Review – Bill Cunningham New York

Since I have no sense of style or have no clue about fashion, I sent my wife along to see ‘Bill Cunningham New York’. My wife is one of the most fashionable people I know. Everyday she puts on beautiful outfits and is always coming home with new clothes, which puts a big smile on her face and a few tears on mine when I look at the cash missing from our bank account. She is the most qualified person to review ‘Bill Cunningham New York’, enjoy!

Bill Cunnigham New York.

For most people, an 80 year old man chasing you down the street with a camera would be weird. Creepy even. But not it seems, if that man is Bill Cunningham.

The New York Times street style photographer has been documenting the people on the streets of the big apple for decades. The stylish documentary ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ gives an inside look into the life of this kind and generous man who has a true eye for beauty and genuine appreciation of style. We get to ride along with Bill on his push bike, the way he’s been travelling his whole career, as he scopes the streets for an interesting shot. This often means stopping promptly, throwing down his bike and snapping away. For Bill, it’s not about the most beautiful people on the street, but those with a point of view – whether it’s a fluro-yellow suit or outrageous hat – Bill is there to capture it for his weekly ‘On the street’ style page.

Of course, being in one of the fashion capitals of the world, the beautiful and well dressed still feature on Bill’s polaroids. Credit should go to director Richard Press for securing some of the city’s best known fashion icons including US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who has tremendous respect for Bill and has become friends with the style snapper. Bill has photographed Anna throughout her stylish career and as she remarks, “We all get dressed for Bill.”

This love and respect for Bill is also apparent at the many social events he captures for the ‘Evening Hour’ page of the New York Times. He refuses to eat the meals that are offered, or stop and have a drink, instead his focus is on capturing the beauty of the event, in true Bill style. It’s refreshing to see someone so committed to their work who does not get caught up in the often pretentious world of fashion and high society.

However, what really makes this documentary special is the peek into Bill’s personal life, which is the polar opposite to his colourful and glamorous day job. He goes from snapping shots at New York fashion week and documenting extravagant parties, to riding home at 2am to his one bedroom downtown apartment at the infamous Carnagie Hall. Bill’s ‘apartment’ is full of filing cabinets of all his photos. There is no kitchen, no wardrobe and he sleeps on a makeshift bed which balances on top of old fashion magazines. What makes the situation even more sad is that Bill has no family or significant others in his life which is made very clear towards the end of the film. Bill’s photo subjects and his work colleagues really are his whole life.

‘Bill Cunningham New York’ is a deeply moving and inspiring look at New York’s style set through the lens of one of the city’s greatest treasures.


Gemma Williams

Follow Gemma on Twitter @gemlovestoshop