Bill Cunningham: Facades
Between 1968 and 1976, the fashion photographer Bill Cunningham and his friend and fellow photographer Editta Sherman set out to reconstruct the history of fashion in New York. Sherman would pose in period costumes in front of buildings of the same era—from St. Paul’s Chapel, built in 1766, to the 1968 General Motors building—and Cunningham would capture the image in black and white.
The eighty or so gelatin silver prints on display in “Facades” at the New York Historical Society present the results of this collaboration, during which Cunningham and Sherman collected over five hundred costumes and shot in more than different 1,800 locations. Cunningham and Sherman rummaged through the city’s thrift stores and street fairs for the project and one of the pleasures of the show is the detail of the costumes photographed: an 1804 embroidered muslin dress with shawl (sold as a protective wrapping around a porcelain vase), a three-piece eighteenth-century velvet suit found in a second-hand shop. The images are playful and animated. In one picture, Sherman stands outside the Guggenheim, her round fur hat mimicking the curves of the museum. In another, she poses before the neoclassical Federal Hall in the rigid stance of an ancient statue, as if inhabiting the spirit of the building itself.
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