Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On The Street

Earlier this year Richard Press released a diverting documentary about Bill Cunningham, now in his early eighties and still crisscrossing Manhattan every day on a red bicycle to photograph street fashion for the New York Times.

The first prototype of his On The Street column ran (in black and white) December 30, 1978, including candid glimpses of Greta Garbo, Paloma Picasso, Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Gloria Vanderbilt (below).

Cunningham still shoots everything in 35 mm (we see him packing dozens of rolls into his camera bag for one day's work). My favorite sections in the documentary are late nights in the otherwise deserted Times offices with Cunningham and his young jokey techie-colleague patching together scans of recent photographs into the standard half-page template (as seen below) which has evolved and solidified since 1978.

In one important way this man is my hero. Not that I aspire to take photographs of fashionable strangers, not at all. What I would like to imitate is the freshness of his gaze and his knack of staying current with the visual pulse of the culture.