If you didn't know who Bill Cunningham was then there's very little that I can tell you beyond today's obituary in the New York Times, but I can say that he was one of my heroes. Maybe you've unconsciously browsed past the documentary about him while scanning your Netflix options (and if so you should go back and watch it), or maybe like me you've been watching his little five minute video clips each Sunday on the New York Times web page; his high-pitched, crackly voice brimming with enthusiasm, his thick East Coast accent embellishing his photos with personality. I've been going to New York regularly since my early twenties, especially since I started getting more into fashion and design. I'm a magnet for celebrity encounters for some reason whenever I go. I run into Bravo housewives and famous actors like it's predestined, but the only person I ever actively searched for was Bill Cunningham. My wife and I would scour the streets as we walked, hoping to catch a glimpse of Bill out on his bike snapping photos. As I left the house this morning, thinking about his Sunday column, I said to her: "Maybe we'll see Bill this time around." We're flying to New York tomorrow morning.
But then I saw the news while checking the web in between duties here at the store. Bill died of a stroke today at the age of 87. When I first started doing the Drinking to Drink interview series, Bill was one of the people I most wanted to talk with because he was such an independent thinker, but then I found out he didn't drink so there wasn't really any reason for him to do the piece. He was a humble and dedicated professional. He wanted to be the one documenting, rather than documented. I admired greatly the way he handled his work and I related to how serious he took it. Being a fashion photographer was his life. He put everything into it. And he was wonderful.