Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue once said that “we all dress for Bill”. Bill is Bill Cunningham, an 82-year old street fashion photographer for the NY Times, who bicycles every day through the streets of Manhattan documenting people and what they wear.
He has been doing this for over 50 years. On the guest list for every socialite event in New York City, Cunningham is entirely unaffected by fame or status. I wanted to find out more about him and watched “Bill Cunningham New York” on Netflix. Here’s the preview:
People and what they wear is all he really cares about. What does Cunningham wear? He wears the same cheap smock Parisian garbage workers wear, not because it’s a fashion statement, but because it has many pockets for his rolls of film. Yes, he is still shooting film. When he attends the parties of the rich and famous, he changes into black tie, grabs his 29th bike – the others got stolen - and takes pictures of everybody who interests him, with no regard to rank and status. He declines any invitation for food or even water. That would be inappropriate according to his principles and idea of freedom.
His smile and laugh are contagious.
Bill Cunningham will not compromise his art for comfort, status or riches, which for most of us is not an easy thing to do. He lives exactly the life he chooses: bicycling through Manhattan photographing people and the things they wear.
Even if you have zero interest in either photography or fashion this film is a great portrait of an inspiring artist. Or is he a philosopher?
“Money is cheap, liberty and freedom are expensive.”
He is right.