He even went so far as to say that most of his clothes came from the thrift store or from the dead husbands of many of the society women with whom he was associated. It’s interesting to me that someone who had so many brushes with such a lavish culture and lifestyle never took on any of the snobbery or affectations of high society. Cunningham practically lived as a monk, solely devoted to documenting “the streets,” where he thought fashion was at it’s best.
For not knowing very much about Cunningham going into watching The Times of Bill Cunningham, I came out knowing quite a bit. I also gained quite a bit of respect for the late photographer/ fashion designer/ writer/ renaissance man. His life was fascinating, and he had a great perspective of it all. He didn’t engage in wistful nostalgia. He says in his interview with Bozek, which took place in 1994, “Today is just as exciting as it was in the 1940s. Everyone always thinks it was better then. Never!” Cunningham lived in the now and never went a day without taking a photograph from the time he got his camera in 1967 until he had a stroke in 2016, which ultimately ended his amazing life.
“…a unique man who is as wildly talented as much as he tries to say otherwise…”
Bozek is a great interviewer and like Cunningham himself, a great documentarian. Seemingly countless photos of Cunningham’s litter the screen throughout the film, showing us New York in all of its glory from the 1960s until the 2010s. He photographed everyone from Liza Minelli to Andy Warhol to a random woman climbing through a pile of snow. Bozek is also able to get through Cunningham’s shy exterior and get him to open up about the sadness of life, particularly the sadness Cunningham felt surrounding the AIDS crisis. At one point, he buys a painting from one of his neighbors who needs treatment for $130,000 only to give the artwork back to the artist so he could sell it again. He spent the rest of his life donating considerable sums to AIDS charities and the Catholic Church. All while sleeping on a twin bed in a tiny studio.
So, if you want to discover (or get to know more about) a unique man who is as wildly talented as much as he tries to say otherwise, please watch The Times Of Bill Cunningham. He was an inspiring man, and the interview that Bozek conducted reveals so much. The photos alone are worth watching the film, but getting to know the man behind the art makes it all the better.