When legendary (and deeply private) New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham died in 2016, he left behind a photo archive valued at $1M. His family soon discovered he left the world another gift, a photo-filled memoir he penned secretly. It's titled Fashion Climbing and is due to be published in September.
But aside from some scenes of family discord, 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."
Also, if you haven't already, do check out the 2011 documentary Bill Cunningham New York. It's a real gem.
"Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life." –Bill Cunningham
photo via First Thought Films / Zeitgeist Films