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Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper's Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.Written by
I love Bill Cunningham. He's the original street fashion photographer - the one who mastered today's trend - and a New York institution. For years, he's been documenting fashion trends on the streets of New York, which he traverses on his trusty Schwinn, reporting for The New York Times.
Cunningham does a regular feature for the Times called "On the Street" in which you hear him talk about the photos he's taken. He's always so unabashedly enthusiastic.
Who knew you could be so happy about trench coats, leggings, and leopard print? OK, so I've been happy about those things (maybe not the leopard print). But Cunningham's appreciation for statement and expression makes fashion seem like a place for everyday adventure instead of a consumer trap.
A new documentary called "Bill Cunningham: New York" opens in San Diego this weekend. In it, we learn that Cunningham's life is his work. He's in his 80s and has lived something of monastic existence in the name of fashion - or as he might put it - the pursuit of beauty.
He's never had a romantic relationship. He attends church every Sunday. For years he lived in a tiny apartment above Carnegie Hall packed with file cabinets where he stores copies of every photograph he's ever taken (he's still shooting film). The apartment had no kitchen and a public bathroom down the hall. He stored his bike in a hall closet, retrieving it daily to hit the streets with his camera and rolls of film.
Cunningham and the last remaining tenants (paying rent-control prices) at Carnegie Hall moved last year, forced out by the owners who wanted to expand and renovate the apartments into offices and classrooms.
The film also introduces us to Cunningham's former and eccentric neighbors at Carnegie Hall. The most fascinating is Editta Sherman, a 99-year-old photographer who was once a muse for Andy Warhol. Sherman has been called the "Duchess of Carnegie Hall" where she lived for over 60 years.
For all the artifice and pretense of the worlds he covers (fashion and New York society), Cunningham is humble and completely without airs. He's a chronic smiler and his sense of humor is refreshing in an industry known for pouty lips and raised eyebrows.
For more of this review, go to the Culture Lust blog on www.kpbs.org
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