Monday, February 7, 2011

Bill Cunningham New York - man on the street

Bill Cunningham's impromptu photography is a pleasure to see. a weekly dose of his On The Street video on the Time's website is a like a live-streaming postcard sent from an old friend from NYC, telling you little funny things that'd caught his eyes in the past week. it's like those pictures were taken during his walk with you down the streets and avenues of Manhattan and suddenly you paused to take a second look because someone is wearing something interesting. but this dear friend can feel so close yet so distant. the famed street photographer is extremely private and is known to be always shunning the limelight. when most of the popular, younger crop of street photographers / bloggers of this generation is seeking publicity in every possible way, the veteran photojournalist wants to be invisible. 

after turning down many offers of book or movie deals throughout the years of his career, Mr. Cunningham has finally agreed to let us into his world with a documentary (Bill Cunningham New York) by filmmaker Richard Press and Philip Gefter of Times - not entirely though. some commented that they still don't find themselves knowing Mr. Cunningham much more after seeing the film because he just revealed bits of himself. but just from looking at the trailer, I can say with no doubt he has the sweetest, kindest soul and a rare enthusiasm in his work that keeps growing still after nearly 50 years in the trade. 

an unique, extraordinary individual, Mr. Cunningham has been living his life on his own term. I read about interesting facts of him here and there:

"[he] lives alone in the Carnegie Hall Tower. He sleeps on a piece of foam that tops a board propped up by milk crates, and has access to a shared bathroom and kitchen. He is most often dressed in a utilitarian blue cotton smock — like those some garment workers still wear, with thimbles and embroidery scissors in the pockets and needles holding many colored threads in a row down one sleeve — and he generally gets around town on his red bicycle. When he travels to Paris, his editor at the TimesTrip Gabriel, reports that Cunningham "insists on staying at a cheapo hotel that has no phones in the rooms." He takes all his pictures with a well-used Nikon; in the years since the Times photojournalism department went digital, Cunningham has processed his film at a 1-hour photo lab on 43rd St." - Fashion Oblate: Bill Cunningham & The Invention of Street Style

He once claimed to have bought no new clothes in 30 years. He is rumored to keep what few changes of dress he has on the hooks of the numerous file cabinets that line his living space, and says, "It's not that I'm not interested in clothes. Mine are functional-just camouflage-to blend in. I need clothes that make me invisible when I'm photographing." His philosophy is 'small upkeep, small worries." And he won't, in Bernadine Morris' words, "take nuttin'from nobody.' in a field where narcissism is institutional and self-promotion is fetishized, what draws notice to Cunningham is his ostentatious humility. "But you'll never know him," an old friend says. "You'll never know what he knows or what he has." - Guy Trebay on Cunningham in Style hound: on the street with Bill Cunningham

The film, which is to open the New Directors/New Films series on Wednesday at the Museum of Modern Art, took 10 years to make. The first eight were spent trying to get Mr. Cunningham to cooperate. “It started in 2000,” said Richard Press, who directed the film. Philip Gefter, to whom Mr. Press is married, produced it. “Philip and I approached Bill. He just pooh-poohed the idea. He couldn’t entertain it. He said, ‘Why me? There’s no subject here.’” - Capturing the Elusive Bill Cunningham

people, especially those are centered in the industry of high fashion and affluent social life, find it hard to understand how he can lead his life so humbly and alone. but let's just say, Mr. Cunningham is a living testimony of achieving happiness with the most simple in life. isn't that wonderful?

1st On The Street where Greta Garbo was a result of a chance snap

Bill Cunningham New York the movie is coming out on Mar 16 in the US. I, go without saying, can't wait to see it of course. I seriously hope it will come to Hong Kong.

read what Bill has to say about Bill: Bill on Bill

his subjects talk back about being photographed by Bill: The Picture Subjects Talk Back

1 comment:

  1. I saw the film a couple of weeks ago.
    He's a wonderful guy and completely un-affected.
    Doesn't care about status, price tags. Pure self expression.