Collage bicycle helmet in collage hatbox.
William John “Bill” Cunningham (1929-2016) was a long-time New York Times photographer and journalist known for his “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” columns. As much a cultural anthropologist as he was a fashion photographer, Cunningham was known for candid street or event photographs of New Yorkers that depicted up-to-the-minute fashion trends. Among Cunningham’s most frequent locations to photograph his candid shots was the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street and at the “up-to-twenty galas” he attended each week.
Born in Boston, Cunningham moved to New York around 1959. Although he initially made hats in New York, he began working as a journalist during the early 1960s, including as a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily. He purchased his first camera around 1967, and began his work as a photojournalist by photographing “The Summer of Love.” Thereafter, he worked as a photographer at the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune. He was hired by the New York Times in 1977, and worked there for over 39 years. Over the course of his career Cunningham received many honors, including a French Legion of Honor award and the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Living Landmark award included in this donation.
To achieve his telling photographs, Bill Cunningham often circulated around the city on a bicycle. In temperate weather he wore a French workers’ jacket. The bicycle here is one of thirty Cunningham owned over his many years of activity. It was made by Biria, a German manufacturer of upright bicycles designed for short rides on flat, urban surfaces. As indicated by the “Ciel Bicycles” tag also affixed to the bicycle, Cunningham probably purchased it at Ciel Bicycles, “the flagship New York City store of Biria” located at 360 East 65th Street. The jacket is also one of several he regularly wore. The Nikon camera, too, is one of several owned by Cunningham, and was probably used through the end of his career.
The collage bike helmet and collage hatbox were given to Cunningham in 2009 by the New York Times.