“The best fashion show is on the street, always has, always will be” – Bill Cunningham
One of the greatest joys in my life is walking the streets of Vancouver and photographing the people that surprise and excite me with their fashion choices.
When I first started out shooting people on the street, the first hurdle I had to overcome was just simply getting the nerve to stop people and ask them for a photo in as few words as possible, while still quickly getting the point across that this was for the love of fashion and not my own private collection. Usually people respond well, though I am occasionally turned down by the camera shy, or maybe if they don’t speak any English, which happens occasionally, being the tourist city that we are.
I soon realized though, that when you stop someone in their tracks, and ask for a photo, you’ve taken them out of the flow of their everyday life, and the shot can look awkward and forced. I wanted more beautiful, natural photos. So I just stopped asking. This led to a whole other world of challenges and confrontations. There is something nerve wracking about chasing someone down the street to take a photo while they are in motion, and hoping that their reaction is a pleasant one. Most of the time, people seem to get the feeling that I’m a blogger, and they take it as a compliment. I absolutely love it when no words are spoken, and as soon as they have a camera pointed at them, they smile and strike a pose. I smile back, the picture is taken, and we both move along and carry on with our day.
Sometimes though, someone will stop, get angry, and tell me off for trying to photograph them. I usually just apologize, try to explain if given the chance, and just shrug it off. I have to say though, it kind of kills your confidence for the rest of the day.
This is where Bill Cunningham comes in. He has been shooting street style fashion photography for longer than I have been alive, and he must have thicker skin than most. He rides his old Schwinn bicycle through the streets of New York, looking for what’s fresh and new in fashion. I recently watch the documentary about his life “Bill Cunningham, New York” and the thing that stuck with me most was his tenacity and ability to shrug off the occasional adverse reactions that come his way. Many people know Bill in New York, and are flattered when he dashes after them to take their photo, but he still has to let the occasional verbal assault roll off his back. And he does it all with a smile. I try remember this any time things don’t go quite as planned while out shooting on the streets. If Bill can do it, so can I.
Whether you enjoy fashion and photography or not, “Bill Cunningham New York” is an incredibly interesting look into the corners of the life of one of the most creative and influential people in fashion today. I wish we could all be a little more like Bill.