I'll never forget the moment I was shot by Bill Cunningham. It was last year at the Jazz Age Lawn Party, as we disembarked the Governor's Island ferry, and strolled through the park in 1920's gear. My friend and I were in cream and blush beaded fringe dresses with our headpieces on, and parasols in tow. I spotted Bill, in his signature blue blazer, and he lifted his camera, shot a quick frame then smiled. I was near giddy with excitement knowing our look had inspired a fashion legend, then equally furious when I realized my friend had her iPhone in her hand, so the picture would probably never be used. I never did see that shot, but I'm still happy knowing that it existed. Bill said once every picture he takes is really for him, so I smile a little knowing that our moment was captured and archived along with some of the greatest images never seen.
Street style photography is an ever-flourishing genre, but Bill was the inventor of it. He popularized that style when he began candidly snapping a series of photos of what New Yorkers were actually wearing -- sometimes glamorous, like his shots of Greta Garbo crossing the street in a fur coat, and sometimes average, unfussy, unaware, everyday people. His style blended elements of fashion photography, photojournalism, and cultural anthropology, and has influenced anyone who calls themselves a street style photographer.
Bill recently gave a talk at the 92nd Street Y as part of their Fashion Icons Series. They usually do not release full talks, but in honor of his passing, the full length version is available for streaming here only until July 3rd at 9pm. If you can set aside the hour and 45 minutes, the legendary photographer discusses his life, career, and thoughts on the fashion industry today. And his full documentary, Bill Cunningham New York is still available on Netflix.