Bill Cunningham: The Original Street Photographer

I am going to admit this right now; I had never heard of Bill Cunningham before tonight. But, just because I did not know his name, does not mean his work and life has not affected my own. As I sat with my dad browsing the channels for a movie to watch, we stumbled across a documentary titled, Bill Cunningham: New York. The description was intriguing enough to watch the preview, and after watching that we were hooked in a second.

Cunningham is the original street photographer. At 82 years old he still rides through the city of New York on his bicycle, chronicling fashion and clothing where it is arguably most important: on the streets. He is not interested in the person or the celebrity or the spectacle of society; he is simply fascinated with the clothing that people wear during their everyday jaunts. This does not mean he doesn’t document high society fashion as well, he is a regular at charity events and runway shows, tracking the elite fashion as well as the everyman’s.

I mentioned that he had affected my life, though unknowingly. He works for the New York Times, doing spreads titled: On the Street and Evening Hours. These spreads show both sides of his life, capturing the fashions that are most prevalent on the streets of New York, and the fashions at high society events. He is known for cramming as many pictures as possible on to a spread, and the documentary gave the viewer a unique perspective into his creative process. Along with the printed spreads, he does an audio commentary on the fashions of the week, which can be found on the New York Times Website.

This documentary was not solely focused on his work in fashion, but on his life as well. Cunningham has led an incredible life, worked for top fashion magazines, traveled all over the world, and still maintains a down to earth lifestyle that is illustrated by his simple attire and humbleness.

This man knows what is in style before Anna Wintour, and I am not just saying that, she personally admitted it in an interview for the documentary. Now that is something to brag about (not that Bill Cunningham would ever do such a thing).

Next time you’re flipping through the Thursday Styles section of the NYTs that you picked up in Lower, or you happen to subscribe at home, look for his signature spread, and picture this 80 year old man chasing after women on the streets to take their picture!


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