For anyone who doubts how influential 80-year-old New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham is, filmmaker Richard Press’ documentary on the living legend begins with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour remarking, “We all get dressed for Bill.”
The unimposing “original” street style photographer has been chronicling fashion trends and high society charity events for the Times Style section in his columns On the Street and Evening Hours for years, and in the film we see how the photographer has told the fashion tales of uptown influencers like Tom Wolfe and Brooke Astor, fashion fixtures like Anna Wintour and Annette de la Renta, along with eccentrically styled downtowners and everyone in between.
Every week, Cunningham gives us his take on trends as he sees them emerging on the streets, and as we learn in the film, he is obsessively interested in little else besides the pictures he takes. Few know very much about the exceedingly private man, which is all the more surprising given the press hungry nature of so many street style photographers. In fact, while the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, took only two years to film, it took Press eight years to convince Cunningham to agree to let him shoot it. The film itself was shot using only small consumer cameras and no crew, giving the film an intimate feel as it gives us a peek at the small studio above Carnegie Hall in which the photographer has lived for the past 50 years, his trademark worn-out bicycle, along with fascinating interviews with the appeal that make up Cunningham's fascinating collage of photographs.
Bill Cunningham New York will open in New York on March 16 at Film Forum and in Los Angeles on March 23.
Images: Zeitgeist Films.