Cunningham has spent the past 50 years cycling New Yorks streets in search of eye-catching looks. Cutting a familiar figure in his blue workmans smock (he buys the Parisian street sweepers uniform in bulk during Paris Fashion Week), he rides from uptown to down hunting out trends for his weekly On the Street columns, then spends his evenings documenting the citys most soigné events for the Evening Hours social pages.
The original model for so many of todays street-style snappers has a voracious eye that compels him to capture everything from Harlem teenagers to well-preserved society ladies. The late Brooke Astor was so fond of Cunningham that she insisted he attend her 100th birthday party. And whereas most photographers huddle on the bleachers at the end of the runway during fashion week, Cunninghams decades of fashion devotion have earned him a front-row seat. One press representative at a Paris show covered by the documentary whisks Cunningham inside ahead of the pack, scolding his junior, This is the most important man in the world.
Issuing Cunningham with the ultimate compliment, Anna Wintour told the documentary makers, I have said many times that we all get dressed for Bill. He's been documenting me ever since I was a kid. And it's one snap, two snapsor he ignores you, which is death.
Not that Cunningham has let the esteem go to his headfar from it. The photographer leads an ascetic existence, living for the past 50 years in a studio flat overrun by negative-stuffed filing cabinets. The studios location in Carnegie Hall cant smooth over the fact that it lacks a real bed, wardrobe, kitchen or bathroom (its down the hall).
Anyone who sees the film walks away a little bit in love with Cunningham, and in sympathy with a man who only wants to liv More