Follow NYC Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham on His Schwinn

Jamie’s Team Pick:

This year my girlfriend got me the New York Times Weekender for my birthday, and every weekend I get giddy in anticipation of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday paper. Nerdfest to the max.  Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed the photo collages that are part of Sunday edition of the paper, but only recently learned of the interesting fashion photographer behind the work when watching Bill Cunningham New York. (Available on Netflix streaming, or to Rent/Buy on iTunes.)

 

Bill Cunningham’s weekly collage highlight of what he has noticed in fashion that week on the streets of New York while walking the streets or cycling  the city on his beat up old Schwinn from one event to the next.

Sometimes his photography celebrates the heartbeat of the city, like with this “City in Bloom” collection:

 

Photo credit: New York Times and Bill Cunningham

Or when Cunningham photographed the many looks of those attending or celebrating the exhibit of fashion designer Alexander McQueen who died last year.  McQueen’s exhibit at the Metropolitan museum achieved groundbreaking attendance, with people waiting hours in line to see the exhibit, and the museum offering extended viewing hours and ultimately extending the length of the exhibit.

Photo credit: New York Times & Bill Cunningham

And sometimes Cunningham highlights a particular fashion item he notices all over the city, such as this “Cats in the Hats” collection:

 

Photo Credit: New York Times & Bill Cunningham

The most interesting aspect of this film to me, though, was learning about Bill Cunningham as a person.  Unwilling to compromise on his ethics and his devotion to unadulterated art, Cunningham has documented decades of not only the fashion but also the energy and evolution of New York City. The film delves into his personal ethos and takes you into his rent-controlled apartment at Carnegie Hall piled high with filing cabinets full of his work — which he and other artists were being evicted from during the film.

Though Cunningham has achieved great successes over the years, he continues to refuse to accept financial gain or much praise for these accomplishments. Although he’s unwilling to claim a sexual identity, it’s obvious the topic has been problematic for him as he wells up when directly asked about sex and religion near the end of the film. In speaking of his personal life, though briefly, Bill Cunningham makes it clear that rather than pursue personal relationships or friendships he has devoted himself entirely to his passion for photography. How many people are reading the Weekender with no knowledge of the fascinating and lonely life of the man who puts these collages together? Well, not you anymore.

‎Check out recent work by Bill Cunningham for the New York Times “On The Street” column, including video and photographs.

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Jamie lives in Boston and is currently a PhD student in Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a freelance writer and also a team associate for the Boston chapter of Hollaback!.

Jamie has written 79 articles for us.

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