Bill Cunningham

by Ian Buckwalter

Snap and go: For more than 50 years, Bill Cunningham has navigated New York on his bicycle — he's had 27 stolen — chronicling the fashion spectrum from sidewalk to catwalk.

Zeitgeist Films

Snap and go: For more than 50 years, Bill Cunningham has navigated New York on his bicycle — he’s had 27 stolen — chronicling the fashion spectrum from sidewalk to catwalk.

Every morning, Bill Cunningham takes his bike out of a closet down the hall from his tiny studio apartment, and heads out on the streets to take pictures of what New Yorkers are wearing. That’s been the photographer’s routine for decades: In Cunningham, a youthful fascination for the everyday creativity of how we dress ourselves met a penchant for quiet observation, and transformed into a singular career documenting nearly a half-century of New York fashion. And when Cunningham talks fashion, it’s with an eye ever on the sidewalks over the catwalks.

Richard Press’ documentary turns the camera around on someone unused to being on this side of the lens. Now in his 80s, Cunningham is friendly, quick with a smile and a story, but there’s also a sweet shyness and a humble reluctance to be the center of attention. Even at a reception held as he’s about to be inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters, he spends most of his time taking pictures of everyone else at the party. When someone points out the oddity of his working at an event in his honor, he responds that it’s not work — it’s pleasure.

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