Friday, April 13, 2012

Bill Cunningham

What do you think when you hear the name "Bill Cunningham"?

If, like me, you've never heard of him, probably something along the lines of "Invoice sly cured meat".

In fact, Bill Cunningham is an old man who rides his bicycle around New York and takes photos of people. I know, first thought, dirty old man. While this may or may not be the case, this is not what Bill is known for. Once he's pedalled around taking photos, he goes off and peddles these photos to the New York Times in exchange for money*. The NY Times then publishes his photos.

Apparently he's kind of a big deal in the fashion world. Check out fancy people swooning over him in the preview of the film about him, imaginatively titled, Bill Cunningham New York.

He seems like a pretty cool guy. This idea gains traction when you consider this fact; he doesn't have a birth date. Or even a birth year. That's right, he was born some time in either 1928 or 1929. How cool is that? I want to not have a birth date too. It would be so hipster; "Yeah, like, I don't know when I was born. I just, like, came into being some time in, like, the 80s." After I finish here I'm heading straight down to the department of births, deaths and marriages to see if I can't work something out; "Hi, can I change my birth date by deed pole, please? And by change I mean delete completely? Cheers."

Anyway, this blog's about bicycles. As I mentioned, Bill does his work on a bicycle. Apparently, in the last half-century he's had 28 bikes stolen while taking photos.

OK, that's enough about bicycles.

The artisan at work

In his room
I was reading about Bill today in a newspaper that my girlfriend lawyers have advised I should not name. So I won't. I'll give you a clue though; each day you are sure to find an article that focuses on either the bicycle versus car "war" or tubing. OK, one more clue; I have, in the past, lampooned it here, here and here.

Anyway, one paragraph from the grandiloquent piece caught my attention;
Cunningham is aware of what he calls ''the contradiction'' - an ascetic, anti-materialistic person of unimpeachable integrity who makes a modest living taking photos of the frivolous rich. The disconnection is as great as that between an ornithological photographer and his avian subjects.
I take exception to that last line. First, let's look at an ornithological photographer and his avian subjects.

"Avian subject"

"Ornithological photographer"

You'll notice that they are both orange. They are both fat. They are both a little furry. They both have something green behind them. They both have blue pants on. That's right - almost identical.

Now let's take a look at Bill Cunningham and one of his human subjects.

"Human subject"

Bill Cunningham

You'll notice they are different colours. Bill is smiling while "human subject" is not. Bill has a bicycle (go Bill). "Human subject" is wearing a hat. Bill has legs. And feet. And a waist. I mean, are they even the same species?

I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture (boom-boom). That's right, the disconnection between Bill Cunningham and his human subjects is far greater than that between an ornithological photographer and his avian subjects.

Anyway, cheers to Bill, the octogenarian hipster who rides a bike and HAS NO BIRTH YEAR! 

*Apparently he actually doesn't even get paid. Thanks for pointing this out PostcardsfromtheNorth

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