On Saturday I was a guest speaker at a Talk Cinema preview of a documentary centered around New York Times fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham. The movie was called Bill Cunningham New York and it was directed by Richard Press. It's a must see.
Not only was the movie flush with fashion's heavy hitters, including Vogue queen, Anna Wintour; New York society fashionista, Iris Apfel; designer, Michael Kors, and dandy ole New York Fashion Week fixture, but nobody really knows what-he-really-does-Patrick-McDonald.
For those of you who don't treat The New York Times Style Section like the sacred scroll it is, Bill Cunningham is famous for his On The Street column, a culmination of photos of New Yorkers wearing the latest styles. Cunningham is at least 80 years old and he's done the photo column for decades. He also is responsible for the Times photographs of society folks.
There is no denying the popular website and book, The Satorialist is based on Cunningham's work. Over the years, regional newspapers across the country have tried to copy his On The Street column. And the results, including those at The Philadelphia Inquirer, have been absolutely dismal.
I now understand why.
Cunningham isn't just a photographer, he lives, breaths and eats fashion to the point where there is nothing left for him.
He lives in a small room above Carnegie Hall with just a bed and dozens file cabinets where he documents ALL of his work. He hangs his sparse wardrobe on the file cabinets.
However, unlike many newspaper photographers, Cunningham has a fashion background. We learn that he was a milner. So he understands fashion. And he's much more interested in the clothes - the color, the way the pieces fall, the pleats and the folds - than the people. People are the same everywhere. it's the clothes that really tell you about the people. Your average newspaper photographer is not really that interested, not to mention, after he shoots his on the street, he's probably off to a sporting event - which is often much more important in his mind.
But I digress, this 84-minute documentary is excellent and we see how much fashion is a part of Bill's life - and isn't. I know it will appeal to folks who "say" they care nothing about clothes- even though they get dressed everyday. But for fashionistas and those of us who know how lonely and insulated fashion can really be, the film might just make you cry. I know I shed a couple of tears.
Bill Cunningham: New York will be shown in Philadelphia at The Ritz at the Bourse starting on April 1.