Cunningham turned fashion photography into his own branch of cultural anthropology on the streets of New York. He successfully chronicled the ever-changing social scene of an era for The New York Times using his camera. He died on Saturday in Manhattan.
Cunningham was hospitalized recently after having a stroke. His iconic status can be gauged from the fact that in 2009, he was designated a living landmark. He did most of his work through Midtown.
He worked 40 years for The Times and snapped away at changing dress habits to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward individualistic and diffusion.
In 2008, Cunningham went to Paris, where the French government bestowed him with the Legion of Honor. In New York, he was celebrated at Bergdorf Goodman, and his life-size mannequin was installed in the window.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy made him a living landmark in 2009, the same year The New Yorker, in a profile, described his On the Street and Evening Hours columns as the city?s unofficial yearbook: "an exuberant, sometimes retroactively embarrassing chronicle of the way we looked."
In 2010, a documentary, "Bill Cunningham New York," premiered at the Museum of Modern Art to glowing reviews. For his part, Cunningham told nearly anyone who asked about it that the attendant publicity was a total hassle. He was always interested in finding subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed.
He didn't go to the movies and also did not watch television. He ate breakfast nearly every day at the Stage Star Deli on West 55th Street. He lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall.