Adults Playing Dress-Up – Bill Cunningham: Facades

So, you think kids are the only ones allowed to play dress-up? Renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham would disagree. The exhibition Bill Cunningham: Facades , currently on view at the New-York Historical Society through June 15, showcases a stunning series of photographs taken by Cunningham of models in period costumes all around New York City.

To dress his models, Cunningham shopped flea markets, thrift stores, and auction houses and collected over five hundred different outfits. The dream dress-up wardrobe he curated was then put to good use. Over the course of eight years (1968-1976), he photographed models in a variety of historic fashions in more than two thousand New York City locations.

His favorite model, muse really, was his good friend and fellow photographer Editta Sherman. She’s featured in the photographs below.

Blog photo 1
Grand Central Terminal, New York City by Bill Cunningham, ca. 1968-1976, New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

(Do you recognize the building in the background?)

Blog Photo 2
Editta Sherman on the Subway by Bill Cunningham, ca. 1968-1976, New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bill Cunningham

(Do you often see ladies dressed like this riding with you on the train?)

Apart from being a diverting project – filled with friends, dress-up, and jaunts throughout the city – Cunningham’s photographic essay (eventually entitled Facades) played an important role in documenting the architecture and fashion history of New York City. During a time of great change in the urban landscape, Cunningham’s photographs captured not only the distant past (which his models’ costumes evoked), but also the historical perspective of the time in which they were taken.

If history told through the art of photography is something you’d like to learn more about (and you are a rising 4th-8th grader), join us for Camp History in August! This year we’ll be exploring the Civil War and campers will get the chance to pose for their very own authentic, tin-type photo!


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