Bill Cunningham, famous street style photographer, left behind a “secret” memoir when he passed away in June of 2016 at the age of 87. According to the New York Times, where Cunningham worked for almost 40 years, the discovery of this autobiography, titled Fashion Climbing, came as a surprise to his family.
“Bill kept his family life in Boston and his work life in New York very separate,” Cunningham’s niece Trish Simonson said. “He told us stories over the years, but nothing that painted a full picture of what he did and how he came to do it. The drafts of the memoir we found, titled and edited and written in his own unmistakable voice, filled in a lot of blanks of how he made it from here to there, and what he thought along the way.”
The book reportedly documents Cunningham’s life from his childhood and service in the Korean War to his early millinery business in New York and the beginnings of his photography career. It will also tell the story of a young man from Boston, who didn’t quite fit into his Irish Catholic family.
“It’s a crime families don’t understand how their children are oriented, and point them along their natural way,” reads a line from the book. Another excerpt published in the Times, which describes the abuse Cunningham faced for trying on a dress, is almost hard to read.
“There I was, 4 years old, decked out in my sister’s prettiest dress,” Cunningham wrote. “Women’s clothes were always much more stimulating to my imagination. That summer day, in 1933, as my back was pinned to the dining room wall, my eyes spattering tears all over the pink organdy full-skirted dress, my mother beat the hell out of me, and threatened every bone in my uninhibited body if I wore girls’ clothes again.”
The book will reportedly be published this September, as the Times pointed out, “just in time for fashion week.”