Creativity for the Rest of Us

Bill Cunningham NY

He’s 82 years old. Wears a functional, blue workman’s smock whenever he’s shooting: New York society galas, Paris Fashion Week, out and about on the streets of Manhattan. Lived in a small studio in Carnegie Hall – a single bed crammed between rows of filing cabinets overflowing with his life’s work. No kitchen, bathroom down the hall.  Rides his Schwin bicycle wherever he goes – his 29th Schwin. Without a hint of bitterness or irritation, he reports matter of factly that the first 28 were stolen.

In his early days with Details magazine he refused to accept payment for his work.  He believed as long as he worked for free, no one could tell him what to do. He parted company with Women’s Wear Daily when they used a series of his pictures for a Who’s In/Who’s Out piece.  Bill doesn’t believe anyone is out.  He’s never taken a cruel picture.

It’s as true today as it’s ever been.  He who seeks beauty will find it. – Bill Cunningham

Bill loves beauty and he loves fashion. He considers himself more of a cultural anthropologist than a photographer – chronicling history by capturing fashionable people on the streets and in the parks of New York. He talks gleefully, with a sparkle in his eye and a smile that could light up the room, about his excitement in seeing people – especially youth – expressing their individuality through fashion.

Every six months, Bill says, you have to reeducate the eye.  He is all about paying attention – to color, shapes, seasons, styles and people of all kinds and varieties.   He spots trends because he tracks what no one else is paying attention to and he looks beyond the usual places to find it.

Seeking beauty, he finds it everywhere.



What do you want more of in your life?  Beauty, joy, kindness, compassion, creativity, cooperation, courage?  Spend this week looking for it everywhere and see what you find.

Field trip and additional inspiration opportunity – go see the delightful documentary Bill Cunningham NY at a theater near you.

2 Responses to “Bill Cunningham NY”

  1. rosemary pfeiffer says:

    Thanks Mary for this great post. I had heard about the movie and was looking forward to it. I’m amused at myself that, mostly as a result of reality TV, I’ve become interested in fashion and fashion photography as art form. In my old sweats, with hardly any desire to buy for myself, I find that I just like looking at it all. There’s another good documentary, “The September Issue” about Vogue’s annual fall fashion issue – and it really highlights the photography decisions for the magazine. And the DeYoung has had a couple of really interesting shows – latest on Balenciaga – that have prompted me to pay attention to clothing as artistic expression. Thanks for pushing my appreciation of the beauty around me up a notch by your post.

  2. Hi Rosemary –

    Thanks for contributing your thoughts to this post. I don’t think we can ever accurately predict what will strike our fancy and capture our attention. Who would have thought retirement would lead you into the land of fashion! I loved the Pulp Fashion exhibit at the Legion. If you haven’t seen that one yet, I highly recommend it. Another fascinating example of artists exploring the intersection and integration of all the things they are interested in.

    Enjoy – Mary

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