“It’s as true today as it ever was. He who seeks beauty, will find it,” the wise words of the two-wheeled-wonder that is Bill Cunningham. After watching the much-anticipated upcoming film Bill Cunningham New York I can tell you now it will be devoured by all fashion-addicts and photography buffs – or, really, anyone that has ever seen a photograph or worn clothes before. In a moving, and sensationally inspirational film we take a deeper look into the fast-paced, passion-enthused life of one of the most low-maintenance and well-loved men in New York.
Due to his omnipresent style, you may recognise Bill Cunningham: an elderly man in a cornflower blue workman’s jacket, clutching at a manual Pentax, speeding around New York on his trusty bicycle for the best part of every day of the year. Sound familiar? Bill Cunningham is the man responsible for the On The Street section of the New York Times.
Dedicated wholly to street fashion, Bill captures every single person who, in his eyes, is oozing some kind of style. By cycling all over the streets of New York from dawn til late – no days off, and sometimes going to over three events a night – he is the only man who can physically watch and document exactly what people are wearing, thus making his opinion one of the the most trusted style guides in the city.
As Anna Wintour puts it at the start of the film: “He’s been documenting me since I was a kid, it can be one snaps, two snaps, or he ignores you…which is death.” High praise indeed.
Bill Cunningham leads an incredibly modest life. You may ask yourself in disbelief whether it is possible that Bill, one of the most influential, prolific fashion photographers of the century, does actually sleep on a fold-out bed on a floor of his tiny Carnegie Hall studio; has never wined or dined on the job; and has been known to rip up pay cheques (“If you don’t take money they can’t tell you what to do!”).
But, off course, it’s all true. And it is astounding.
A young Bill was given his first camera by David Montgomery and instructed to “use it like a pen” – advice he wholeheartedly took on board and stuck to religiously throughout his career. Uninterested in celebrities who’ve been given free clothes, Bill concentrates on those who dress themselves daily and step out on to the catwalk of the street.
It is no surprise to hear that designers keep tabs on On The Street as inspiration for their future collections – Bill practically does all the research they need, weekly and for free.
Uplifting documentaries sometimes tend to end on a little bit of an emotional note, and this is no exception. Get ready for the realisation that Bill has never been in love, is about to be evicted from his home, and keeps getting his bikes stolen (he’s been through 28 of them so far) but on the whole, this really is an honest, inspirational account of one of the most hardworking, passionate and fascinating men on the planet.