Bill Cunningham, a photographer with The New York Times who was beloved for capturing iconic street style in his fashion photographs, died Saturday at 87, the paper confirmed.
Cunningham was hospitalized earlier this week after suffering a stroke.
His regular features “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” were testaments to the shifting world of city fashion, showing how the definition of style varied for New Yorkers of all different stripes.
“To see a Bill Cunningham street spread was to see all of New York,” Dean Baquet, the Times’s executive editor, said. “Young people. Brown people. People who spent fortunes on fashion and people who just had a strut and knew how to put an outfit together out of what they had and what they found.”
Cunningham was born in 1929 in Boston. He grew up constructing fashion from scraps, building hats from his dime-store material purchases, according to the Times. He received a scholarship to Harvard, but dropped out quickly, then moved to New York and began working in media.
He got his first camera in the late 1960s and began documenting the rapidly-changing fashion of the era. His photographs would appear in The Daily News and The Chicago Tribune, along with, of course, the Times, to which he began regularly contributing over the following decade.
Even as he gained more acclaim throughout his life, the Times noted that he led a simple lifestyle:
He didn’t go to the movies. He didn’t own a television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street, where a cup of coffee and a sausage, egg and cheese could be had until very recently for under $3.
“His company was sought after by the fashion world’s rich and powerful, yet he remained one of the kindest, most gentle and humble people I have ever met,” Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the Times’s publisher and chairman, said. “We have lost a legend, and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend.”
Cunningham regularly photographed designer work and fashion shows, but continued his work documenting what style meant to the everyday citizens of cities around the world.
“The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, and always will,” he said in the documentary “Bill Cunningham New York,” which debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy named Cunningham a Living Landmark in 2009 for “outstanding contributions” to the city.