Bill Cunningham photographed real people, who were wearing real clothes, on the streets of New York for 50 years. It was his idea fixed, dependence, passion and lifestyle. In 1966, he realized that it was the case of his whole life. When he met David Montgomery, who gave him the Olympus Pen-D half-frame camera, his life changed. It was the cheapest and the ordinary camera. Bill said that when he held it in his hands, the street began to speak to him. This camera had an element, which he did not have before to make good photos on the streets (Horwell).
Elusive Bill Cunningham is a living legend of our time. Photographer sat on his bike and traveled in search of unusual shots on the streets of Manhattan in his 80 years old. His column On the Street is still one of the most popular in the newspaper The New York Times. His captured images inspire and fascinate other. We all get dressed for Bill his fans, models and other celebrities claim.
Bill Cunningham resembles a kind of god for the fashion industry. Editors and designers of glossy magazines listened to his opinion. Despite its venerable age, the photographer felt a surprisingly subtle spirit of the times. Bill did not take a photograph of people, because he was not to be as paparazzi, who was looking for celebrities. In general, people were not the most interesting thing for Bill. Clothing and its combination were in the spotlight of Cunningham. Weekly Chronicle of the photographer consisted of 20-30 images that reflected modern fashion trends. Bill Cunningham remained surprisingly shy and simple man, with all the demand and significant contribution to the fashion world. Richard Press took seven years to persuade Bill to take part in a documentary film about him. However, all the time he received the failures that were not associated with a condescending attitude of Cunningham, he simply did not consider himself an exceptional man and did not want to lose independence. In addition, he assessed his love for fashion and the photos were not only as a hobby on the background of the global problems of humanity. Nevertheless, the film Bill Cunningham New York was released in 2010, devoted to Bill.
Bill Cunningham connected his life with fashion no accident. Before he became a legendary fashion photographer, he earned money making hats. Many women, including celebrities at Carnegie Hall studio, visited his salon. Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe looked into the salon, but they did not represent professional interest for Bill. They were not stylish - the photographer said. Bill paid attention only to those, who really enjoyed wearing. Once the paparazzi surrounded Catherine Deneuve during Fashion Week in Paris, but Cunningham smiled. He closed his mouth with his hand as if Catherine Deneuve was obscene subject and he said that she was not wearing anything interesting in fact. This fantastic world of hats brought a great success to the photographer. When he was a child, he could not concentrate on going to church, because he was thinking about women's hats all the time (Bowles).
Today he is known far beyond the borders of New York. In 2008 he was made an officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in France. He picked up a camera in the 60's. The camera was his faithful companion along with the same bike for half a century. Cunningham was one of those people, who did not consider it necessary to burden himself with material values. As 50 years ago, he lived in a tiny apartment on the Carnegie Hall studio. He bought breakfast at the grocery store or ordered a Chinese takeout food, his transport was his bicycle, and the most popular outfit was a blue jacket of Paris street sweeper. It's very practical Bill said all the time. The cloth could withstand the friction chamber and it was convenient to fill the pockets of tape. Everything in his life was minimized in the direction of its work. However, it was very difficult to take photos of Bill by the paparazzi, because his allergic to publicity made itself unknown.
Mr. Cunningham was the first, who drew his attention to the streets of New York and at the people, walking along these streets every day. The era of Street style photographers began 40 years ago with his column in The New York Times. It caught in the frame not only trendy guest of shows, but also ordinary residents of the megalopolis. He rode a bike around the city and filmed passers-by in all circumstances, in any weather until the last days of his life. Another well-known Street style photographer, his student Tommy Ton (all photographers was rightfully called as Bills students) remembers, how he was impressed, when he saw the 86-year-old Cunningham, who took a photograph guests of Fashion Week in the pouring rain.
Cunningham was convinced that if you want to New York answered you then you had to talk to it. He has always worked on sequential shooting for the weekly column On the Street in the newspaper The New York Times for 40 years. Bill knew about the fashion-world all while he tried to stay away from his ebullient life. Adoring fashion and its influence on the people, he thought a little about the variety his own wardrobe. For example, buying a blue work jacket in the Parisian shop of special clothing, he did not part with it until his death. It is not surprising that it has become his calling card with time.
Everyone in the fashion world knew the basic rule: if you want to get in Bill lens on the street then you should pretend that you do not see him. It was difficult, because his uniform has not changed for decades and it was very recognizable. Blue Jacket of Parisian repairperson, beige slacks, a white shirt, black shoes and a bag over his shoulder. He moved exclusively by bicycle and claimed that exactly28 bicycles were stolen.
Despite his asceticism, he perfectly understood fashion. Anna Wintour - British journalist, chief editor of the American edition of Vogue magazine - said that Bill had flair. Everything that appeared in his column became as a trend. He saw the details and could preserve a fresh look at things. His incredible enthusiasm, a keen eye and subtle observation allowed him to notice the subtle, incipient street fashion trends earlier and more accurately than any fashion editor or fashion expert could do it. Cunningham published his first collection of photographs for The New York Times in 1978, when he managed to take some pictures of Greta Garbo, strolling around New York. He wanted to find the objects for taking pictures, but not to be as this object. New York Times described Bill Cunningham, as he wanted to watch, but not to attract attention. A distinctive feature of his style was asceticism. Legend of street style photos was known as selfless fashion chronicler and cultural anthropologist.
Eva Al Desnudo, the British photographer, says Bill Cunningham was the real pioneer of Street style. Maybe he liked to be more unnoticed, but the industry insiders really know about his work and how he changed the way of seeing style and fashion moving from celebrities, fashion events, or fashion shows to the street where a more real and authentic style could be found. Before him, nobody was documenting. I very much identified with his idea of shooting the real people, or a garment or a way to wear a piece of the look rather than celebrities with perfectly planned outfits (Amarca). Therefore, we see his photographs have become a part the history of fashion and life in New York. He has erected Street style to an art form, being sure that whoever is looking for beauty, can be sure to find it.
In 1983, the Council of Fashion Designers of America named Cunningham photographer of the year. In 2008, he was awarded the Officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and in 2009 was named a living landmark of New York. In 2012, he received the Medal of Carnegie Hall for the skill. In 2010, the world saw a documentary about him - Bill Cunningham New York, directed by Richard Press.
Watching the documentary about him, you do not stop to admire his philosophy of life. You will get a pleasure from your deal only, if you do not take the money. It inspires, surprises and makes us think. His predictions reflect not something that will be fashionable tomorrow. It shows what is fashionable here and now. However, Cunningham worked not only on the streets, explaining it this way: to get a complete picture, you need to take it in shows, streets and evening activities. It is the way to get detailed information on what is happening in the fashion world
His style does not to take photographs anything in common with the work of other podium photographers even on fashion shows. Bill was not interested in a front point and a clean image. He preferred to take photographs of models, passing by him in profile, from the seats. Corners and actual camera angles played an important role for him. Only in this way, in his opinion, it was possible to capture the real fashion.
He documented the history of fashion in New York, took photographs of his models in modern clothes and Victorian costumes on the background of the city landscape. Cunningham searched clothes at a flea market for the project personally. Each photo of Bill Cunningham is a reflection of the era, the history of fashion and unique architecture.
Amarca, Nico. Bill Cunningham: Remembering His Legacy | Highsnobiety. Highsnobiety. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
Bowles, Hamish. Bill Cunningham, Legendary New York Times Photographer, Dies At 87. Vogue 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
Horwell, Veronica. Bill Cunningham Obituary. The Guardian 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.
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