Chances are, you’ve never heard of Bill Cunningham. If he cycled past you on the street you may not give him a second glance, and if you saw him hop off his bike to take pictures of a pretty young thing in attractive attire, you’d be forgiven for thinking him to be nothing more than a dirty old man, but Bill is one of the most interesting, knowledgeable and influential fashion photographers working today, and he’s over 80 years old.
For Bill, you see, is behind two regular columns for the New York Times. Evening Hours sees him documenting the goings-on of New York’s night life at various functions and parties around the city; whilst On The Street gives Bill a chance to publish the photographs he’s taken of the more creatively dressed pedestrians he finds wandering around the Big Apple. Models and celebrities are not necessarily of his concern; it is the clothing that catches his eye, from a unique hat or novel colour combination to something truly original. He treats everyone the same, from supermodels to the bag women living on the streets, as long as it’s something different, and he’s not afraid to call out the likes of Mizrahi or Armani if they dare to release a new line similar to something that’s already been done. At one stage in his life, Bill owned a hat store, yet had no interest when the likes of Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford graced his doorway, for in his mind they just weren’t stylish.
For all his love of the fashion world, the octogenarian doesn’t exactly cut a stylish figure in his functional street-sweeper jacket, flat cap and duct-taped poncho, and for the most part Bill isn’t in it for the money. He lives in a tiny one-room apartment with no kitchen, no wardrobe, and barely a bed crammed in amongst the forest of filing cabinets holding negatives of every photo he’s ever taken.
If you think that everyone in the fashion world refuses to leave the house without being ready for the catwalk, this is a must-see, and will even appeal to those without any interest in style (oh, wait, that’s me!). It’s refreshing to see someone with a true passion, who doesn’t mind working for next to nothing, genuinely enjoys what he does and is rewarded for it, yet still remains courteous, honest and immensely dedicated even in his autumn years, and to prove it, the likes of Tom Wolfe, Patrick McDonald and Anna Wintour all show up to sing Bill’s praises.
Choose film 7/10