Tuesday was one of those first warm days in Copenhagen you could actually call summer. The city was bathing in sun and people were everywhere…as long as it was outside. A perfect day for people watching and if you walked around the streets with a camera, you would just want to snap snap snap at all the people emerging from their winter nests. The MUUSE team escaped the scorching sun, and went down to the little air-conditioned “Vester Vov Vov cinema” to see the documentary film “Bill Cunningham New York” by filmmaker Richard Press. Ever since Bill Cunningham was given a camera in the 60’s he has been out in the streets of New York, in rain and sun, observing people and taking pictures on what they were wearing. The film presents a character so passionate about fashion and people, that he has dedicated his life to capture every single detail, from neon sneakers to diamond ball gowns. Cunningham takes snapshots for his own column On the Street in the The New York Times, in which he categorizes and groups different styles and combines colours, shapes and themes. Dressed in a blue utilitarian jacket, with a camera around his neck, he is in constant search for unique looks. He rides around on his bike, across Manhattan, from the day-time street corners to the evening fashion events, photographing celebrities, socialites and fashion personalities. Interestingly he observes the socialite grande dame and the bag lady equally. He simply just looks for beauty and he does that in a fantastic non-judgmental way. -We all get dressed for Bill, as the editor in chief at VOGUE Anna Wintour says. Bill once said – The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.
Although he never look for trends, his explicit eye for fashion has opened up and introduced the fashion crowd to new talented designers and a new way of approaching style. In contrast to his colourful objects and the buzzing streets, Bill has lived a very simple, almost ascetic lifestyle in a tiny studio flat at the Carnegie Hall building. Rooms filled to the top with filing cabinets and fashion magazines and in a corner in this archive of a lifetime worth of work, Bill slept on a single bed. For years he lived without a kitchen and shared a bathroom in the hallway. Recently, he and the last remaining tenants at Carnegie Hall had to move out. Bill’s own dress sense is modest and indulgence is low on his list of priorities. When he first started out as a photographer at Women’s Wear Daily, he declined payment and still believes that if you are not paid, nobody can tell you what to do and in return you would keep your creative freedom. Leaving the cinema made me think…fashion is a circle of constant change with quick turns, ups and downs, in and out, dos and don’ts…What if we could just slow down and appreciate the raw beauty around us, like Bill.
Official trailer for Bill Cunningham New York: