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Street Style Photographer Bill Cunningham Left Behind a Secret Autobiography

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Super-private fashion and society photographer Bill Cunningham– who snapped street-style pics for the New York Times for 40 years before his death in 2016 –  left behind an enormous archive valued at $1 million… as well as an unexpected memoir.

“It seems so unexpected,” said Christopher Richards, an editor at Penguin Press who acquired the book at auction. “He really didn’t divulge anything about his life to his friends and his colleagues. He was so private. I think it was a shock.”

And what new facts can we learn of the legend that we didn’t already know?

Mr. Cunningham’s memoir is a rosy account of an irrepressible dreamer who tripped his way from the stockroom of Boston’s newly opened Bonwit Teller to hat shops of his own in New York. He arrives in the city in November 1948 on opening night of the opera — then a tent pole of the New York social calendar — and stays long after the Social Register stopped being anyone’s bible.

Much of the material is new, even to his relatives. “Bill kept his family life in Boston and his work life in New York very separate,” wrote his niece Trish Simonson, in an email. “He told us stories over the years, but nothing that painted a full picture of what he did and how he came to do it. The drafts of the memoir we found, titled and edited and written in his own unmistakable voice, filled in a lot of blanks of how he made it from here to there, and what he thought along the way.”

He continues:

“Bill was a true original,” Mr. Richards said. “For me, this book is really for those of us who came to New York with a dream and saw New York City as a real oasis of creativity and freedom, a place to be who we want to be. It’s a really beautiful story about a young, artistic man finding his way in the city, in a particular kind of bohemian world that doesn’t quite exist anymore.”

Publication is planned for September — just in time for New York Fashion Week. (via The New York Times; Photo: MediaPunch)


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