Bill Cunningham, the New York Times‘ ubiquitous man-on-the-street photographer whose life and work was the subject of Richard Press’ acclaimed 2010 documentary Bill Cunningham New York, died Saturday in New York at 87. His death was confirmed by the Times, which disclosed that he’d recently been hospitalized following a stroke.
Though technically a fashion photographer, Cunningham’s tireless work for the newspaper’s Style section was noted – and loved – for its social documentation as much for any depiction of the latest attire. The Times‘ obit called him “an unlikely cultural anthropologist,” as good a description as any to those who followed his work Sunday after Sunday.
Cunningham’s trademark approach was deceptively simple: He’d pick a style trend, say the color yellow or large hats, and compile a photo essay of street shots featuring New Yorkers both setting and following the trend. His pictures were essentially a weekly survey of the city’s life. He himself was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2009.
According to the Times, he worked at the paper for nearly 40 years.
“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,” said Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the Times’ publisher and chairman. “We have lost a legend, and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend.”