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"The wider world that perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with. The point is fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don't think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization."

Fashion photographer Bill Cunningham is a personal hero, and I'm not that interested in fashion. I'm inspired by who he is as a person. I keep a photograph of him tacked up in my cube with the caption "I'm looking for something that has beauty."

Cunningham is compelled by clothing — not the celebrity status or pedigree of the wearer. He champions lively personal style wherever and whenever it captures his highly-trained eye. On Sundays, I like to soak up his weekly "On the Street" feature in The New York Times. Now he's the subject of a new documentary, Bill Cunningham New York. It's the best film I've seen this year.

The documentary reveals Cunningham's incredible work ethic and the ferocious joy of his work. Now in his 80s, he spends his days riding around Manhattan without a helmet on a beat-up bicycle. His film-loaded camera is always at the ready (no, he does not shoot digital), cocked to shoot someone's interesting hat or low-rider pants.

In the evenings, he tours New York's society circuit, snapping photos at charity benefit functions. He never eats the food at these events, and even refuses to accept a glass of water. He says this would compromise his objective stance.

While fashion has been the driver of Cunningham's life and career, he describes his own personal style as dreary. While working, he wears a signature royal blue workman's jacket. For years, he lived in a monk-like studio above Carnegie Hall stuffed with filing cabinets for all of his negatives. It didn't even have a bathroom (it was down the hall). More recently, he has relocated to a bigger apartment. He asked to have the appliances and counters removed to make room for his files.

Bill Cunningham found his passion and calling in life. And because he did, he's given a gift to the rest of us. Here's a reminder from Cunningham to pay attention to what we see, and to look for beauty in our everyday encounters: "Fashion comes from everywhere. It's all here and the streets are speaking to us."

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9 Comments

Thank you for posting about this.  I was so inspired by what you wrote and by the trailer that I went out and saw the movie that night.  What a lovely way to live your life: finding and documenting beauty wherever you go.

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While working, he wears a navy blue jacket of the workers of the firm. For years he lived in a monk-like study of over Carnegie Hall folder filled with all his negatives. There was not even a bathroom.

The main agenda of Bill Cunningham is to look beauty on the
street. He does want to take photos of different persons who look fabulous with
their clothes that we can call fashion. I know that there are so many of them
who can manage themselves wearing with fashionable wardrobes.

The video post is instructive and enjoyable. Bill Cunningham is a great fashion photographer. He always will be inspiration for me. Thanks

The niche of environmentally conscious fashion that is clothing
created from organic and sustainable textiles has expanded in recent
years.

 The words and images proposed this week fashion.

I fell in love with Bill Cunningham through NYTs video online. I save my 20 monthly clicks to spend on him. He is simply a lovely human, showing us the fashion catching his eye. Brilliant!

Beauty if we see cautiously and truly wish to find, is present in every thing and every individual we see. Each one of us has a personal style no matter which and what and how.