A Captive Audience

Bill Cunningham New York
August 19, 2010, 7:24 am
Filed under: Research | Tags: , , ,

At the Melbourne International Film Festival recently I saw a film called Bill Cunningham New York.  The film follows photographer/columnist Bill Cunningham who chronicles for the New York Times the fashion he sees on the streets of New York.  Part of his job is on the street, photographing the fashion he sees and collating this into stories and themes that document fashion trends.  The other part of his job is attending charity functions and galas of an evening and photographing guests for a separate column.  While this is far less interesting from a fashion point of view, it intrigued me for the purposes of this project.

A scene in the documentary shows Cunningham going through the plethora of invitations he receives.  It is at his discretion which events he chooses to attend.  The invitations contain the guest lists of who will be in attendance.  While one might assume the expectation on him would be to photograph the biggest names, he describes how he doesn’t care at all for who is on the guest list, what makes him decide what to attend is who the charity it is for.  If the charity interests him, then he goes, as the publicity generated for the cause if it appears in his column is obviously very valuable.  Cunningham is an interesting personality because of his simple lifestyle, down to earth nature and good humour in contrast to the colourful and often superficial world in which he works.  He appears to live only for the pleasure he finds in his work, and conversely, a simple lifestyle has allowed him to do do work that is pleasurable.  In order to lend his support to the charities he finds worthwhile or interesting, is Cunnigham subverting the society charity event or is he subverting the society newspaper column.  Is he subverting New York society in general?


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