Long before Scott Schuman of ‘The Sartorialist’, there was (and still is) Bill Cunningham. Take note: it is Bill who pioneered the trend in street-style photography, not Scott Schuman!
After taking a random snapshot of screen goddess Greta Garbo in 1978, a group of Bill’s spontaneous images of fashionable women made their way into The New York Times. This heralded the start of Bill's regular photography series for the iconic newspaper.
Cycling his modest bicycle through the streets of Manhattan, Bill captures candid shots of the stylish, elegant and creative. Indifferent to the social status of the women he photographs, for this unassuming cultural anthropologist it’s all about the look.
‘The problem is I'm not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I'm too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I'm not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That's all there is to it,’ Bill has humbly explained.
Even in his 80s, Bill can be found with his trusty camera in hand (to this day, he continues to use film rather than digital) documenting the latest fashion trends showcased by women strutting Fifth Avenue.
Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta has said, ‘More than anyone else in the city, [Bill] has the whole visual history of the last 40 or 50 years of New York. It's the total scope of fashion in the life of New York.'
In 2011, filmmaker Richard Press and Philip Gefter of The New York Times produced a documentary titled ‘Bill Cunningham: New York’, presenting us with an intimate portrait of a man who is respected and adored by New York society and fashion industry veterans alike.
Even the formidable editor-in-chief of US Vogue, Anna Wintour, has confessed, ‘We all get dressed for Bill.’
‘Bill Cunningham: New York’ is available for purchase at Amazon.com. For anyone with an interest in street-style photography, this documentary is definitely worth watching.