BITE Sees: Bill Cunningham New York

I slipped into an afternoon showing of Bill Cunningham New York the other day.

Bill Cunningham is the fashion photographer for The New York Times who obsessively and creatively chronicles the seemingly whimsical trends of fashion and society.

During the day he stands on the street corner at 57th and 5th; at night, he hits party after party, snapping photograph after photograph. His photos appear, unedited by anyone but himself, in his avidly read columns, On The Street and Evening Hour. Sounds artistically ideal and personally glamorous, yes? And perhaps it is. But despite all that — doing all that, being whisked in, past security and girls with clipboards as “the most important man in fashion” — the film left me feeling unsettled.

On the one hand, I was exuberant. Here’s a man excited by clothes, by the unspoken conversation they start, by the way suddenly everyone’s wearing black and blue together or polka dots are back or see through is the next thing, how the “street speaks” and what it says about who we are and where we are going as a society.

And yet, despite being at the center of it all, in the middle of the whirlwind, his life seems lonely and solitary, unshared and unknown. It left me wondering if you can you be both a participant in something and an observer of it? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

For more about the film, click here.

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