The Death Of Bill Cunningham: His Legal Issues And Legacy

Bill Cunningham was a fashion photographer who documented the fashion of the everyday person on the streets of New York. His images captured the flamboyant, the stylish, the sensible and the ostentatious. He would cycle around the streets of New York with a camera wearing his trademark blue French worker’s jacket, his images published in the New York Times for over 40 years, chronicling the changing epochs of fashion.

Bill Cunningham
Bill Cunninham on his bike spotting Fashion moments in New York

Bill Cunningham died on 25 June 2016 at the age of 87 after being hospitalised for a stroke.

“He was a hugely ethical journalist. And he was incredibly open minded about fashion.” Said Dean Baquet, Executive editor of the New York Times.

Cunningham’s death has created an interesting situation, with his iconic images are currently tied up in legal rights issues. The New York times recently ran an article on Cunningham, however his photos were not able to be published in the piece.

“Bill didn’t leave a will and didn’t sign his photos. The times is currently legally forbidden from running any more photos by him.” Said a source.

The New York Times are already looking for a replacement with many names being considered to fill the legendary shoes of Bill Cunningham. Patrick McMullan has his own photography agency and knows the right people in the industry. Other names being suggested are Mary Hilliard, Victor Jeffreys II, Marshall Hayman and David Patrick Columbia. Mary Hilliard is a social photographer who has previously worked for the Times. Jeffreys is a photographer of the younger, hip social scene. Hayman is from the Wall Street Journal. Columbia works for the New York Social Diary.

 “It’s going to be impossible to replace Bill – even for multiple people” says society PR person R. Couri Hay. “But the obvious choice is Patrick McMullan”

A New York street corner will be named after Bill Cunningham. He often photographed fashionistas on the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street. The corner will be temporarily renamed for a week in honour of the icon.

Bill Cunningham turned our sidewalks into runways and New Yorkers into models. His vivid photos captured our cities diversity in every sense of the word, and helped divine New York as the fashion capital of the world.” Said NYC mayor Bill de Blasio.

Many of Cunningham’s photographs are a celebration of fashion, photographer, diversity, style and New York culture. His legacy should continue to be appreciated and his talent remembered.