Mr. Cunningham’s Opus

Hey – if you’re in New York and haven’t yet seen Bill Cunningham New York, you really should try to do so this week. Film Forum just announced today that they’re extending the film’s short two-week run for another 9 days – originally scheduled to end this Tuesday, March 29th, it will now play through April 7th. (It’s also currently playing – for one week only – at one of my favorite theatres in L.A., the awesome single-screen Nuart on Santa Monica. Don’t sleep, West Coast fashion obsessives!)
As most of you likely know, the film is a documentary about Bill Cunningham, the 82-year-old street style and society photographer for The New York Times. It’s my favorite movie so far of 2011! You can watch the trailer below. If you want to know a bit more about the elusive Mr. Cunningham, there’s a great profile from The New Yorkerhere.
And finally…if you are a student or fan or perhaps practitioner of street style…you may have heard the story about Mr. Cunningham’s very first “On The Street” column. The legend goes that he was shooting fabulous Christmas shoppers on the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue, and happened to get a shot of the notoriously reclusive Greta Garbo wearing a nutria coat. This was in December, 1978. He showed these photos to his editor at the Times – with the Garbo image being the deal-sealer – and modern street style photography was born. Having heard this story, I’ve always wanted to see this first column – but thought that I never would. It was un-Googleable and seemed destined to remain a myth. I was very happy – shocked really – to see that the filmmakers included a high-res version of this first “On The Street” on the website for the film. I’ve included it at the bottom of this post so that you guys can see!

P.S. – A further thought – Bill Cunningham to me is one of the things that helps make New York…NEW YORK. A small thing really – just one slim older guy on a bike. If you live here though, you know that it’s the thousands or tens of thousands of small things like this that make this city so special. The way I see it – though this most likely has never been his intention – he’s devoted his life to making sure that New York will never be just another big city. I mean most of us who live here walk around town feeling like we are starring in a movie or walking in a runway show anyway! And then there’s Bill with his camera – confirming this all for us. We are stars…and New York is our set. xx Mr. Newton

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