BILL’S NEW YORK: Street photographer Bill Cunningham was unquestionably a man of the city. The sidewalks of New York were his round-the-clock runway. Now the New York Historical Society has announced a special exhibition, “Celebrating Bill Cunningham,” that will be view on June 8 through Sept. 9.
Friends and friends’ family members of The New York Times lensman, who died in 2016 at the age of 87, provided the wide-ranging items for the show. Some New Yorkers will recognize the bicycle he used to pedal to and from assignments regardless of the weather or the hour. There’s also the “Bill Cunningham Corner” street sign that was temporarily installed at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, the photographer’s preferred perch. Visitors to the Upper West Side museum will also find his first camera, an Olympus Pen-D 35mm, and his signature sparrow blue jacket. Other mementos include photographs of Cunningham with friends and correspondence, including handmade Valentines he liked to send to friends.
After moving to New York from his home state of Massachusetts, Cunningham worked for a period as a milliner under the label William J. The hats that will be displayed will include a beach one, as well as fascinators. Those looking for more specifics will find a press release from the spring 1960 William J. show. Cunningham’s more unexpected project include “Facades,” a series of photographs that was meant to document New York’s architectural and fashion history. The photographer spent eight years working on “Facades,” which was shown at the NYHS in 2014. He donated the prints to the museum in 1976.
Cunningham has been the subject of two documentaries — “Bill Cunningham New York” in 2010 and the upcoming “The Times of Bill,” directed by Mark Bozek and narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker. Bozek will be in the pack of photographers shooting celebrity arrivals at Monday’s Met Ball. Shooting the red carpet with two types of cameras Cunningham first used in the Sixties, an Olympus Pen half-frame with black and white film and a Nikon F9, the filmmaker is taking the no-digital route. He plans to incorporate some of the images into his documentary.
For his part, Cunningham’s thirst for work never waned, having once said, “It’s not work, it’s pleasure. That’s why I feel so guilty. Everybody else does work — I have too much fun.”