Taking the Street - Bill Cunningham New York

Bill Cunningham New York Movie Poster I went and saw Bill Cunningham New York last night at Dendy in town. What an insightful and inspiring movie! For those of you not familiar with the Bill Cunningham, he is a street photographer who has been photographing the clothes of the streets of Manhattan for the past 40years. He's over 80 and still gets about on his bicycle. This documentary was made in 2010 and released in March 2011. For me, the film provided a much-needed (for me anyway) alternate perspective on the whole notion of 'Street' photography; something I struggle to balance ethically. Cunningham is only interested in the clothes ... and interesting clothes at that. That people are wearing these clothes speaks out to be admired or seen as different and Cunningham responds to that by taking their picture. I guess where I begin to have issues with 'Street' photography is when it becomes inherently intrusive in a voyeuristic sense ... the desire to share in the grief or suffering that is not your own. It seems to me to be largely a product of a middle-class seeking to appropriate something missing, something more real or valid than what they themselves feel is present in their own lives. That said, I have seen some fantastically powerful images of the ordinary people engaged in their lives unaware of how in touch with the real they are. At the same time I have seen whole albums of ridiculously gratuitous (and highly lauded) 'Street' photography that borders on the disturbingly voyeuristic. What struck me about the film last night was that here is a man who has dedicated his life to photographing the happenings on the street, producing an unparalleled historical archive. Perhaps he is equally aspirationally voyeuristic? Maybe Cunningham conducts himself in a more kindly way ... there certainly seems nothing creepy or ulterior about his approach. I found the film intensely interesting and there were some great people interviewed. Go see it if you can.