Remembering legendary photographer, Bill Cunningham

Remembering legendary photographer, Bill Cunningham

The pioneer trend-spotter

Text: Wei Yeen Loh

The father of street style photography leaves a brilliant legacy and a handful of important lessons we all could use in life

Bill Cunningham, the iconic New York Times fashion photographer who likely single-handedly pioneered street style photography, has died at the age of 87 after he was reportedly hospitalised following a stroke. The dedicated photographer chronicled the city's culture and change in fashion trends for the Times for almost 40 years, and is well-known for his modesty and remarkable work ethic. One of the few in the industry who shied away from the glitz, glamour, and general hobnobing with fashion's elites, Cunningham's choice to live humbly made him stood out inexplicably, along with his knack for observing and spotting what no one else could through his lenses.


In tribute to the legendary figure, we thought it befitting to learn an important lesson or two from the man himself through his quotes that resonate with everyday life and how we view (and seek) beauty:


On getting a dose of reality: “I realised that you didn’t know anything unless you photographed the shows and the street, to see how people interpreted what designers hoped they would buy.”


On his work ethic: "I don’t decide anything. I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is."


Rest In Peace to the legendary, iconic, and endlessly inspiring #BillCunningham ❤️❤️❤️ xxPat

A photo posted by Pat McGrath (@patmcgrathreal) on


On fashion's relevance throughout history: "Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times."


On fashion's importance: "The wider world perceives fashion sometimes as a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavals and problems that are enormous. The point is, in fact, that it’s the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization."


On being present in the moment: "When I’m photographing, 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."


On staying grounded: "Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive."


On getting out of your comfort zone: "Everyone has taste, but they don’t have the daring to be creative."


On perseverance: “It’s as true today as it ever was—he who seeks beauty will find it.”


Rest in peace, Mr. Cunningham.