We were in New York on our way to Barney’s on 60th/Madison. Stepping off the subway on the edge of central park I stopped on the corner to take advantage of the free wifi from the nearby Apple store. I was in the middle of googleing something on my iPhone when I noticed the mass of shoppers move with the green light. Like I often do, I raised my camera to my eye and began shooting the mass of people and the street scene at this busy intersection.
I shot a good 5 or 6 photos when I felt Sunny tap me on the shoulder. She pointed to a passerby and I immediately recognized the famous blue smock. Bill Cunningham.
“BILL”. “BILL!”. The little figure was shuffling forward through the crowd. I stepped forward and gently touched his shoulder.
For the briefest of warm moments, I chatted with the man the world has come to love and respect as the father of the current world of street style fashion photography. I recently wrote about his film “Bill Cunningham | New York“. I was lucky to see it on the big screen at a private screening and recently bought the movie upon it’s release on iTunes. (and suggest you do the same).
I won’t share what was said between us. It was a private and special moment with someone I truly admire as a person as well as an inspiration to my own endeavors. He was kind, warm and sweet. He was also fragile and shy.
We shook hands and I appropriately left him to it. As I stepped away, I paused and took a few photos of him in his process. Like I, he stopped frequently to scan the crowds. He spotted someone in the distance and crossed Park Avenue through the traffic towards Central Park, always gripping his old Nikon.
I was in utter disbelief. I had absolutely no expectation of ever seeing him or meeting him. When I stopped to check my photos I was somewhat disappointed in the few side-profile photos I snapped of him wishing I had taken the time to better capture him despite his camera-shy demeanor.
Later that evening, back at our hotel, I loaded the photos onto my laptop and couldn’t believe what I found.
Like a beacon in the crowd, in the midst of all the droves of people moving through the city at that moment, at the very centre of the frame was Bill. I didn’t even know I was capturing him. There are times as a photographer when you feel compelled to take a photo. I hadn’t seen anything in particular, just a feeling that interrupted my thoughts and focus in a moment of head-down-iPhoning. I lifted my camera and shot.
For me, these shots are one-in-a-million and serendipitous.
A great encounter with someone I was honored to meet. The photos, gravy.