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Bill Cunningham–Fashion Photographer For New York Times–Helped Jackie Kennedy For JFK Funeral–Dead At 87

June 27, 2016

Some sad news this morning.

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Bill Cunningham, the longtime street-style photographer for The New York Times, died Saturday in New York.  He was 87.

For years on Sunday his collection of photos that filled the upper half of one page of the Style section of the paper was always worth a look.  One week it might be all about hats, the next it might be how people were dressing for the first hint of fall in the air, or perhaps it might be all about leather coats.

Cunningham was known for his trademark blue jacket and riding a bicycle with a small camera bag strapped to his waist.

He moved to New York after dropping out after two months at Harvard.  After serving in the Army, Cunningham wrote fashion pieces for the Chicago Tribune and then started taking photographs of people on the streets after getting his first camera in 1967. A chance photograph of Greta Garbo got the attention of the Times and in 1978 he began publishing a regular series of photographs in the storied paper.

For many readers such as myself he was a part of the newspaper family, and certainly a fixture in the Sunday edition.

Cunningham was also a man with many memorable moments that made for history.

Cunningham had an unbelievable memory for fashion history, from his decades working at The New York Times, and before that, designing women’s hats and working in retail at a dress shop called Chez Ninon in the early 1960s.

“I asked him if it was true that he dyed a red Balenciaga suit that Jackie Kennedy had with her in Dallas black and that’s what she wore to the most famous and photographed funeral in history,” Mallis remembered. “And he said, ‘I think it was Dior, Jackie was thrifty and there was no time for her to get a black suit.'” (Cunningham dyed the suit black overnight for Jackie to wear to John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.)

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