[Image via The New York Times.]
One of my favorite things to do every weekend is watching Bill Cunningham's fashion audio slide show on The New York Times web site.
I have only discovered Bill a few months ago, but this guy has been around the block a long time, taking pictures for about 50 years. Bill is a street photographer. Most of his pictures are of women walking down Fifth Avenue wearing designer clothes. He is not really a "great" photographer. Street photography is tough, so I respect what he is able to do. I think he is more interested in capturing the outfit than getting the perfect shot.
Each week, the feature starts with some upbeat music and then there is Bill narrating his pictures. He has the kind of voice that belongs in a Woody Allen film. You never hear people talk like this anymore--but everything is just "marvelous." Each week usually has a theme--the boots women are wearing, the coats women are wearing--and while the pictures and commentary don't really amount to much discovery--there is something really fun and exciting about it that it is such a pleasure to watch. My favorite piece is when he talked about how women aren't letting the recession get to their fashion sense--that they're going deep into their closets and picking out vintage designer clothes to wear instead. For some reason, it doesn't bother me that he assumes all of us have those knockout pieces hidden somewhere in our wardrobes. He has yet to do a feature on cable knit sweaters.
I read his self-penned bio on The New York Times, and it made me really like the guy a whole lot more. He got his big break by taking a picture of Greta Garbo walking down the street, which eventually got published and became the first time The Times published pictures of a celebrity without their permission. But listen to how he describes it:
"Then I got to know Arthur Gelb, and one day I told him about this woman I had been photographing on the street. She wore a nutria coat, and I thought: ''Look at the cut of that shoulder. It's so beautiful.'' And it was a plain coat, too. You'd look at it and think: ''Oh, are you crazy? It's nothing.''
Anyway, I was taking her picture, and I saw people turn around, looking at her. She crossed the street, and I thought, Is that? Sure enough, it was Greta Garbo. All I had noticed was the coat, and the shoulder."This guy doesn't care about celebrities or taking the "right shot." He just has a deep passion for fashion and that is all he is interested in capturing and sharing with others. This is the guy who says as a boy he could never concentrate on Sunday church services because he'd be concentrating on women's hats. He writes:
"Most of my pictures are never published. I just document things I think are important. For instance, I've documented the gay pride parade from its first days. It was something we had never seen before. I documented every exhibition that Diana Vreeland did at the Met, but every picture is of her hand on something. I do everything, really, for myself."
I love Bill Cunningham. Check out his column every Saturday in the Fashion & Style section.
Do you think Bill would notice me?
I mean, look at these heels! This is really as high as I will go. I can barely walk in them, but they look good.