With admiration from the outset and popcorn in hand, I watched Bill Cunningham New York. The documentary provides a birds eye view of Bill Cunningham, the famous NY street fashion photographer. Expecting someone with advanced camera know-how and extravagant taste, I was delighted to find that Bill is neither of those things.
Bill found his passion in shooting style and fashion throughout the NYC streets. Bill is world renowned for his insightful eye and weekly New York Times style columns. He photographs whatever he finds interesting, trending, unusual. The way that average women carry out the looks presented on the runway interests him more than the looks themselves.
Throughout his career he turned down many paychecks in the interest of freedom. “When you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.” This motto has allowed him to focus on whatever it is that catches his eye, from combat boots to cocktail gowns.
His entire closet consists of a few denim smocks, a light up vest for biking, a cap, and a few garbage bag ponchos. A simpleton with a particular eye, he claims that he is “not interested in celebrities, only in fashion.”
I find Bill’s way of photographing that which is “interesting” really beautiful. To Bill, a persons race, class, religion, and identity, are irrelevant. He is simply drawn to their outward expression and originality as revealed through clothing. Bill is a role-model, revealing the power of unfiltered expression.
I often think about fashion and the immediate association with high fashion or runway fashion. Though I can appreciate the beauty and artistry of high fashion, to me it feels like the “maybe in another life” kind of fashion. We, the average women of the world, deserve to be stylish too, defining fashion in our own original ways. Thank you Bill for seeing us.