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Out in the Streets

cunningham_crop.jpgJacob Silberberg for IHT

For all the love—and occasional tough love—we throw The Sartorialist, it’s easy to forget that street style has been around for quite some time.

The Times has a pair of pieces reprinted in the International Herald Tribune today on Bill Cunningham, arguably the progenitor of street photography—at least as far as newspapers are concerned. Cunningham started snapping during World War Two, aided by a well-oiled bicycle and an eye for clothing. Editors had space to fill and Cunningham had content that wasn’t just another society ball.

His files are still mostly unpublished, spanning 60 years of spontaneous style and just waiting for a glossy retrospective from some lucky publisher. But for now we’ll have to rely on Cunningham’s more recent descendents to keep us up to date.

A few choice quotes:

I realized that you didn't know anything unless you photographed the shows and the street, to see how people interpreted what designers hoped they would buy. I realized that the street was the missing ingredient.

There's nothing new about this idea. People had been photographing the street since the camera was invented.

I go out every day. When I get depressed at the office, I go out, and as soon as I'm on the street and see people, I feel better.

I think fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they're horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It's mirroring exactly our times.

Most of my pictures are never published. I just document things I think are important. I suppose, in a funny way, I'm a record keeper. More than a collector. I'm very aware of things not of value but of historical knowledge.