RIP: New York Times Photographer Bill Cunningham

Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.: “We have lost a legend, and I am personally heartbroken to have lost a friend.”

BillCunninghamRelatedNYTLinked on the right side of this afternoon’s sad news that legendary fashion photographer Bill Cunningham passed away today at the age of 87 are a pair of republished New York Times items. The first is a piece written by Cunningham; the second is a compendium of thoughts from Anna Wintour, Oscar de la Renta, Mort Sheinman and many others about what it was like to work with the legend. Both articles were originally published in 2002.

Here’s an excerpt from Cunningham’s essay. He writes about his beginnings not as a photographer but as a journalist, following a short-lived (and spiked) column assignment for Women’s Wear Daily’s John Fairchild:

After that, I went to work for The Chicago Tribune, for Eleanor Nangle. She had been there since the 1920’s. A wonderful woman. The best of the best. The Tribune had an office in New York, in the Times building. One night, in about 1966, the illustrator Antonio Lopez took me to dinner in London with a photographer named David Montgomery. I told him I wanted to take some pictures. When David came to New York a few months later, he brought a little camera, an Olympus Pen-D half-frame. It cost about $35. He said, “Here, use it like a notebook.” And that was the real beginning.

And from the second linked piece, here’s a taste, part of the thoughts given by former model and Chez Ninon owner Elizabeth Corbett:

Bill used to have an old Rolls-Royce, and he’d drive his women friends out to Southampton. He was quite a character around town. When the husbands of these women died, they said to him, “Do you want to come and look at the clothes?” So he always had a tuxedo.

In 2010, a feature documentary about Cunningham was released. As Cunningham reminded in that 2002 essay, his first bit of street fashion photography appeared in the New York Daily News.

And in no doubt what will be another Times testament to the legacy of Cunningham, the paper is inviting readers to “Share Your Memories of Bill Cunningham.” Including, where applicable, with a photograph. RIP.