You might know his work although you may not recognize the name, at least this was true in my case. If you ever flipped through the Sunday New York Times and glanced at the collage of small fashion photos covering the Style Section, that’s all Bill Cunningham. However I didn’t gain appreciation of his work until seeing the new movie “Bill Cunningham New York”.
The man is complex, intelligent, shy, talented, driven, passionate, joyous, and energetic but what I most appreciated about this artist was his integrity. His integrity to his vision of art and life. He lives the juxtaposed path of a modern day aesthetic riding on a bicycle in the middle of modern New York city streets. Straddling the edge between photographing socialites and passersby on the street, Bill Cunningham is always on the lookout for beauty in style. Wanting to following his own path, he won’t accept even water, let alone dinner and alcohol, with Lady Astor nor at a black tie gala. He doesn’t want to be influenced by what he sees. He’s one of the most respected fashion photographers (he says “historians”) in the industry. In Paris entering a fashion show, one of the hosts calls this bent over man wearing a French street sweeper’s jacket, “The most important man in the world.” He eats only once a day at a simple cafe and lives in what most of us would call a closet yet probably laughs more in one day than most of us laugh in a year. His laugh is infectious and you’ll notice your face muscles tiring from all your smiling during the film.
It’s a wonderful movie but the biggest reminder for me was following your vision and staying true to it. It’s a wonderful lesson and inspiration on not just art but how to live. Near the end of the movie, he pauses for air and finally chokes out, “If you look for beauty, you just might find it.” We sure found it in the work and life of Bill Cunningham.
More info… Bill on Bill