That Damn Blue Jacket

RIP observer extraordinaire, Bill Cunningham

I never saw him as a photographer, and I still don’t. That probably sounds like a diss, but in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Bill Cunningham was a walking brain. He was a brain that never stopped finding pieces to the puzzle. He seemed built for discovering commonalities that should’ve been obvious to the rest of us, but they weren’t. We were all locked into our own bubbles and lives, but Bill was out there with keen eyes and a finger on the shutter.

On my way to the Museum of Modern Art one day in 2014, I glanced to my right and saw that damn blue jacket on the corner of 54th and 5th. I didn’t even need a double take, that iconic coat says it all.

Frantically, I ran across the street while rummaging through my bag for a business card. I approached him and told him I loved him. He smiled at me, asking if he knew me. I handed him my card, volunteering to be an extra hand at any time. He laughed, told me to keep it, to give it to someone who was “actually important.”

He then abruptly ran off, madly snapping images of someone down the avenue while I was still mid-sentence. But I really didn’t mind; he was determined to add a piece to his puzzle, and I couldn’t expect anything less from the Mr. Bill Cunningham.