kottke.org posts about gretagarbo

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 GarboHere'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.

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