• Saturday, December 5, 2020

Vintage New York

Candid Camera
April 15, 2014
By , Galavante Contributor

The place: New-York Historical Society

The show: Bill Cunningham: Facades (through June 15)

The space: There is no better venue to exhibit one of NYC's seminal fashion photographers than the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. The museum imparts a further historical exploration and scholarship to the 75 works that dive deep into NYC's social history. The riveting images are part of an eight-year study of NYC's changing architecture conducted by Bill Cunningham in the late ‘60s and early ’70s.

The artist: Photographer Bill Cunningham is famous for his long career in fashion journalism and photography, first introducing American audiences to European designers, and then turning to the streets of New York on his bicycle, with a camera in hand. His subjects are typically ordinary citizens, and via Cunningham’s lens, we see their intentional – or unintentional – sense of fashion. Over the years, Cunningham has developed a keen eye for aesthetic patterns and quality – and being photographed by him has become one of the most sincere forms of fashion flattery for any New Yorker.

The exhibit: In 1968, Cunningham embarked on an eight-year project to document the architectural riches and fashion history of New York City. His novel idea was to dress his muse and fellow photographer Editta Sherman in period costumes, in front of historic buildings. The vintage outfits were scoured from thrift stores, auction houses and street fairs. The result was a photographic essay in the form of a slim paperback entitled Facades, which now commands hundreds of dollars on eBay. Portraits of note include Editta on the NYC subway surrounded by graffiti; the GM building towering over late-sixties coats and bobs; and Trinity Church framing Editta in a revolution-era men's outfit.

(Photos courtesy of New-York Historical Society and Bill Cunningham)