The film “Bill Cunningham New York” has been around for sometime, but it is a great film, and it’s become more relevant with the Chicago Sun-Times’ laying off of its entire photo staff and training its reporters to use iPhones for photography.
The film follows Bill around and dives into every aspect of his life, but to us the most interesting part of his profile comes when Bill discusses how he’s optimized his attire, equipment, and life for the mobile nature of his work. He wears a french workman’s jacket for its functionality and hardiness. He rides a bike, which is portable and flexible in terms of where he chooses to stop. The below clip captures the conversation with him when he explains his choice of attire.
Bill also hosts a regular video column (“On the Street with Bill Cunningham”) where he talks about the trends he’s observed over the past week. The below video is particularly insightful as he focuses on the use of bikes, his preferred mode of transport, and their riders in NYC. We were especially tickled to note the messenger on his bike pulling a stack of boxes on a trolley. Such mobile innovation!
The interesting thing is that Bill’s done all his optimization without advanced technology really. In fact, he’s done a lot to get around the problems posed by the technology he uses: he picked his jacket for all its pockets, and for its price given the wear and tear created by his equipment. The advancement in technology over the years has been in recognition to these problems: devices are getting smaller and more portable, with higher quality features such as cameras, so much so that the Chicago Sun now sees the picture quality of iPhones to be acceptable for publication. Top that off with the improvement in aesthetics, and one can really see how far we’ve come since Bill’s younger days. His focus on mobility was ahead of his time.
Imagine what Bill would have been like if he’d started out with just an iPhone or Nokia phone camera. Just as much a legend, we’d think: as we’ve said before, the magic really happens when both the tools and the way they are used are perfected.