Bill Cunningham's "On the Street" NY Times column, highlights fashion that he snaps with his camera from his bike on the streets of New York City. Down through the years (nearly 50!) he has chronicled the New York fashion scene as demonstrated by ordinary New Yorkers (and some extraordinary) every day.
He begins by letting the street talk to him. When an idea emerges, he begins collecting. Sometimes he'll get an idea and start looking. He could be looking for 20 trends at once!
|Joy Sewing, "Even if you shrug off fashion as a frivolous indulgence,|
Bill Cunningham’s energy and dedication is infectious. He makes you care. "
I recently watched the Bill Cunningham New York documentary on Netflix. I give it a two thumbs up, and more thumbs if I had them. It's a must-watch! Watch the trailer below.
He's a fascinating man, getting on in years and still spending his days on the streets of New York and at charity and social gatherings in the city. He wears his signature blue smock (to protect the few clothes he does own from the camera equipment). He is on his 29th bike because the 28 before have been stolen. He has never "eaten in", in his small apartment over Carnegie Hall. He never goes to the movies and has never owned a TV. He has never been in a romantic relationship. He loves his work instead.
He tells a story about...
...this woman I had been photographing on the street. She wore a nutria coat, and I thought: "Look at the cut of that shoulder. It's so beautiful." And it was a plain coat, too. You'd look at it and think: "Oh, are you crazy? It's nothing."
Anyway, I was taking her picture, and I saw people turn around, looking at her. She crossed the street, and I thought, Is that? Sure enough, it was Greta Garbo. All I had noticed was the coat, and the shoulder. "I never bothered with celebrities unless they were wearing something interesting."
|Fashion icon Isabella Blow is photographed on March 20, 1999.|
He lives an unencumbered life and has done much of his work for free, after hours. He says that if you never take money for your work, you can do as you please.
"Money is the cheapest thing," he says. "Liberty is the most expensive." Blithely, he conducts his life with an absence of material possessions.
|His studio/apartment over Carnegie Hall is filled only with filing cabinets of his work.|
He's modest about his work and his talent. "It's not photography. I'm just documenting what I see. I let the street speak to me."
|Bill at Fashion Week, Wikipedia|
And he does tell it as he sees it in the New York Times, in this recent video, for example. (There is a library of videos there, that you really ought watch. His personality is wonderfully evident.)
|"Hello from the baked Apple...it's 100 degrees and fashion holds its own|
....all in black and they're not going to give it up even in the heat."
And the street speaks back:
Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue:
I don't know how many times he has taken my photograph, but we all dress for Bill. You feel he's the only one who notices or cares how you dress. I wonder if Bill will like this. And it's always a flattering picture he chooses.
He honestly says of himself:
I'm a hack...I'm not really a photographer...most of my pictures are never published. I just document things I think are important. ...I do everything, really, for myself.
Others who find him inspirational too, sum it up...
Designers present their work the way they have envisioned it, but it is the way we incorporate it into our own wardrobe that creates style. Bill Cunningham has been documenting the streets of New York for over 30 years. Although many would say he is simply riding around on a bicycle taking photos of street walkers, there is a true art behind the work he creates. Unlike many people who take a glance every now and then as people pass us by, Bill sees something different. He sees the trends that men and women have taken from the runways, or the photo spreads in Vogue. What truly fascinates him, however, is how each person interprets the trend differently to match their own personal style.
He lives his life with a single focus and a passion for his work.
|At Fashion Week (The Sartorialist)|
He just plain loves women's fashion.
There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. ~ Nelson Mandela~
New York Times Bill on Bill
New York Times The picture subjects talk back
Chron 5 reasons to see MFAH’s Bill Cunningham New York
Apartment Therapy Bill Cunningham's furniture free life
Time LightBox Bill Cunningham: The original street fashion photographer
Blog Croptops and Coffee Inspiration of the week
The Daily Beast Knowing Bill Cunningham