Bill Cunningham – New York Times Photographer – “Facades”

Lorea Thomson
Posted by Lorea Thomson
Updated on
Published in Communities


The Society of the Four Arts, 2 4 Arts Plaza, Palm Beach is presenting an exhibition of Bill Cunningham, fashion photographer/documenter.  Readers of The New York Times are aware of the man and recognize his name.  He is described as “a man with one camera, abundant energy and enthusiasm, and a passion for documenting fashion as he finds it on the streets of New York.”  If the fashion that catches his eye is on a designer runway, a society gala or the streets of the city he will capture it.  He is still documenting the latest trends, which are featured in The Times at the age of 87 years young.

Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, was quoted as saying, “We all dress for Bill. If he doesn’t take your picture, it’s the kiss of death!”  The exhibition, which contains more than 80 original and enlarged photographs, is entitled “Bill Cunningham: “Facades”.  At first glance, the photographs are of fashion only, but profoundly gaze and see more.  The backgrounds in the photographs are undeniably “facades” of archaeological riches of New York City. The fashion image captured echoes the double entendre as the fashion on the models is also a “façade”.  The imaginative and daring work from the ’60 – 70’s is a unique perspective on the city’s demise prior to historic preservation societies and attention to urban issues.

In 1968, Mr. Cunningham began his photography project just for the fun of it.  His friend, Eitta Sherman, posed as a model in most of the early photographs documenting many of the historic buildings in the background.  Ms. Sherman became an acclaimed photographer and was a muse to greats like Andy Warhol and Francesco Scavulo as well as Bill Cunningham.  She happily acquired vintage clothing and posed dramatically for Bill Cunningham and the eight-year project “Facades”.   He amassed over 500 costumes and shot more than 1,800 locations.

He came to the attention of The New York Times by capturing a photograph of the mysterious Greta Garbo on the streets of New York.  The Times then began a regular series of snapshots taken on the streets on the city.

Mr. Cunningham “traces the evolution of aesthetics from colonialism to the rise of modernism in New York City”. Visit the Society of the Four Arts for tickets and more information on the exhibit.    


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