kottke.org posts about Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham exhibitionJan 07 2014

Cunningham Facades Subway

In March, the New York Historical Society is mounting an exhibition of photographer Bill Cunningham's project, Façades.

Scouring the city's thrift stores, auction houses, and street fairs for vintage clothing, and scouting sites on his bicycle, Cunningham generated a photographic essay entitled Façades, which paired models -- in particular his muse, fellow photographer Editta Sherman -- in period costumes with historic settings.

Watch Bill Cunningham New York on Hulu for freeNov 04 2011

Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary on street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, is available to watch on Hulu for free. (US-only probably.)

Bill Cunningham New York DVDSep 13 2011

Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary film about the unassuming king of street fashion photography, is out on DVD today.

"We all get dressed for Bill," says Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The Bill in question is 80+ New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends he spots emerging from Manhattan sidewalks and high society charity soirees for his beloved Style section columns On The Street and Evening Hours.

Cunningham's enormous body of work is more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. The range of people he snaps uptown fixtures like Wintour, Brooke Astor, Tom Wolfe and Annette de la Renta (who appear in the film out of their love for Bill), downtown eccentrics and everyone in between reveals a delirious and delicious romp through New York. But rarely has anyone embodied contradictions as happily and harmoniously as Bill, who lived a monk-like existence in the same Carnegie Hall studio at for fifty years, never eats in restaurants and gets around solely on bike number 29 (28 having been stolen).

It got great reviews...currently 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Bill Cunningham filmJan 24 2011

Looks like Bill Cunningham New York will be showing around the US starting with New York on March 16th. (Film Forum!) And hark, a trailer.

If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing.

Bill Cunningham, the movieFeb 25 2010

Showing at MoMA next month, a documentary based on the NY Times' relentless and intrepid street photographer Bill Cunningham. From the press release:

The opening night feature of this year's New Directors/New Films is the world premiere of Bill Cunningham New York (USA, 2010) on Wednesday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. at MoMA. Director Richard Press' documentary is a heartfelt and honest film about the inimitable New York Times photographer, who has for decades lovingly captured the unexpected trends, events, and people of Manhattan for the Styles section of the newspaper. The film shows Cunningham, an octogenarian, riding his Schwinn bicycle to cover benefits, galas, and fashion shows around Manhattan, and illustrates how his camera has captured the looks that have defined generations.

I couldn't really find any other information online about this film. They should at least get a trailer up on YouTube or something.

Update: No trailer yet, but there's a web site for the film with screening info, etc.

Bill Cunningham's InaugurationJan 27 2009

Street photographer Bill Cunningham didn't have a ticket to the Inauguration nor did he have an assignment from the NY Times to cover it; he just bought a train ticket, went down on his own, and brought back these photos. Be sure to listen to Cunningham's wonderful narration; he even gets choked up when describing the moment of Obama's swearing-in. I wish all journalism were this professionally personal (if that makes any sense). (via greg.org)

Bill Cunningham and Greta GarboJan 14 2009

Here are a pair of articles from 2002 on street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who currently plys his trade for the NY Times. (I love Cunningham's On the Street dispatches.) The first is Bill on Bill, where the photographer recalls how he got interested in fashion and photography.

As a kid, I photographed people at ski resorts -- you know, when you got on the snow train and went up to New Hampshire. And I did parties. I worked as a stock boy at Bonwit Teller in Boston, where my family lived, and there was a very interesting woman, an executive, at Bonwit's. She was sensitive and aware, and she said, "I see you outside at lunchtime watching people." And I said, "Oh, yeah, that's my hobby." She said, "If you think what they're wearing is wrong, why don't you redo them in your mind's eye." That was really the first professional direction I received.

The second article is a collection of recollections of Cunningham from some of the people he has photographed.

He taught me how to tell a story with pictures and that it didn't always involve the best image. I'd say to him, "But isn't this a better photo?" And he'd say, "Yes, child, but this photo tells the story better." For him, it wasn't about the aesthetics of photography. It was about storytelling.

Both articles mention that Cunningham got his first street photography into the Times when he shot a photo of the famously reclusive Greta Garbo walking on Fifth Avenue. I couldn't find Cunningham's Garbo photo anywhere online so I tracked down the Times article and found only this poor scan:

Greta Garbo

Here's another shot Cunningham made that same day which didn't end up in the paper (Garbo's got her hand over her face). Interestingly, street photos of Garbo were not particularly rare. Here are a selection from the 1980s, including several that feature Garbo in similar clothing. Many of them were taken by creepy paparazzo Ted Leyson, who stalked Garbo for more than 10 years in NYC. Leyson took what is believed to be the last photo of Garbo before she died in 1990.

Hobble skirtJul 22 2008

The history of the hobble skirt.

The term 'hobble skirt' came into popular use in the early 1910s, when a European fashion trend started by French designer Paul Poiret introduced long skirts that were narrow at the hem, thus 'hobbling' the wearer. Some attribute one of Poiret's inspiration to Mrs. Hart Berg, the first American woman to join the Wright Brothers in air. To keep her skirts from flying out of control while airborne, she tied a rope around them below the knees (Katherine Wright, sister of the flight innovators the Wright brothers, also did the same shortly afterwards).

For a short while, the tighter the skirt, the more fashionable it was. This also brought about accessories such as the hobble garter (you can see one in tbe PBS series The Manor House) designed to limit the wearer's stride so that she would not cause the skirt to rip. This trend died shortly afterwards due to the impracticality of such a garment, particularly with the introduction of cars (the skirts making getting in and out of one a bit of an adventure).

Bill Cunningham casually mentioned the hobble skirt in a recent On the Street feature about pencil skirts.

Bill Cunningham's street photosJun 30 2008

I've not been paying enough attention to Bill Cunningham's street fashion photography slideshows. Each week, Cunningham goes out on the streets of NYC to find out what people are wearing. Even better than the photos are his enthusiastic descriptions of what he's found.

This week he looks at women's handbags, which he calls "the engine carrying the fashion world". Cunningham finds that bags are growing almost "cartoonishly large" and discovers a unique glove/bag combo. Last week, he looked at the glittery belts that some men are wearing with their saggy jeans. If this was the type of fashion that filled the pages of Vogue, I would subscribe in a second. (thx, alaina)

Update: Cunningham's video journals are now available on YouTube for easy watching/embedding.

Tags related to Bill Cunningham:
photography NYC fashion movies Bill Cunningham New York

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