Pop Culture

The Best Quotes By and About Bill Cunningham

Written by: Bri Lee

Rest in Peace

Bill Cunningham was a Harvard University dropout who moved onto women’s fashion writing and then found his home in fashion photography. He was completely self-taught, dedicated to New York City, and was as famous for his photos as his smile and gentle manner. We now know him as the father of street style photography and he will be missed.

On fashion

“Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times.”

Anna Wintour said: “We all get dressed for Bill.”

“The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, and always will be.”

Iris Apfel says that she arrived at an event once and Bill said to her: “Oh thank god you’re here, everybody looks so boring. So alike.”

On his own story

“I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.”

Michael Kors: “There would be no street style without Bill Cunningham. Talent, taste, and kindness in abundance!!!

Lena Dunham: Saw Bill out and about doing his thing for the first time when I was 7 – I didn’t know who he was but I knew he made everyone important stop and adjust. It was the exact same vibe when I saw him a month ago, fancy people suddenly unsure in the presence of this special eccentric. He was powerful but he was gentle and kind. He had vision and he will be missed.

bill cunningham photographerOn work ethic

“You see, if you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.” He sometimes said it another way: “Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty is the most expensive.”

Suzy Menkes said: “At age 87, Bill Cunningham was still cycling around New York, refusing my offer to share a taxi, even when it snowed.”

On street-style

“I let the street speak to me – in order for it to speak to you, you need to stay out and see what it is. There are no shortcuts, believe me!”

Hilton Als: “I think Cunningham was interested in women and black culture in particular because those are two cultural mysteries that offer layer after layer of emotional and historical complications that could never be solved in a photograph. That’s what kept him working as hard as he did – the act of almost discovering, of this or that being just outside his reach but present, like real possibility.”

My favourite quote of his was in 2008 during his acceptance speech for the Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture:

“It’s the same today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty will find it.”

– Bri
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