Monday, April 02, 2012

We should all grow as old and enthusiastic as Bill Cunningham

Watched Bill Cunningham New York [DVD] last night. Cunningham is a photographer in his eighties best known for On The Street, a regular section of the New York Times devoted to pictures of interesting-looking people wearing interesting clothes interestingly on the streets of Manhattan.

Cunningham gets these pictures by racing about the streets of the city bare-headed and dressed in the blue smock worn by Parisian dustmen on his twenty-eighth bike (the other twenty-seven were stolen). The beautiful people vie with each other for his attention but he really doesn't know who they are. When he started working for the Times he vowed he would never taken even a glass of water from the people whose events he covers. All he cares about are the clothes and the way people wear them. During Paris Fashion Week he sits on the front row, only lifting his camera to his eye if he sees something that interests him.

Whenever I watch anything about a photographer I latch on to a hint in the vain hope it will improve my footling attempts. The great paparazzo Ron Galella, for instance, never looks through the viewfinder, preferring to engage his subjects eye to eye and holding his camera at chest height. In this film Bill Cunningham says many of his best pictures are taken in bad weather because on those days the subjects are too preoccupied with the wind and the rain to worry about him.

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