Bill Cunningham: New York

Synopsis: Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper's Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.
Director(s): Richard Press
Production: Zeitgeist Films
  1 win & 12 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
84 min

What it's all about now? Huh?

[Interviewer] We're making

a documentary about Bill.

Oh, a documentary on him? Yes.

Oh. What about it?

What do you want me say about Bill?

[Camera Shutter Clicks]

[Bill] The best fashion show

is definitely on the street.

Always has been

and always will be.

It never occurred to me

that I'm just waiting.

It's always the hope

that you'll see...

some marvelous,

exotic bird of paradise,

meaning a very elegant,

stunning woman,

or someone wearing

something terrific.

A friend of mine, Steven O.,

called me at home,

and he said, "Patrick,

there's 17 pictures of you...

in the New York Times. "

I was walking on a cloud

for weeks after that. I still am.

I'm still on my dandy cloud.


Oh, my God.

Look at... Look at the shoes.

See the heels?

Isn't that wonderful?

You have to be able to give the reader...

in a flash on Sunday...

news and excitement

about what it was.

You know,

he has two columns.

One of them

which is about...

a documentation

of New York life,

in terms of the drivers of its social

and philanthropic world, political world,

and this other, which is really

an attempt to tease out trends...

in terms of the reality

of how people dress.

By covering those two aspects,

I think he really does address...

the whole spectrum

of what we are as New Yorkers,

and I believe

he's the only one who does it.

See, I don't decide anything.

I let the street speak to me.

In order for the street

to speak to you,

you've got to stay out there

and see what it is.

You just don't manufacture

in your head...

that skirts at the knee

are the thing.

Then you go out and photograph

people with skirts at the knee.

You've got to stay on the street and

let the street tell you what it is.

There's no shortcuts.

Believe me.

Oh, my goodness.

I don't know where to stop or start.

This is terrible.

What's your deadline?

You could... You could

really be a great help to me.


Take these out like this, John.


Make it easy.

And keep them like this,

and it would help me.

Put 'em in here.


I hate to ask you.

I don't mean to use you...

or misuse you,

but it would be helpful.


Today is Thursday.

When do you usually

know when your page...

Right now.

Right now. I see.

Yeah, it should be done.

I see.

We haven't even got 'em scanned.

Do you know what your page is yet?

Your "On the Street" page?

Do you know

what it's going to be?

It's going to be, uh,

all on legs and shoes.

Oh, those are nice.

Now that's a good one.

I guess we'd better do it.

You're gonna call that store

you want me to run down to...

to go get your film?


[Clears Throat]

Oh, hello there.

Uh, this is the guy that

comes on a bicycle.

You're developing some film for me.

Yeah. Uh, listen, I'm in...

kind of running,

and a friend of mine

was gonna come and pick it up.


He's a tall fella,

and he has long hair.

You know. Okay.

All right.


I'll go get it.

There's a couple of pictures on there

of shoes from this morning.

All right.

So, we need that for today.

- And I'll quickly get on this.

- Okay. I'll be right back with it.

Wait a minute. Come on.

Let's get snappin' and crackin'.

See, static, static.

Getting a little better.

Then when the wind blows a bit...

Oh, isn't that fun.

Oh, you see, the minute

you get in the rain...

When it rains,

it's a whole different scene.

Or when there's a blizzard

is the best time.

Things happen.

People forget about you.

If they see you,

they don't go putting on airs.

They're the way they are,

and if they happen to be wearing

what you're photographing,

then you're in business.

He's caught me on a rainy day

jumping puddles,

the same way I did for Avedon,



It was much less painful...

when Bill photographed me,

and much more natural.

He catches you

crossing a street...

with boots and

blue jeans and this,

and he's so happy,

and he's much happier

when you're in this...

looking terrible and ratty,

than he is...

if he saw you in something

incredibly elegant and smart.

That's my poncho.

They're so cheap...

that you wear them once or twice,

and then they start tearing.

First at the neck, immediately.

Well, why buy a new one?

It's only gonna tear anyway.

So you repair the old one.

Damn you, New Yorkers.

You're all so extravagant and wasteful.

But I don't believe in one wear.

So a little tape.

And we're back in business.

I know this embarrasses everyone.

It doesn't embarrass me.

I think everyone

that knows Bill...

and understands who he is

and what he represents...

will always be thrilled

to be photographed by Bill.

I mean, I've said many times

that we all get dressed for Bill.


Anna! Anna!


Anna, right here, please?

Anna, right here.

Can you stop for a moment?

- She stopped for you.

- [Woman] She stopped for Bill.

[Wintour] He's sort of

been documenting me for...

Since I was a kid, like in my...

19, 20 years old,

and it's one snap, two snaps,

or he ignores you,

which is death, you know?

But he's always doing it

because he has a point of view.

He'd take my picture

whenever he saw me.

Sometimes it got into the Times,

and most often not.

And then little by little,

he began to photograph me more.

I would come into a place.

And he would say, "Oh, thank God you're here."

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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