Monday, 19 March 2012

Bill Cunninham's New York


Through a lense...

...Bill's life has been played out. Always a 'click' away from the next frame, the next chapter. Last night I went to The Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise to watch Bill Cunningham's New York to take a look at this fly on the wall documentary that showcased the life of someone so committed to one vision. I came away thinking how lovely it would be to have a passion that governed one's life and work, that harnessed all your want for creativity and paid the bills...although that was something that Bill didn't even want for. He didn' t except any of the cheques that were so sincerely bestowed upon him for all his hard work, believing that accepting money was the first in a row of slippery steps that ultimately lead to losing one's freedom. How true is it...! As soon as we take money we become part of someone else's scheme...someone else's plans,  and Bill wanted to be free in the truest sense. I'm trying to remember a quote he had said in the film through   a huge Billish grin... I think it was "Oh, money is cheapest thing of all, freedom is what is so expensive." What a marvellous logic- something we cannot seem to adhere to in London. Of course, it goes without asking, how could we all live here without accepting money? I suppose this is fair enough but only real characters like Bill, have managed to find a way without stepping over life on pound shaped stones.

 Bill had always wanted to take pictures of New Yorker's style. And this is what he did everyday, since the first day. People started to recognise this slender man on his bike, whizzing past in a flash of blue.  Biking in a city where no one bikes, except those who are 'crazy'. Interestingly, Bill's clothes were always (give or take a couple of exceptions) the very same. He preferred his worker man's utility jacket which he picked up for $20 in a flee market and wore until his camera had rubbed it into frayed holes. Ironically, young fashionistas are copying his 'look' which I'm sure he finds hysterical.

Bill was not interested in celebrity, he was not interested in status and he certainly was not interested in money..so what was he about? He was a creature of habit. One can see this through his dedication to daily photographing of street style. He became part of the buzz and movement of the city itself. A simple man on a pursuit to find beauty within a city that was constantly shifting. Thanks to Bill, New York has a cultural and historical view point of it's own fashion, silently snapped whilst no one was looking.

He is a real character, a real inspiration and I sincerely recommend anyone who is interested to watch the film (and visit the Lexi which is charming...and the salted caramel popcorn which is delicious!)

The Lexi isn't showing this film again but visit The Curzon where it is showing this week

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