Bill Cunningham’s Fashionable Façades

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

Period costumes, historical New York City landmarks and outsize personalities are the subjects of “Bill Cunningham: Façades,” an exhibition to be mounted by the New York Historical Society starting March 14.

The exhibition will explore an eight-year project that the famed New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham conducted between 1968 and 1976, in which he documented the architectural riches and fashion history of the Big Apple by pairing models in costumes sourced from thrift stores and auction houses with historic backdrops such as St. Paul’s Chapel and Rockefeller Center.

Comprising 88 silver gelatin prints, the series shows Cunningham repeatedly photographing muse and fellow photographer Editta Sherman, including one in profile, in front of the Grand Central Station, crowned in an elaborate hat, recalling Cunningham’s early career as a milliner.

The project ended up as part of the larger cultural zeitgeist in New York City, during an era in which issues surrounding both the preservation and the problems of the urban landscape loomed large. The exhibition will run until June 15.

“Bill Cunningham: Façades” at New York Historical Society from March 15 to June 15