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If you’ve been to New York in the last 50 years (and if you haven’t, take a moment to put a big red ribbon around your leg to remind you to go), you may well have come across Bill Cunningham. He’s been photographing people on the street since the 1960’s and much of what he finds is published every week in the Sunday New York Times (Style Section, “On the Street” and “Evening Hours,”)

And if you normally dress like any of the people above, you may have been photographed by Bill. He knows a lot about High Fashion, but what he seems to love even more is the capacity of otherwise ordinary people to bring a sense of style to their everyday lives.

Above from here

Bill gets around on a bike, and he has a particular fondness for others who do. Especially if they bring a little pazzaz to the occasion.

Above is the same woman, with the same bike, but looking transformed. She has what it takes to catch Bill’s eye, and that she has done. Time and again.

Slideshow of happy bikers here

Bill himself has led a simple life. His job requires only a camera, a bike, and him, usually dressed in a blue jacket. He was never trained to do this, he says, and he is, according to him, not a very good photographer. Yet, week after week, his pictures are in the New York Times.

He lived for many years above Carnegie Hall. Recently, due to redevelopment plans, he had to move on. He slept on a piece of foam that tops a board propped up by milk crates, and had access to a shared bathroom and kitchen. It is almost a monk’s life. Until he hits the streets.

Some admiring film makers made a movie about Bill and released it in March 2010. See here . And here as well

He’s been doing this sort of thing longer than his pictures have appeared in the NYT. Way back, he produced a remarkable book called Facades (1978). Can be found here.

It’s about fashion and architecture through the ages. Sort of.

There is no one quite like Bill Cunningham, and maybe there never was. He’s a simple man who has spent much of his life in the midst of a complex and exclusive society–the fashion tribes  of New York (and Paris).

He may not have the native talent or even the knowledge of a typical professional photographer, but he has something wonderful that connects with both the fashion world and with those of us who simply dress to keep warm.

Something in Bill Cunningham attracts him to just those things we’d all like to see. He is like one of those gifted people who can find water with a branch.

He is an example to young and old, to the in crowd and to the rest of us–use what you have, put your heart into it, explore new territory every day, and at the end of the day, show the world what you found.

That’s pretty much what we try to do at the R of L, which is one of the reasons why Bill is such a favourite of ours, as he is to so many others.

Bill Cunningham and Carmen Dell’Orefice, 2010 from here.

If you have some time, sometime, take a look at a the slide shows Bill produces for the NYT website–with a commentary in his wonderful Boston-born voice. Here is one from Halloween 2008. And another beauty about navigating the slushy streets, with style.

Many more to choose from here. Thank you Bill.


Here comes the weekend, time to park the car and get out on the street. I hope your street has some street performers, like the above who were hired by Lancaster University for a special science/art event called Metamorphosis. See here.

Look what they had on the street in Tokyo: Eye heads. From the BBC here (click 3)

These “mysterious street performers” have outfitted themselves as horses…with a baby buggy. Can’t wait to see what they do. From here.

There are streets in Lithuania too, and street performers, in white. Things. Here.

Some street performers stand out from the crowd by trying something new. Like being invisible. This guy, or at least his clothes, can be found here

And then he, or a relative, showed up here, this time only visible to kids.

This man from Germany is suspended or hovering or levitating above the street. It’s a trick, and a very good one . Seen here.

These street performers squeeze into the doorway of a house in Rouen, France, as part of Austrian artist Willi Dorner’s Bodies in Urban Places project. Seen here.

But most street performers follow the trails blazed by others and give the crowd what they expect. Like a fire eater seen here.

Or these well balanced acrobats seen here.

Spain seems to have all the classic forms of street performance, with a few creative fluorishes. This “statue”, sitting, is from here.

Still in Spain, this man serves up his head for lunch. From here.

Street performers have to sleep too. Might as well make it a performance–this in Barcelona, which seems to have become THE street stage for people who want to take theatre to the streets. Found here.

Street performance is as old as the streets. This photo was taken in Paris in 1948 by a young Richard Avedon. See it here.

Still, I think we may be living in the golden age of street performance. Maybe due to tough economic times forcing creative people on to the pavement. Above is SWOON! 4 daredevil Australians telling a story of love, loss, joy and freedom up on high flexible poles. See here

So make sure you get out and support the performing artists. They’re as close as a street near you . Above seen here.

Above is Ibirapuera Auditorium in a park (of the same name) in Sao Paulo, designed by Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950’s and built 50 years later. Fortunately, this is an architect who has taken good care of himself, and he lived long enough to see it completed and opened. He is still with us, at the age of 102.

Mr Niemeyer’s master work, Brasilia, also seems to be aging well. Sure looks good from here.

The view from this side is also pretty nifty.

