how to fight to find beauty. He is survived by nieces, and nephews, who will be holding a private burial ceremony for him. You may send your condolences to: The New York Times c/o Anne Reid, 4th floor, Photo Desk, 620 Eighth Avenue, NY, NY 10018, or go to:
page=6 to leave a short message. RIP Bill Cunningham. I love you!

‘’It’s as true today as it ever was, he who seeks beauty, will find it.” -Bill Cunningham

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