It’s been wonderful being on spring break and having the opportunity to relax and catch up on the things I love doing. One of which includes my affinity for documentaries. As I was scanning Netflix, I came across the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York and knew my search for a movie was over. I was instantly transported to a completely different world of fashion than I’m used to — street fashion… from the perspective of an 80-something-year-old man. Oh, but what a brilliant man I quickly discovered he is.
Imagine starting your day by pedaling through the busy streets of New York City with nothing but your trusty camera. Well, that’s exactly what the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham has been doing since the 60’s. He has a keen eye for real, everyday fashion. The kind of style you see real people wearing each day walking the streets of NYC.
Having spent decades in the industry, Cunningham is now considered a legend in the world of fashion, but he’d never admit to it. The modest man has been graciously lending his vision to the fashion world since the 1940’s when he started off as a hat designer. He quickly moved into the world of print when he started his first partnership for the original Details magazine. From there he went on to photograph for WWD (Women’s Wear Daily), and is currently still working on his highly acclaimed “On the Street” section for the New York Times.
In the film it shows Cunningham riding around town, stopping by Photo King to get his prints developed, then heading back to the New York Times offices where he works with a younger fellow to put his page together for the paper. Although he doesn’t deal with the actual editing of his page, he is there every step of the way to tell what pictures get chosen and exactly where they should be placed. Just recently, he has even lent his own commentary to his photos for a new audio slideshow the New York Times has added to their website to draw in more people to the site.
Everyone in the industry knows the importance of Cunningham, even the fashion queen herself, editor in chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour. She admits that she can’t take credit for the decisions of the new trends, but rather Bill who captures what’s up and coming through street style months before you’ll ever see it in the magazines.
We all get dressed for Bill.
Even with all of his success, we still see him walk into his studio apartment at Carnegie Hall. The walls are lined with endless file cabinets that house every single photo he’s ever taken. On top of those and among dozens of bookshelves, sits hundreds upon hundreds of fashion books and magazines. The man even sleeps on a tiny cot propped up on milk crates. He has no kitchen and uses the public bathroom found in the hall. He was only one of four remaining legends still living in Carnegie Hall. Among the others that used to share the same residents as him includ Marlon Brando, Andy Warhol, and Marilyn Monroe.
Cunningham is a true visionary who sees what’s wearable and practical in the world of fashion for the everyday man and woman. It’s people with a passion like his that gives me the drive to continue doing what I love.