living in

Living In: Bill Cunningham New York

by Grace Bonney

Last week, I took a much-needed weekend off and indulged in some serious couch time. My idea of heaven is being snuggled under a blanket with my cat, some snacks and a good movie, so I decided to do just that. Rather than my typical horror movie fare (my favorite genre), I decided to go documentary crazy. I watched First Position, Girl Model, Kings of Pastry and — saving the best for last — Bill Cunningham New York. Everyone and their brother saw this film when it came out in 2010, and I would fall into an epic shame spiral when I would repeatedly have to answer, “No, I actually haven’t seen it yet . . . but I really want to!” every time someone would mention it. So this weekend I put that nonsense to an end and finally got around to watching the documentary everyone assured me I would love — and I did.

Before I dive into objects that remind me of the film, let me say this: If you haven’t seen this film, stop what you’re doing and download, rent or borrow it right now. I knew I was going to be moved by the documentary, which follows the life and career of photographer Bill Cunningham (perhaps best known for his New York Times columns On the Street and Evening Hours), but it completely exceeded my expectations. If you are someone who appreciates beauty in any form, whether it’s design, fashion or the beauty of the human spirit, this film will not disappoint. Bill is a spectacularly interesting, talented, gracious, humble and optimistic person. Quirky, loveable, stubborn and visionary, his dedication to the pursuit of beauty (which is in no way limited to elite New York society) is enough to leave you speechless and inspired to pursue your own dreams of contributing to the creative community. To quote Bill, “It’s as true today as it ever was: He who seeks Beauty will find it.” xo, grace

All images from the film via Zeitgeist Films

Image above: 1. Blue Wool Sweater, $108 (to be worn over the shoulders) | 2. French Work Jacket, $150 (similar vintage model here) | 3. Safety Vest (for biking), $20 | 4. Film Canister, 8 for $25 | 5. Red Tie, $18 | 6. NYC Coffee Cups, 100 for $36 (Bill says “The cheaper [the coffee] the better.”) | 7. Herringbone Cap, $19 | 8. Vintage Details Magazines (from when Bill was there) | 9. Red Linus Bike, $665 (Bill rides a vintage Schwinn, his 29th bike.) | 10. Black Duct Tape, $8.18 (to fix rain ponchos) | 11. File Cabinets, $165 | 12. Khaki Pants, $28 | 13. Nikon FM SLR, $309 | 14. Nikon Strap, $15.95

More images and film credits after the jump . . .

Film: Bill Cunningham New York
Director: Richard Press
Cinematographers: Tony Cenicola, Richard Press
Production Company: First Thought Films
Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films

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  • I’ve yet to see ‘Bill Cunningham New York’, but was so disappointed by ‘Kings of Pastry’. The subject matter had such potential, but was filmed and edited in a way that drained it of personality and tension. I could see the stress and conflict in the physical room, but it didn’t read in the movie itself. Fortunately I watched the amazing ‘Marwencol’ that same week (documentary binges are also my break from horror films!) and it was absolutely outstanding. If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend it.

  • I saw this film in the theatres when it first came out and I happened to be in nyc, and it rocked my world. I knew I was going to love it, but I had no idea how much. Nice to hear you had a similar experience. First Position is one I’ve been dying to see for a while now, did you like that one?

  • loved this edition of “living in” … this documentary inspired me to boot! I have a request for “living in” that I couldnt find in the archives… I’d love to see “Elizabethtown” itemized by y’all!

  • I have a huge Bill Cunningham: New York poster from when I worked at a cinema, which I have been saving until I can afford to get it framed.

  • I saw his documentary last year on Netflix last year and despite being a complete fashion neophyte, I enjoyed it completely. He’s a fascinating character. I haven’t spent much time in New York City, but it’s filled with such colorful individuals.

  • This movie is on my top 3 list. There aren’t too many “famous” people I’d like to meet but Bill is definitely one of them. His passion and approach to life are fascinating.

  • Great round-up! The day Bill Cunningham took my picture at a party is one of my favorite New York memories. He was as wonderful and amazing and kind in person as he is in the film — what an incredible individual!

  • Oh Grace! I was tickled to see your post on Mr. Cunningham. I have adored him ever since I watched his documentary film. What a sweetheart and so very interesting. Just had to pop in to give a shout.

  • Bill Cunningham is a roll model that I’m glad exists in the world. Thanks for posting the prices. It’s not money that it takes to be awesome!

  • I admire and adore this man. He’s so kind and giving. I live and work in Paris and we crossed paths as he was on his way to a Chloe show. After he asked me if I was on my way to the very same show (I wish!) he was so gracious to me and let me take some photos of him. He’s an unforgettable man, a precious representative of all that is good in the style and fashion industries. Here’s the photo that I took:https://nearandfar.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/today-in-paris-bill-cunningham-shook-my-hand-today/

  • Bill is a total gem. I’ve always rather religiously read his columns in the NY Times, but after seeing the documentary I am even more charmed and loyal to his weekly photographs. Yay for Bill! He is so genuine and he sees style beyond class, race and gender. Yay!

  • Love this stripped-down Living In. If you want to mix doc and horror, watch My Brother’s Keeper. If you want to salivate while you listen to Max Richter, try Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Finally, if you want to snort with laughter and possibly pee your pants, Shut Up Little Man is for you. How was First Position?

  • Sigh… I adore this movie. Character driven and aesthetically pleasing, it restores my faith in humanity. Bill finds truth in virtue and beauty.

  • We were living in Southern California having just moved from New York and I was missing it so much…my daughter has a collage of her favorite “Bill’s New York Fashion” pages on a wall in her room and so we were thrilled to find out that the NY Times has an audio version of Bill’s Fashion page and to hear his voice describing what he sees…fascinating and makes me melt every time…when this documentary came out we were over joyed and went to see it and of course have watched it several times since. It sort of restores your faith in people. Even if you don’t find fashion interesting…It’s a must see!

  • I will be adding this film to my list of must see films. It sounds like a real special slice of life. I can really relate to the quest for finding beauty in everyday things, we do live in a beautiful world and I look forward to getting to know Bill Cunningham.

  • Thank you for bringing to my attention this awesome gentleman. I had great pleasure watching the documentary.

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