Do women dress for men or women? According to Anna Wintour, the pope of fashion, New York women dress for Bill.
Shy, discreet and riding his ninth bike, the other eight were stolen, he follows and chases famous women through the streets of the city. His goal? To portray them on the pages of The New York Times. Dressed in his blue worn jacket and his eternal Leica, this old and charming man marks vital trends in the city of skyscrapers publishing what in his opinion is “the best on the street”.
Now a documentary pays tribute him and a group of friends from the culture section presents him as an exceptional colleague. They believe they have reached a time in their professional lives in which they are forced to share with the world not only the privilege of having shared his knowledge but the experience of knowing him as a person.
“Those who see beauty find it” says Bill Cunningham. His office and archives have been his home for many years. Belonging to the staff of the New York Times is his only power. Enjoying the street, fashion and extravagance have shaped his life.
Bill Cunningham New York is a film about an ordinary man who has come to be an exceptional human being. Or don’t you think it’s exceptional that a photographer, who is the visual memory of the trends of this century, still lives in a modest apartment surrounded by his photo negatives?
Bill has nothing to do with Scott Schumann, another photographer doing the same, who has become a “star” of street fashion photography, seemingly casual but definitely staged and prepared.
Cunningham walks slowly through New York, camera in hand, asking and getting permission from the people he photographs with a kind word beginning with “Can I?” and ending with “Thank you”.
He gets a meagre salary, “because money is the cheapest, and freedom is the most expensive thing you can have” as he once said. He is able to distinguish haute couture trends among the mundane. In the editorial department the Times he always offers a helping hand and he lives quiet life, alone and in peace. Little is known about him, not even his age.
In all his simplicity he even received the Medal of the City of New York wearing his famous blue jacket. Everyone who knows him say that Bill is the quintessence of luxury, because he doesn’t need anything more than the most essential: A trained eye, a low profile and happiness of a job well done.
There’s nothing more sophisticated than the extreme simplicity of this man. If Bill has not seen you and you haven’t appeared in his column, you simply do not exist.