image via zeitgeistfilms.com/billcunninghamnewyork
I'm a little late on this posting, but I feel that it's still relevant, hence this post. On Memorial Day weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary chronicling the humble life of the octogenarian godfather of street style photography. Although short, the film is thoroughly entertaining and Bill's quirky personality (along with several of the fashion industry icons that were interviewed) had me chuckling the whole time. At one point, the camera follows Bill around New York City as he photographs two schoolgirls in their uniforms. The girls give him dirty looks and then proceed to curse at him, not knowing who he is. His response? He laughs it off and turns toward the camera. Later, he's trying to get into a fashion show in Paris, and when the attendant doesn't let him in, another person approaches, escorts Bill inside, saying something to the effect of, "he's the most important person in the world." He's just not as recognized!
His candid style of photography and his ability to shoot while riding his bike are certainly endearing to me as a fellow cyclist and former street style photographer. Furthermore, he declines to be wined and dined at the numerous society events that he attends and is shown living in the same tiny Carnegie Hall artist studio (which is filled with file cabinets and photos, and lacks a kitchen or bathroom) for decades. When the interviewer asks Bill about his personal life, you get the sense that he doesn't enjoy being in the spotlight, and instead, he enjoys being an outsider observing others and the way they express themselves through personal adornment.I left the film inspired to be more creative in the way I dress. In the film, Bill is not shown using a computer, cell phone, or digital camera, so I left the theater wondering how he feels about modern technology: the internet, street style blogs, and social networking. In summary, this film is a must-see for anyone interested in fashion, street style, trends, photography, or cultural anthropology.