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Back in 1994, New York fashion photographer Bill Cunningham sat down for an ebullient, wide-ranging and at times even tearful interview with journalist Mark Bozek. Cunningham died in 2018, but that interview from a quarter-century ago forms the spine of – and brings life to – a new documentary, The Times of Bill Cunningham .
In a brisk, no-nonsense 75 minutes, Cunningham walks us through his life and times. Born into a conservative Boston family, he gravitated to fashion at a young age, creating hats for the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers.
I’m not a real photographer. I’m a fashion historian.
But it was the gift of a camera in 1967 that led him to his real life’s work – for almost 40 years he filled two pages of the New York Times each Sunday with his work. And yet he says, without an ounce of false modesty: “I’m not a real photographer. I’m a fashion historian.”
And despite living through, witnessing and even helping to create decades of design, he swears he has no favourite period. “Today is just as exciting as it was in the 1940s,” he declares. “There will always be fashion.” It’s just a shame Cunningham isn’t still around, to bring his particular eye to its beauty and excesses.
The Times of Bill Cunningham opens Feb. 28 at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers cinema in Toronto. Don’t confuse it with Cunningham, about choreographer Merce Cunningham, also at Hot Docs .
3.5 stars out of 5
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