This blog post is part of a summer-long series of posts written by Humanities Blogger, Kristen Costa. Check back weekly to get a fresh, informative look at the themes explored in the films we’ll be showing as part of the newportFILM Outdoors series, presented by Lila Delman Real Estate International.

Vogue editor and arbiter of style, Anna Wintour, once said “We all get dressed for Bill.”

The photographer-by-bicycle donning the blue workmans coat, Bill Cunningham, was the long-time New York Times Sunday Style section photographer who captured any and all beauty he found that week: bright colors, crazy patterns, women in fur, well-dressed pets, and so much more. He changed the way everyday fashion and style was seen and was arguably the first to highlight street style in the fashion industry.

Cunningham plays a role in the changing history of not just fashion, but the photography of it, too. When he first began, fashion photos were all about the posed, well-lit, manufactured set and studio that sold the clothes. His weekly photo montages highlighted the fashion of real people. The fashion industry noticed, slowly making the change to more realistic ad campaigns that showed clothes “in action” and “on the street” (which fittingly, was the name of his weekly column).

What might be most amazing is that in over 50 years of working as a roving photographer, Cunningham really saw a complete revolution in how people dressed, making his photographs a document of culture and society, not just pretty clothes and people. Bill Cunningham saw the beauty in the everyday and celebrated individual creativity in dress and self-expression. He gave a place on his page to every age, race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation. For him, it was about the style, the confidence of the wearer, and not much else.


Bill Cunningham passed away this past June at the age of 87, taking photos for NYT right up until his death. You can read his NYT obituary is here.

As tribute to the legendary street-fashion photographer, the 3rd Annual Picnic Contest will be dedicated to Cunningham.

Guests are encouraged to enter the contest by “Getting (their picnics) dressed for Bill” in all-blue to pay homage to Cunningham’s signature blue workman’s jacket. The contest will be judged on the most creative use of blues, keeping in mind Bill’s eye for capturing the “ordinarily fascinating.”


For more information on this week’s newportFILM Outdoors screening of Bill Cunningham New York  and details about the Annual Picnic Contest, visit

The Humanities Blog Series is made possible through major funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independant affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Council seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.