For decades when news was breaking in Buffalo, Bill Cantwell was there with his camera. Whether it was a raging fire, a tragic car wreck or a news conference with Mayor Frank Sedita, Cantwell documented it first on film and later on videotape to become one of Buffalo’s most respected photojournalists.
Cantwell was born in England and was educated by Jesuits at the same school that Alfred Hitchcock attended. His first job was with the Ministry of Information in Central London during World War II where he was a darkroom assistant. When the war ended, Cantwell worked as a photographer on Fleet Street. In 1948, he moved to Australia, where he spent the next five years as a commercial photographer.
During a visit to the United States in the late 1950s, Cantwell joined Auvid, an audio-visual production company that had a number of local broadcast contracts. One of them was for a wrestling show hosted by WBEN-TV’s Chuck Healy. Another was to provide news film to WKBW, Channel 7. Given a budget of $5,000, Cantwell created a functioning film lab and editing facilities at Channel 7.
In 1965, Cantwell joined WBEN-TV, Channel 4, now WIVB-TV, where he set a high bar for photojournalism. He was honored by the Buffalo Police Department and the US Coast Guard for his work in the early 1960s. In 1982, Cantwell won the best photography award from UPI.
For the most part, photojournalists operated in relative anonymity behind the scenes. But viewers of Channel 4 got to know the name of Billy Cantwell and his famous Weather Cam late in his career. Cantwell retired in December 1988.