Art and the philosophy of life

Book review…

Bill Cunningham was a famous New York street photographer.  He started out making hats, doing odd jobs, to survive, but he was, from a child, always interested in fashion.  That’s truly all that ever mattered to him.  This book is about his early life, the late thirties, forties, fifties and a bit farther.

I saw a video on him and at the end he lived in a room surrounded by file cabinets.  One could barely walk.  His bed might have been top of the cabinets, which was not unusual for him, since the time he left home.  He only cared about fashion, nothing else.

He is supposedly loved by New Yorkers.  He worked for various magazines, Woman’s Daily, and other media.  But here’s the thing.  In spite of the fact that he was always happy, smiling, excited, willing to try new things,  I didn’t like him.  Basically, he was a snob.  He took fashion watching as far as it would go and very, very few met his standard as truly chic and fashionable women.

He told his truth about the collections of Dior and all the rest, and they were usually not good.  He was uneducated but apparently he had an eye for the different and new.

In the end he rode his bicycle in his blue jacket (he did not dress well, or expensively), and took pictures of everyday people on the street, who caught his fancy.  He looked for the best dressed and those who took risks.

He worked in New York, but when younger he had traveled for shows, staying in the cheapest hotels (bedbugs), and often went without food.  Nothing mattered but fashion.

Here’s the thing, he said that cities like Chicago were much better than NY because women had more freedom to dress the way they wanted to dress.  The rules, handed down by the old guard in NY, as far as how a woman on the social register should look, were strict.  Chicago and other cities made their own rules as individuals and he liked that.

According to him, the NY women on the social register, or fashion climbers, were horribly competitive.  But he also felt that most women don’t have any taste at all.  I don’t think he actually likes women…he just likes their clothes. Women are just something to hold the clothes up.

The way he wrote the book, made me think that he was unable to “feel” anything for anyone.  He was so focused on women’s clothing, that he cared nothing for the people who wore it.

His books are expensive (Amazon) and, as I said, many people love him.  I’m not one of them.  He may have always been smiling, but something was missing.  He could be intrusive and extremely judgmental, thinking that what he thought was always the truth.

I got the book on sale for a dollar. It’s short, or I wouldn’t have finished it.  If you’re a fan, however, and you want to know about his early life from his own point of view, then you’ll want to read this one.  I don’t like him.



Comments on: "Book review…" (6)

  1. he’s so fascinating, and I saw a wonderful doc about him

    • I saw one too. He’s fascinating and I learned a lot about him in his own words. So focused on the clothes he just couldn’t see the people. Some of his early customers were just to keep him afloat, but he wasn’t thrilled with them and was kind of unappreciative because they were locked into old fashion, etc. He wasn’t very nice at all. It surprised me.

  2. Not interested.
    He sounds shallow.

    • A very strange and hyper-focused person who never really took people into consideration, just what they wore. When he was little he bought his mother beautiful things (to him), things she never wanted or wore. He didn’t think of her, just himself, or the objects. He couldn’t seem to see past “things.”

  3. I’m not sure he even noticed himself. Didn’t eat, wear good/nice clothing. It was all about the chase to see something new and what he thought was beautiful. He knew exactly who and what he was and never let the beatings he got, for wearing his sister’s dresses, stop him from loving fabric and fashion. Nothing could stop him. He was obsessed and took no creature comforts for himself, other than what he saw.

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