Elevator of the Week: Bill Cunningham

Elevator of the Week: Bill Cunningham

Elevator of the Week: Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham- the legendary street-style photographer for The NY Times; fast, focused and able to tune out all but the shot he’s after, Mr. Cunningham reminds us of a war photographer, which is an unlikely thing for an 82-year-old fashion photographer. Bill does a the flip on war photography. He seeks out and captures humanity amid the storm of life, looking for what Harold Koda, curator at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes as “ordinary people going about their lives, dressed in fascinating ways.” [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@stancebranding @yvestng” suffix=”#branding #value”]Cunningham has established himself as a household name- creating his meaningful brand with his unrelenting beliefs on people and fashion. [/inlinetweet]

Mr. Cunningham is an embodiment of the 5 core values of STANCE – the basis of a strong meaningful brand.
Bill Cunningham today

He has given his all to his craft; creating the best. He has always delivered what was expected if not more. Bill Cunningham’s discerning eye sees through, and beyond, all that to what is real. He is unrelenting and at times off-putting seen when he compared two runway designs decades apart for their uncanny resemblance.

Seeing and expressing beauty in everything as Cunningham said, “It’s as true today as it ever was: he who seeks beauty will find it.” He has given a meaningful perspective on what clothing do for women and men alike. It was never about looking the best, but feeling the best you could possibly be regardless of all else. It’s about how the person felt in the clothes, and how they chose to present themselves to the public.

“The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.”

He presents a different perspective; a beautiful perspective.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@stancebranding @yvestng” suffix=”#branding #people”]The people; your audience or consumer is most important is what brands and/or companies forget in the long run. Bill never has, “Money is cheap, liberty, freedom that’s expensive.”[/inlinetweet]

Bill is known for tearing up checks when being paid by magazines and newspapers because as he said,  “You see if you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.” He has also traveled around New York and Paris on a bicycle for decades (now on his 29th bicycle as the other 28 were stolen), wearing the same street sweeper jacket, living in the same tiny no closet, kitchen, or private bathroom Carnegie Hall apartment until they tore down the apartments forcing him to move above Central Park; where he had them remove cabinets and appliances to make room for his files.

He never cared for fame and glory yet he achieved it anyway because his name, his brand is meaningful and strong. Genuinely interested in his audience; the people of New York.“I don’t pay attention to celebrities. I don’t photograph them. They don’t dress so… interestingly. They have stylists. I prefer real women who have their own taste.”

He cares about women who have their own tastes, and nothing else.

Bill Cunningham is a synonym for trustworthy. He is honest, but never brutal. He quit Women’s Wear Daily of the Chicago Tribune because they used his photographs as a worst dressed list to criticize women on their dress. He created an environment where men and women could be who they truly are, and not be critiqued. “I could never be a paparazzi, to torment people and chase them. I do it discreetly.” – his success is based on mutual trust and respect; a good face so to speak. Editors, icons, normal New York people may not stop for just any photographer, but they do for Bill; they even welcome him.

Cunningham photographs people and the passing scene in the streets of Manhattan every day, focusing on their genuine usage of clothing to express personal style. Allowing people to trust him and to never question his credibility. You can see by how he has gained the trusts of people constantly in the public eye.

“We all get dressed for Bill”, says Vogue editor Anna Wintour

Brooke Astor asked that Cunningham attend her 100th birthday party, the only member of the media invited.

Trust is key to a brand; people have to be able to trust a brand to do as they say and not cause problems for them.

Bill said, “The main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don’t see at the fashion shows. You find information for readers so they can visualize themselves.” He takes fashion beyond the magazines and the runway elevating his name above the rest to be the first real street style photographer during World War II. He did something no one else did, and has stood out ever since because of his unrelenting love of what is real and out there. After taking a chance photograph of Greta Garbo, he published a group of impromptu pictures in the Times in December 1978, which soon became a regular series. His editor, Arthur Gelb, has called these photographs “a turning point for the Times, because it was the first time the paper had run pictures of well-known people without getting their permission.”

He transformed himself into a brand with these 5 core values- elevating himself above the rest while making strong statements in the industry. He has never changed regardless of fame or fortune he has lived the same way as he always has.  Can you make your own personal brand; your name quite as known and strong?

 

About the Elevator of the Week Series by Intern Yves

In the Elevator of the Week series we talk about people who are making a difference, and have created their own personal brand using the different values and techniques we here at STANCE use to support meaningful brands.

 

Bill Cunningham’s Work

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