Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York

I went to the movies last week. Cincinnati has this great little independent chain of theaters that specialize in foreign and indie films, as well as documentaries. I went to see Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary about the New York journalist and photographer.

Bill Cunningham

That may not seem exciting at first glance, but this man is the stuff of legend. Cunningham was a hat designer as a young man before being drafted for the Korean (I think) War. When he returned, he began a series of journalism jobs beginning at the Chicago Tribune.

The man is widely credited as one of the first (if not the first) street style photographers. For nearly six decades, he has gone out, almost daily, taking pictures of people looking fabulous or wearing interesting clothes. At more than 80 years old, he still heads out every day and night on a New York City, no photograph people on the street and at nighttime events.

He currently operates several columns for The New York Times, the most popular of which is On the Street, a weekly collection of his street style photographs. He's been a meticulous catalogger of style. With photographs going back several decades, some have said he has the best record of style progression through the years.

He's involved in high society, as he often photographs many of its members, but he doesn't really seem to care for that life himself. He lived in a small apartment at Carnegie Hall for most of his adult life, until the building's owners kicked all of the remaining (mostly elderly) tenants out, he dresses in the same blue utility jacket every day and repairs his plastic rain ponchos with duct tape. He may be around some hot actress surrounded by paparazzi, but won't take a picture if she "doesn't have anything interesting on."

The man and the documentary are both truly amazing. If you have the time and opportunity, I would definitely check to see if the film is playing near you and go see it!

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