Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fashion Meets Architecture in Revived Photo Essay – 12 Amazing Vintage Photos from Bill Cunningham's Photo Project "Facades"

Bill Cunningham, who turned fashion photography into his own branch of cultural anthropology on the streets of New York, chronicling an era’s ever-changing social scene for The New York Times by training his busily observant lens on what people wore — stylishly, flamboyantly or just plain sensibly — died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 87.

In 1968, he began "Facades," a project that involved posing models in front of New York City architectural landmarks, with the playful twist that models would be wearing clothes of the same era as the construction of the landmark.

“I’ve always been crazed about fashion, a nutcase. And I was mad about architecture,” Cunningham said. “We would collect all these wonderful dresses in thrift shops and at street fairs. There is a picture of two 1860 taffeta dresses, pre–Civil War—we paid $20 apiece. No one wanted this stuff. A Courrèges I think was $2. The kids were into mixing up hippie stuff, and I was just crazed for all the high fashion.”

Bill Cunningham traveled to countless thrift stores and locations on his bicycle in pursuit of the perfect looks for the series. Hundreds of outfits and over 1,000 photographed locations later, the result was a breathtaking photo essay portraying New York in the early 1900s. While Cunningham photographed multiple models, the real star was his dear friend and muse, Editta Sherman — also known as the “duchess of Carnegie Hall.”

In each image Sherman, a successful portrait photographer in her own right, breathes personality into eras long forgotten. “You’re seeing Editta Sherman’s spirit,” Cunningham continued. “We were like crazy kids. We had the most fun.”

Bill Cunningham, Editta Sherman on the Train to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, ca. 1972. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Guggenheim Museum (built 1959), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, St. Paul's Chapel and Churchyard (built ca. 1766-96), ca. 1968- 76. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Unknown artist. Bill Cunningham Photographing Three Models at New York County Court House, ca.1968-76.Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, General Motors Building, ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Club 21 (founded ca. 1920s; costume ca. 1940), ca. 1968- 1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Grand Central Terminal (built ca. 1903-1913), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Federal Hall (built ca. 1842, costume ca. 1910), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Bowery Savings Bank (built ca. 1920), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Associated Press Building at Rockefeller Center (built ca. 1939), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Gothic bridge in Central Park (designed 1860), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham, Paris Theater (built 1947), ca. 1968-1976. Gelatin silver photograph. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

(Bill Cunningham photos courtesy of New-York Historical Society gift of Bill Cunningham)

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