People Watching People

bill cunningham

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“He who seeks beauty, will find it.”

– Bill Cunningham

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New York, the city that never sleeps, has one resident, Bill Cunningham, who loves to capture that beautiful insomnia, and has been doing so for decades with a passion that is inspiring to behold.

When I was a child, I was introduced to that great game known as People Watching, and I have played it with delight ever since.

Originally it was taught to me as a way to pass the time (and keep a fidgeting child entertained) while in transit at airports. My mother used to choose an interesting looking person and then make up a story about who they were, what they did, where they were going, and what would happen when they got to their destination.

Later on it was developed into an art form by my father who used to take photographs of people in the street, on beaches, at cafes, and other people scenes, then he would turn those photographs into the muses which would inspire one of his paintings. He would invite me to go through his rolls of film with him in his studio and help him to choose images. Then I’d watch as he blended those images, as he did with his paints, and spread them onto a canvas until a scene of life being lived would appear.

I love watching people. I have a case of the Peeping-Tom-itis without the creepy aspect of it. I don’t do it covertly or where it is an intrusion. At least I don’t think I do. You can watch me watching you, I’m out in the open (and open to be watched too) and if you want to know what I’m thinking about what I’m seeing in you, you can ask me and I’ll tell you – it’s all good. At least I think it is. People are fascinating. You are fascinating.

I also love watching people watching other people, therefore certain documentaries hit a sweet spot for me. And one of my favourite documentaries of all time about people watching people is – Bill Cunningham New York.

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It’s a magnificent documentary about a man with a passion, for people, for fashion, for photography, for life, and for life flowing through people in glorious individuality. His passion comes across vividly on screen and is infectious.

If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it, you’ll come away from it feeling inspired (even if you’re not a people person).

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“The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, always will be.”

– Bill Cunningham

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