Vale Bill Cunningham


I wrote about Bill Cunningham in 2014. I had seen a documentary about his life and work that sent me off thinking about phenomenography.

The New York Times has announced that Bill died on Saturday aged 87.

Cynthia Collins, an editor at the New York Times has been sharing her memories of Bill. The two photographs shared here are from her Twitter account.

Jacob Bernstein noted “Mr. Cunningham was such a singular presence in the city that, in 2009, he was designated a living landmark”. He added that his photographs were “an exuberant, sometimes retroactively embarrassing chronicle of the way we looked.”

As part of the tribute to Bill, the New York Times has reprinted a 2002 article that Bill wrote about his life. The article starts with this paragraph:

I started photographing people on the street during World War II. I used a little box Brownie. Nothing too expensive. The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.

Cynthia shared a quote from this article:


Bill’s work fascinated me. Judging by the outpouring of grief on the news of his death, many others shared this fascination.

His 2002 article finished with this paragraph:

I go out every day. When I get depressed at the office, I go out, and as soon as I’m on the street and see people, I feel better. But I never go out with a preconceived idea. I let the street speak to me.


Photo Credits

An April Eve 2014 (Cynthia Collins)

In his own words (Cynthia Collins)

Bill and Phenomenography


I watched the New York Times documentary about Bill Cunningham with great interest.

Bill has been photographing people on New York streets for the past fifty years. Lauren Collins of The New York Times published a great article about Bill in 2002. She described his work in detail.

His work prompted me to think about phenomenography and the ideas shared by Ference Marton (1981) about the place of experiential description.

The documentary shares Bill’s life and passion for photography. It is a wonderful case study of closely observed and recorded behaviour.

You can find examples of Bill’s work here in On the Street.

Photo Credit

Bill Cunningham (!) takes Kate’s picture (Shawn Hoke, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)