Notes from the Field: Bill Cunningham New York

May 9, 2011

By Cheryl Katz

The anticipation began to build about three months ago when a friend, photographer John Lawler, sent an email with the subject line: Let’s go see this!

Not surprisingly, John was referring to Richard Price’s eagerly awaited movie, Bill Cunningham New York that was opening at the Kendall Square Cinema on April 8. (At the time of this writing, the movie was still being shown at the Kendall, but the length of the run was uncertain.)

Photos courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

For fashion devotees like us (and our respective partners, Jeffrey Katz and David Ekizian) street fashion–the ultimate definer of the zeitgeist–is as inspiring as any trend found on the pages of glossy fashion magazines or at runway shows. And no one is a more astute chronicler of street fashion than Bill Cunningham.

The eighty-two-year-old Cunningham, who was born and bred in Boston, the second of four children in an Irish Catholic family, has for decades been the New York Times fashion photographer. His column, “On the Street,†appears in the Style Section every Sunday. (He also chronicles New York society with his “Evening Hours†column.)

 

From early in the morning until late into the night, Cunningham, in his signature blue Paris street-sweeper jacket, with his battered Nikon swinging from a duct- taped strap around his neck, rides his red Schwinn bicycle from the Upper East Side of New York to the Village, Tribeca, Soho and beyond, to shoot what people of style are wearing right now. Cunningham doesn’t discriminate; he photographs anyone–socialite or street person–who demonstrates the wonder that is street fashion.

Cunningham, who in the film unabashedly admits he is always “looking for something that has beauty,†reminds us to keep our eyes, our hearts and our minds open.