Cunningham contributed significantly to fashion journalism, introducing American audiences to Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Paul Gaultier.
William John Cunningham Jr. (March 13, 1929 – June 25, 2016) was an American fashion photographer for the New York Times, known for his candid and street photography.
While working at Women’s Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune, he began taking candid photographs of fashion on the streets of New York. He was a self-taught photographer. He took one such photograph of Greta Garbo, though he later said he had not recognized her while photographing her nutria coat: “I thought: ‘Look at the cut of that shoulder. It’s so beautiful.’ All I had noticed was the coat, and the shoulder.”
Cunningham’s most notable columns in the Times, On the Street and Evening Hours, ran in the paper from February 26, 1989 until shortly before his death in 2016. He cultivated his own fashion signature, dressing in a uniform of black sneakers and a blue moleskin workman’s jacket, his only accessory a camera. He travelled Manhattan by bicycle, repeatedly replacing those that were stolen or damaged in accidents.
“Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty is the most expensive.” – Bill Cunningham
Cunningham died age 87 in New York City on June 25, 2016, after suffering a stroke.