About photobooks – old and new.
Author: Bill Cunningham
Published in 1978 by Penguin, 1st edition
4to, softcover photographically illustrated, 128 pp. with many photos
Bill Cunningham (1929-2016) moved to New York in 1948, from Boston, to pursue a career in fashion design. He started as a milliner, but in 1962 he turned to reporting fishing news. In 1967, he added photography to his assignments, becoming his main professional activity, contributing to all major newspapers and magazines: The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, among others.
“Facades” brings together a wide variety of architectural settings and fashion designs throughout a 200-year period within the confines of Manhattan. Bill Cunningham started by collecting in 1969 antique clothes from different periods, found in thrift shops, street fairs, and auctions. His collection included as many as 500 outfits dated from 1786 to 1976.
He carefully collected entire outfits: costumes, shoes, parasols, wire bustles, jewelry, among others. While biking throughout the whole city, he would study all different locations, documenting and dating the architectural periods that could match the clothes he had collected.
He then asked his friend Editta Sherman, “the Duchess of Carneggie Hall” to wear them and pose in front of different architectural styles, in more than 1800 locations, matching the period of the clothes. That includes Egyptian temples, Russian cathedrals, Beaux-Arts mansions, Gothic revival churches, Art Deco office buildings, and High Victorian department stores, as evidenced by the photos included in this photobook.
In “Facades”, Cunningham not only elaborates playfully different mis en scenes for each fashion style in an adequate architectural context, but he also gives us a historical perspective of NY and fashion. As a whole, this was a eight-year project, which was presented at the Fashion Institute of Technology in June 1977, before traveling to other parts of the country and abroad.