Bill Cunningham and the joy of paying attention
Though I've enjoyed his columns for years, I never knew much about Cunningham himself--though, in that respect, I'm not much different from most in the fashion world. The film reveals Cunningham to be steadfastly private and governed by a deep sense of personal morality. His egalitarian spirit and humility exist alongside sheer, exuberant joy in what he does.
review films, but seeing this movie made me wish I had brought along my
notebook; there were so many memorable observations from Cunningham that I
wanted to remember. Among them [to
paraphrase]: "Lots of people have taste,
but few dare to be creative." That
fashion, rather than frivolity, is a kind of armor that makes our daily lives
bearable. And, perhaps most important,
"Those who seek beauty will find it."
line, part of his remarks while accepting an honor from the French Ministry of Culture,
seemed like the ultimate summation of Cunningham's approach to life. Part of what appeals to me so much about
Cunningham is, quite simply, attention:
his rapt attention to something that feeds his mind and his soul. Nowadays, that's rare, due partly to omnipresent
first Richard Press' documentary seems to have little to do with the subject of
this blog--about the arts in smaller U.S. communities--it finally
occurred to me that it does. While every
bit a creature of New York
and a brilliant chronicler of urban life, Cunningham has an attitude that suits
him well wherever he goes. He doesn't
assume that something bigger and grander will necessarily be more
imaginative. Something spotted on the
street any given day might leave a more lasting impression than the latest
kind of attitude that I think informs the work of artists, writers, actors and
others living in smaller cities and towns.
Creativity and daring are not what someone else tells you they are; they're
where you make it or find it, and sometimes that's in the most unlikely places.
If you have
a chance to see this film, by all means, do, whether or not fashion interests
you. Cunningham's joy in his life's work
is something from which we can all draw inspiration.
[Photo credit for image above: First Thought Films / Zeitgeist Films]
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