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Pictures or It Didn’t Happen Edition

Bill Cunningham (1929-2016) Neo-pop hats by Javits and Whittall, Mudd Club, February 13, 1989 Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1989 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm) Annotated ‘Javits and Whittall made this/Neo-pop hats for Johnson show soap box’ on verso Provenance: The Bill Cunningham Foundation © The Bill Cunningham Foundation, Courtesy Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

IF there’s one thing that we completely believe with all our heart and soul, it’s that New York City is special. We’ve been to lots of other cities: liked some, loved others, could even imagine ourselves living in one or two but every single time there’s one little detail that makes us say, “This place just isn’t New York”.

Sometimes, though, we ask ourselves why this should be. What makes New York, New York? How do you explain it?

You can talk about the city’s great architecture, fantastic history, its place as the starting point of countless American success stories, etc. But when words fail to describe the sheer fabulousness of this town, it’s time to turn to Bill Cunningham’s photographs. Eccentrics, celebrities, young and old, restrained or flamboyant – every type of style that walked by his discerning lens was captured for posterity. The new show at Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Bill Cunningham | New York, New York, is merely a sample of the thousands of pictures he took, the result of a life-long observation and encyclopedic knowledge of fashion, allowing him to spot new trends, revivals, and the occasional ‘what the hell?’ style moment that happens on our city’s streets. Looking at his photos, we’re struck by his ability to hone in on details: tailoring, texture, patterns or the way a person fit into their clothes. Cunningham was a master at getting the shot that tells the story, darting back and forth across city streets to capture people in motion, merging into the background at parties to ensure his presence didn’t interrupt the guests’ spontaneity. As a result, his photographs feel fresh and energetic, not at all like a historical record of mid-20th through early 21st century New York City. Take some time this week and see them for yourself.