And this was the first building completed in the new city, the Presidential Palace known as Alvorada. It’s hard to believe this is all real and not still a dream in Oscar’s mind. Some of the above from here.

This is a theatre known as Popular Theatre of Niteroi, also known as Popular Theater Oscar Niemeyer, and located in the city of Niteroi , Rio de Janeiro. It was inaugurated in 2007 when the architect was in his 100th year

Photo by Giuseppe Bizzarri seen here. There is a gallery of more photos there as well

And you’ll get lots of info and pics at this site by an admiring Brazilian.

Above is a house he designed for himself, which was built in 1953. It broke a lot of rules at the time, but by now it just looks like the classic it is. The world has caught up to Mr Niemeyer after all these years. Well, not quite.

Above is the inside the 1953 Niemeyer house (at Canoas, Rio de Janeiro). The nice pictures of the house from here. And you can see more images of his houses at this site. Or much better, go find the book below.

We have the above book in our house. The houses are breath giving as well as breath taking. Everyone should have this book.

Mr Niemeyer has influenced lots of people, probably millions since so much of his work is so public. Of the architects he has influenced, one, a fellow Brazilian, is producing some of the most beautiful houses of today. This is a house called C16H14O3 designed by Marcio Kogan, another Brazilian.

More of Mr Kogan’s work at his website and at this appreciative post.

But back to the master before we go, and back to Brasilia.

Lovely photo of Itamaraty Palace, Brazilia by Oscar devotee photographer Leonardo Finotti. He has recorded most of Niemeyer’s buildings in Brazil on his photoblog

Above otherworldly image of Brasilia from here

The man with so many buildings to his credit and so many of then both unique and beautiful prefers not to talk about his work and his profession. Perhaps that keeps him, and his work, young:

When I talk about architecture, I feel like changing the subject. I’m interested in problems of life and the human being. Quoted here.

What needs to be said?

I like snapshots, photos of what is right there, just as it is, no rehearsal, no props, no choreography. especially street scenes, signs, and storefronts. And when they are taken by someone with a pure, bulls-eye gift for seeing what’s worth looking at, I can look a long long time, over and over.

American Walker Evans was maybe the best ever at this kind of thing. He caught these guys above having lunch as they spotted something amazing in the street. Image from here.

Walker Evans snapped this determined woman looking ready to do whatever it takes, finally. Image from here.

Real sign, real sign movers, caught for real on the street by Walker Evans. Image from here. More on Walker Evans here and here.

My town has been favoured with some great photographers ever since it became a town. Fred Herzog has been shooting the streets here for more than 50 years.

The foot of Main, 1968. Fred Herzog from here.

A bookstore on Main, 1963. Fred Herzog, from here

A young guy and his favourite store, 1959. Fred Herzog from here.

Our town’s first slim steel skyscraper in the distance, books, beauty, and radio repair up close, 1960. Fred Herzog, from here. More images from his gallery shown here.

One of the other top street shooters was Garry Winograd.

Above photo by Garry Winograd, title and and date unknown (by me).Image from here.

Photo by Garry Winograd, above, couple in a car, from here

Wig shop, taken by a great photographer of the street from England, Nigel Henderson. Not many images online. This one here.

Helen Levitt was amazing. This photo of hers from here

Above photo, also Helen Levitt , image from here

Above twins on Fifth Ave NY by Louis Faurer, less well known (by me) but I like what he did. Image from here

Last shot to Garry Winograd, 1959 on Park Ave NY, one of the best known streets in the world. Even monkeys know it, apparently. Image from here.

photo by pkdon50 via flickr

My town of Vancouver has its share of public art, much of it listed in a Public Art Registry run by the City. Very few pieces seem to get widespread praise and quite a few are disliked on sight and ever after by most of us. The one artist who got it right, I think, was Chung Hung. His work above is called Gateway to the Northwest Passage. It was installed in 1980, survived a blast of unkind remarks initially, and has gone on to become beloved, not only by me.

Just a year after the Gateway was installed, Chung Hung’s Red Spring appeared in Robson Square, the home of Vancouver’s Law Courts and the city’s unofficial civic centre, designed by Arthur Erickson. The Red Spring is not only a beautiful object, day and night, you can’t help smiling at the thought that it may be the main spring for the workings of the legal machinery going on around it. Chung Hung moved to Vancouver from China in 1969 and lived and worked here until his death in 1994.

Image by Joshc from Flickr.

Down the coast in Seattle, an entire park has been devoted to public sculpture. The above is a piece called Eagle by Alexander Calder.

No matter how large his sculptures, Calder’s work is always inviting and playful. Above is called Flamingo. It’s in Chicago. The man himself was big in stature and talent, but also humble and playful.



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