Documentaries and Bill Cunningham: What’s Not to Love?

Right now I’m obsessed with documentaries. Recently, I’ve watched three ballet documentaries, a sailing documentary, and the most recent flick was a fashion documentary about The New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham.

I’m kind of in love with high fashion. (Not that I use fashion to express myself, but I’m intensely interested by those who do.)

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I mean, who can get away with wearing these things? What does wearing a wooden plank over your face even mean? What was the fashion designer trying to communicate with a rhapsody in blue? With a sad giraffe? With middle eastern military grunge?

What is meant by a balls of fruit necklace or Snoopy and lace?

I love high fashion’s oddities, its lack of boundaries.

And even its parodies.

I love the colors and textures. The body as canvas.
And the street style photography is some of the most interesting. It’s like a coloring book that refuses to behave.

Back to documentaries, I loved watching recently the documentary of Bill Cunningham, an 86 year old fashion photographer who cycles the streets of New York City, intent on shooting the most colorful of the city’s residents. A couple of surprises from the documentary include:

-his years long love of fashion (he began fashion photography in 1970s)

-his tiny, sparse, bathroom-less, kitchen-less apartment crowded with metal filing cabinets full of developed film

-his being well-spoken of by the likes of fashion editors (Vogue) and fashion icons (like 94 year old Iris Apfel)

-his love of fashion not making sense to his conservative family

-his going to church every Sunday

-his never having a romantic relationship

-his impassioned quote, when awarded the “Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” (Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Ministry of Culture, as he succumbed to tears: “If you seek beauty, you shall find it.”

In the past, I’ve enjoyed browsing Bill Cunningham’s work on The New York Times website, without knowing anything about the man behind the photographs.

Life is colorful.
Find a canvas.

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