I have mixed feelings on the subject of street-style photography. The evolution of street style as a force as strong as the dictation of high-end designers is fascinating, and people like Bill Cunningham and Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) are very good at documenting it. But taking pictures of people on the street is far from difficult, meaning that these days there are unnumbered blogs, Tumblrs and newspaper column inches devoted to street style. Unfortunately, they often come across as either filler (in the case of the endless reams of newspaper spreads I've seen of people looking flattered but mildly puzzled that someone wanted to immortalise their rather generic outfit) or as masturbatory celebrity puff-pieces (as seen during the London Fashion Week surges of models and fashion writers/bloggers posing self-consciously outside Somerset House). In recent years I've even noticed a few mentions of people in the industry starting to get stressed out during Fashion Weeks because of the pressure to catch the eye of street-style photographers.
|Bill Cunningham, photographed by The Sartorialist.|
The film crew follow Bill as he cycles around New York, but also takes a look at his career all the way back to the 1960s, when the concept of street style was only just emerging. Various famous and connected talking heads are brought in to talk about him, and the main thing they all seem to have in common is a sort of affectionate protectiveness towards him, everyone clearly recognising that his near-unique levels of unselfishness are not always practical. This is a truly cheering documentary, not because it attempts to follow the story arc of a feelgood movie but simply because of the subject-matter. Bill Cunningham is a charming and fascinating individual, right down to the happy "Oh!" of excitement he makes when he spots something he thinks is beautiful.
Rotten Tomatoes review summary (98% fresh)
Bill Cunningham New York movie homepage.
Bill Cunningham's On The Street slideshow/audio reports for the New York Times.