Pret-a-Reporter

Bill Cunningham, New York Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87

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Bill Cunningham

The renowned photog suffered a stroke on Thursday.

Bill Cunningham, the longtime street-style photographer for The New York Times, died Saturday in New York, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.

Cunningham, known for his trademark blue jacket and riding a bicycle with a small camera bag strapped to his waist, was hospitalized Thursday after suffering from a stroke; his colleagues were hopeful he would recover.

Born William John Cunningham Jr. on March 13, 1929, he moved to New York after dropping out after two short months at Harvard. After serving in the Army, Cunningham wrote fashion pieces for the Chicago Tribune and then started taking photographs of people on the streets after getting his first camera in 1967. A chance photograph of Greta Garbo got the attention of the Times and in 1978 he began publishing a regular series of photographs in the storied paper.

The veteran photog, who was regarded for his street-style images in the Times, was the star subject in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York (2011), which followed the artist around the Big Apple as he photographed everyday people in Manhattan.

In a 2002 interview with the paper, Cunningham said he always tried to be as discreet as possible because "you get more natural pictures that way."

"I suppose, in a funny way, I'm a record keeper. More than a collector," he said. "I'm very aware of things not of value but of historical knowledge."

Times executive editor Dean Baquet said of Cunningham in a statement: "He was a hugely ethical journalist. And he was incredibly open-minded about fashion. To see a Bill Cunningham street spread was to see all of New York. 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 awarded the Officier de l'ordre des arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2008 and received the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence in 2012.

"Bill was an extraordinary person with an incredible talent not just for fashion photography but for life," Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher for the Times, stated of Cunningham. "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. We have lost a legend and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend.”

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