23 Nov 2011


It's pouring with rain here today and really quite cool . A marked contrast to the blistering heat of just a few days ago . So this afternoon we went to see BIll Cunningham New York .See It is a great documentary about a quite amazing man . Bill Cunningham is an 82 year old photographer who has two weekly spreads in the New York Times . He is a very active 82 year old who lives for fashion and photography . He is totally eccentric . He rides around New York on a bike and lives an extraordinarily spartan lifestyle and yet he mixes with the very rich and famous .and he seems to be perpetually laughing or smiling . He has a very positive attitude to life.

From a photographic point of view the amazing thing is that he uses a battered old manual Nikon SLR shooting colour negative film which he takes down to the local convenience store to get processed. He uses only one fixed lens( focal length not apparent but I suspect 35mm) and yet he shoots incredibly rapidly mainly on the streets of New York .Let's make that clear -- no autofocus -film - no power wind -- no program or auto exposure control . Here we have an 82 year old man getting dozens of photos every week into one of the world's greatest newspapers and he probably does not even know or care what a pixel is . He is a street photographer extraordinaire and his story is certainly one in the eye for all the internet "experts" who condemn the latest Panon GDX100 because it does not have a 24 megapixel sensor and its autofocus is slightly slower than the speed of light .

There is a sequence of Bill at the Chanel show in Paris during fashion week and there he is in a battered old jacket in the front row of this very prestigous event alongside photographers loaded with all the latest heavyweight digital camera gear and he is shooting away with his old Nikon handholding a very basic electronic flash unit .It is a salutory lesson for all photographers who somehow think that the latest and greatest gear is the key to great photographs or even those of us suffering from just a mild dose of GAS ( gear acquisition syndrome).
Anyway in a salute to Bill Cunningham here's a street photo of mine from Paris showing Parisiens enjoying lunch in Montmartre in June this year. Not taken with an old Nikon on film but the camera doesn't matter .I hope that you like it .

1 comment:

  1. It really is not about the gear. Sometimes it is really about the photographer. Bill C is a true piece of the fabric of life for the city and for those who follow fashion. Nice to see him getting his due. Also, in the days of Murdoch journalism it is nice to see NYTimes really understands this and keeps getting his work out there ...