An act of love

The shared joy of photographer Bill Cunningham and his muse, Editta Sherman

Detail from "Associated Press Building at Rockefeller Center." Photograph from the New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham.

In an exquisitely sensitive tribute to New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, the New Yorker’s Rachel Syme has written about the snapper’s very special relationship with his longtime friend and muse, Editta Sherman. Audiences of the documentary film Bill Cunningham New York will recall the star turn by Sherman — who, with Cunningham, was a tenant for more than four decades in the apartments above Carnegie Hall.

Less well known is their photography collaboration, Facades Project, that was eight years in the making, and shown at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1977, and later at the New York Historical Society, in 2014. From 1968, Cunningham began collecting vintage women’s clothing, that Sherman posed in all over New York City, resulting in more than 1,800 photographs. When they began the project, Sherman was in her sixties, “zooming toward her seventies, and therefore toward societal invisibility,” wrote Syme. “… [Cunningham] saw her so thoroughly as to devote eight years of his life, and thousands of bicycle trips, to finding new ways to make her look beautiful. He shot her as a monument, in every corner of the city. I thought about what an act of love that was.”

The intrepid, joyful pair shot day and night, in all weather conditions — trespassing or climbing fences if the shot required it. “He used his camera to show that there was as much vitality and character left in an aging woman as there was in the aging stonework of legendary New York building,” wrote Syme. “He showed there was a deep bedrock to both, and also a mutable lightness.”

Read the full story at The New Yorker.

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