I remember when I met Bill Cunningham. It was a brief, fleeting moment. As I figure it might have been for many who knew of the New York photography legend.
It was September – N.Y. Fashion Week – 2011 and I was shadowing my mentor, Mikki Taylor and we were making our way to the Bryant Park tents and we heard this voice say in excitement, “Hello Kid!” It was Bill. His face full of a smile that made that cold day a little warmer. He was speaking to Mikki and she spoke back like the old friends they’d become. He recognized her from taking her photo during his times stalking the streets of N.Y. And she loved the accolades of being photographed by the legend he’d become.
I sheepishly smiled and said “Hi”. I knew who he was and he was so sweet in his happy “Hi” back to me but he was more interested in getting his shot. Just as if they’d rehearsed, she stopped in her tracks, posed, and gave a beautiful smile and in a matter of seconds he was on to the next “kid”. I felt as if I’d watched history in the making. Indeed, I knew I’d witnessed two legends doing what they do best: Work a camera.
Today, June 25, the camera of Bill Cunningham was officially put down. For good. He passed, at age 87, to leave his legacy of a deep love of street art in the form of clothing and trends, and appreciation of the art of self expression, for us to figure out how? How did he know what would make us swoon? How did he find these beautiful birds on the street who took time to put together ensembles that would make some uncomfortable while making others envious? How did he have the time and energy at his octogenarian age, keep up? How?
The bottom line is that we all have to realize is that we’ll never know. We’ll never understand. We must remember the man and live as he did. With a deep love and passion for what we do and do it to the best of our God-given ability. I suggest that we all revisit the documentary, “Bill Cunningham: New York”. Take heed of his hard work, acceptance of others, smiles through the difficult times, dedication to his craft, acceptance of nothing less than greatness from others and most of all, his humility.