Bill Cunningham, smiling while speaking:
“You see, if you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid. That’s the key to the whole thing. Don’t touch money: it’s the worst thing you can do.”Bill Cunningham New York (dir. Richard Press, 2011) is a documentary about the New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. I have no interest in fashion, so I’m not sure why I was intent on seeing this film. It’s a wonderful portrait of an ascetic, cheerful, funny, modest, utterly dedicated man who negotiates life on his terms: traveling through Manhattan on a bicycle, eating in cheap restaurants, living in a tiny room in Carnegie Hall with the dozens of file cabinets that hold his work. (The cabinets’ handles hold the hangers that hold his few clothes.) A few minutes late in the film are painful: they hint at complexities that an attentive audience can most likely work out for itself.
The sentences I’ve quoted concern Cunningham’s association with the magazine Details: not wanting to be “owned,” he refused to take money for his work.
Bill Cunnigham New York (the film’s website)
Times Topics: Bill Cunningham (New York Times)