“When fashion fans talk about street style these days, they’re likely to drop the names of Scott Schuman, Yvan Rodic aka The Facehunter or Garance Doré . But most of them forget about a true pioneer in this field, 80-year-old New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who now gets the credit he deserves in new documentary Bill Cunningham New York.”
– The Independent (UK) (“ New documentary honors streetstyle visionary”)
Bill Cunningham New York
a film by Richard Press
About Bill Cunningham.
William J. Cunningham (born 1928/9) is a fashion photographer for The New York Times, known for his candid street photography.
Bill dropped out of Harvard University in 1948 and moved to New York, where he initially worked in advertising. Not long after, he quit his job and struck out on his own, making hats under the name “William J.” After being drafted and serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he returned to New York and got a job writing for the Chicago Tribune. During his years as a writer, he contributed significantly to fashion journalism, introducing American audiences to Azzedine Alaia and Jean-Paul Gaultier. While working at the Tribune and at Women’s Wear Daily, he began taking photographs of fashion on the streets of New York. As the result of a chance photograph of Greta Garbo, he published a group of his impromptu pictures in the Times in December 1978, which soon became a regular series. His editor, Arthur Gelb, has called these photographs “a turning point for the Times, because it was the first time the paper had run pictures of well-known people without getting their permission.”
Bill photographs people and the passing scene in the streets of Manhattan every day. Most of his pictures, he has said, are never published. Designer Oscar de la Renta has said, “More than anyone else in the city, he has the whole visual history of the last 40 or 50 years of New York. It’s the total scope of fashion in the life of New York.” Though he has made a career out of unexpected photographs of celebrities, socialites, and fashion personalities, many in those categories value his company. According to David Rockefeller, Brooke Astor asked he be invited to her 100th birthday party, the only member of the media so honored.
In 2008 he was awarded the title chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
For me, not knowing who Bill Cunningham was until recently made me realise how little we actually know about everything in fashion until you go to a place where people live and breathe it, such as New York. Having critical acclaim from Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour as well as The New York Times etc makes Cunningham a role model in my eyes as well as an inspiration to those out there finding their way through fashion and photography. This movie/documentary has won awards globally, as well as winning the best documentary audience award at the Sydney Film Festival, here in Sydney Australia. You can see “Bill Cunningham New York” on March 16th in cinemas around New York, and hopefully on DVD soon after, globally.