A few years ago, a documentary came out that introduced longtime New York legend Bill Cunningham to the world at large. The film was fantastic—now streaming on Netflix!—and made it pretty much impossible not to fall in love with the octogenarian photographer who, for decades, has biked boldly through the Big Apple's crowded avenues capturing people with style. Turns, out, he damn good at capturing buildings with style, too.
Façades, an upcoming exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, displays a different kind of Cunningham's street photography; rather than capture fashion on the fly, these pics feature models and muses decked out in period costumes, posed in front of some of the city's most notable architectural monuments.
It's an interesting shift from the impromptu snaps of passersby that Cunningham is known for, deliberate in a way that offers another glimpse into his creative vision as well as a visual time capsule of Manhattan's evolving built environment. Plus it's a fitting tribute to his longtime friend (and fellow photographer) Editta Sherman, who passed away last year, who features in many of the shots. The project reminds me in a small way of Cindy Sherman's Film Stills series, where whole imagined worlds were crafted to exist within a single image. It looks like there was a Façades paperback published in 1978, but as it's going for over a hundred dollars on Amazon I think it's probably a rare find.
Façades will be at the New-York Historical Society from March 14th to June 15th, but in the meantime you should definitely definitely check out the Bill Cunningham New York doc—it's genuinely wonderful. [Kottke]
Bill Cunningham, BowerySavings Bank, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, GM Building, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, St. Paul's Chapel, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, Grand Central Terminal, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, Federal Hall, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, Central Park bridge, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, "21" Club, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, Rockefeller Center, New York City, ca. 1968-1976
Bill Cunningham, Editta Sherman on the Subway, ca. 1968-1976
Lead image: Unknown artist. Bill Cunningham Photographing Models, New York County Court House, ca.1975