New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham dies at 87

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bill Cunningham, the celebrated New York Times fashion photographer known for his shots of emerging trends on the streets of New York City, died on Saturday at the age of 87 after being hospitalized for a stroke.

Cunningham worked for the New York Times for nearly 40 years, operating "as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist," the newspaper said.

His photo spreads were a staple of the paper's Style section and chronicled changing fashion through his choice of themes such as swirling skirts, Birkin bags and gaudy floral prints.

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New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham crosses the street after taking photos during New York Fashion Week in the Manhattan borough of New York September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham takes photos as a model presents a creation from the Lacoste Spring/Summer 2015 collection during New York Fashion Week in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham takes photos during the Naeem Khan Spring/Summer 2013 collection show at New York Fashion Week September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham poses for a portrait with a roll of film in his hand during the Fall 2010 collections during New York Fashion Week February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham arrives before the Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week in the Manhattan borough of New York, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Photographer Bill Cunningham arrives at St. Ignatius Loyola church following fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's memorial service in the Manhattan borough of New York November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT FASHION OBITUARY)
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham arrives for a presentation of the Calvin Klein Spring/Summer 2015 collection during New York Fashion Week September 11, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION MEDIA)
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham watches the Lacoste Spring/Summer 2015 collection show during New York Fashion Week in the Manhattan borough of New York September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION PROFILE)
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham leaves after a presentation of the Calvin Klein Spring/Summer 2015 collection during New York Fashion Week September 11, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION MEDIA)
Photographer Bill Cunningham attends the Bibhu Mohapatra Spring/Summer 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION ENTERTAINMENT)
New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham poses for a portrait during the Fall 2010 collections during New York Fashion Week February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: FASHION)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 12: Photographer Bill Cunningham appears at 2016 NYSPCC Spring Luncheon at The Pierre Hotel on April 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Photorapher Bill Cunningham is seen in Gramercy on April 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Photographer Bill Cunningham photographs Ken Langone, Elaine Langone, Robert I. Grossman, Elisabeth Cohen and Paolo Fresco during NYU Langone Medical Center's 2016 Violet Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for NYU Langone Medical Center)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Photographer Bill Cunningham attends the Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Photographer Bill Cunningham attends the Xuly Bet Fall 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at The Gallery, Skylight at Clarkson Sq on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Photographer, Bill Cunningham, attends the Lacoste Fall 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Spring Studios on February 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Photographer, Bill Cunningham, (right) attends the Lacoste Fall 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Spring Studios on February 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Photographer Bill Cunningham (center) photographs the Xuly Bet Fall 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at The Gallery, Skylight at Clarkson Sq on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 16: Photographer Bill Cunningham attends Narciso Rodriguez - Front Row & Backstage - Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week at SIR Stage37 on February 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Photographer Bill Cunningham attends the 2015 Lord & Taylor holiday windows unveiling at Lord & Taylor on November 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Bill Cunningham photographs guests leaving Ralph Lauren Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Skylight Clarkson Sq on September 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15: Photographer Bill Cunningham is seen outside Skylight Clarkson Sq during New York Fashion Week: Men's S/S 2016 on July 15, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Photographer Bill Cunningham attends Diane Von Furstenberg Spring 2016 fashion show during New York Fashion Week at Spring Studios on September 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
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"A lot of people complain about fashion and fast fashion. There is no fashion. That is baloney. Look at this," he said in a video for a recent spread in the paper on the use of black and white contrasts in clothing.

Cunningham took pictures of celebrated New Yorkers at swank events and traveled the city by bicycle for decades, often wearing his signature blue jacket, to shoot street fashion typically using a single-lens reflex camera.

"He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand," the newspaper said.

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Cunningham, who had tried his hand at hat making, was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After he got out in 1953, he eventually found work as a fashion reporter.

In the mid-1960s he acquired a small camera to help him with his work, and that started him off in fashion photography.

"I had just the most marvelous time with that camera. Everybody I saw I was able to record," he wrote in the Times in 2002.

In 2008, the French government awarded him the Legion d'Honneur for his work. A year later, he was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Cunningham became known to a wider world through an acclaimed 2010 documentary chronicling his career, in which Vogue Magazine editor Anna Wintour quipped: "We all get dressed for Bill."

In an obituary in Vogue, editor-at-large Hamish Bowles wrote "his scrupulous editorial standards of both content and comportment were old world."

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Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher and chairman of the Times, saidCunningham's "company was sought after by the fashion world's rich and powerful, yet he remained one of the kindest, most gentle and humble people I have ever met."

His life was one of austerity. He slept on a single size cot where he lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall, chock full of file cabinets containing his negatives.

When asked why he spent years ripping up checks for his work from magazines, he said, "Money's the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive," the Times reported.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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