The Story About a Famed Photographer of The New York Times Fashion Columns
A man, whose silver hair shouts that he should be enjoying retirement at a Caribbean island, runs across New York’s hectic streets having only a camera in his hands. The viewer does not know that this man, Bill Cunningham, is, in fact, pursuing his passion, and there is no such word as “retirement” in his vocabulary. Being a famed photographer of The New York Times fashion columns, Cunningham is a humble person, who does not introduce himself using his celebrity status. In fact, he is nothing but a typical celebrity riding his bike or walking around the city, sleeping on a rod bed inside his office, and owning little to no personal luxuries. The film Bill Cunningham, New York shows a truly passionate fashion photographer, who knows exactly what he wants and takes the required steps to achieve his purpose.
The viewer is at first surprised to learn that Cunningham used to be a war photographer; however, the surprise wanes away as Bill’s fashion shots capture humanity at its best being devoid of glamour, fake poses, or pounds of make-up. In essence, the products are war-like, truly capturing people in their most vulnerable moments whether it is a man hiding from the rain or a woman protecting her expensive dress from city dirt. Cunningham further attracts the viewers making their hearts melt as his daily life experiences are exposed. He is a celebrity, but he does not have a personal crew, secretary, or even a car. He is an elderly man befriended by a 98-year-old photographer Editta Sherman, who attends elite fashion shows and charity events. However, at the end of the day, she comes back to his 30-year-old humble abode with a bed and some personal items in the office store room. What is more surprising, Cunningham does not take money, failing to pick up or cash out his paychecks (Bill Cunningham, New York).
Simplicity in this line of work is seldom appreciated, yet this is the key to Bill’s success. It is this exact simplicity that keeps his mind creative and versatile. Anna Wintour, a chief editor of Vogue, tells the camera man: “I’ve said many times that we all get dressed for Bill” (Chocano, 2011). Cunningham is respected and appreciated by New York’s elite, yet he does not hold on long to worldly friendships, which might make his mind and perspective tainted. He is by no means unfriendly, but he is the definition of a rare and unique simplicity in a time where everything revolves around money and fame. Even the words he uses are simple. Cunningham proudly states, “I don’t decide anything. I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is.”