The short story is that Bill Cunningham is a photographer for the New York Times best known for his street fashion photography. Really, he is much more than just that.
Cunningham began his career as a writer for the Chicago Tribune. He quickly transitioned to mostly fashion editorials, working for Women's Wear Daily in addition to the Tribune. Then, as fate would have it, in December 1978 Cunningham published his first collection of fashionable street photos. You could say "and the rest was history!" but that wouldn't be much fun, would it?
Arthur Gelb, Cunningham's NYT editor at the time, called it a turning point for the newspaper mostly because it was the first time they published photographs of well known people without their permission. In reality the turning point was much greater than that. Cunningham travels Manhattan on bike, capturing the beauty of fashion and its ability to express a person's attitude, personality, etc.
Now, at 85 years old, Cunningham's work is still going strong. In 2008 he was awarded the Officier de l'ordre des Artes et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and in 2010 filmmaker Richard Press and Times editor Philip Gefter produced a documentary on Cunningham (which he claims to never have watched, after all he lived it). Designer Oscar de la Renta perhaps put it best saying, "More than anyone else in the city, he has the whole visual history of the past 40 or 50 years of New York. It's the total scope of fashion in the life of New York."
So if you ever see an older man in a crisp blue jacket stopping his bike and pointing a camera at you, try to straighten up a bit and give him your best side. You might just be lucky enough to have your photograph added to his visual history of New York fashion.
All images taken from Pinterest.