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Guide to the Bill Cunningham "Facades" Photograph Collection
circa 1970's
 PR 307

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on March 17, 2016
Description is in English

Descriptive Summary

Title: Bill Cunningham Facades Photograph Collection
Dates: circa 1970's
Abstract: Photographs by famed New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham of his friend, neighbor and fellow photographer Editta Sherman posing in period costumes in front of NYC buildings matching the same era as her clothing. These photographs were published in the 1978 book Facades.
Quantity: 0.8 Linear feet (1 box)
Call Phrase: PR 307

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Biographical/Historical Note

William J. "Bill" Cunningham (born March 13, 1929) is an American fashion photographer for the New York Times, known for his candid and street photography. A Harvard dropout and Army veteran, he was a milliner and fashion photographer before he began photographing passers-by on the streets in 1978. He was a pioneer in focusing on fashion as the public wears it, not as presented by models, editors, stylists and fashion photographers. His photographs are featured in two long-running and hugely popular weekly columns in the Times: "On the Street," in which he identifies fashion trends as he spots them emerging on the street; and "Evening Hours," his ongoing coverage of the city's charity galas and society parties.

In 1968, 20 years after his arrival in New York City, and before he made his name chronicling fashion and society in pictures for the New York Times, Bill Cunningham began another fashion project, a body of work that became a 1978 book, "Facades." The book was a collaboration with his friend, fellow photographer and neighbor at Carnegie Hall Studios, Editta Sherman (aka "The Duchess of Carnegie Hall"), who was, like Cunningham, a devoted collector of vintage clothing. On weekends, Cunningham photographed her on the streets of New York wearing ensembles put together from their collections. Each image matches clothing with architecture that exemplifies the period, ranging from the late 18th century to the 1950s. This collection consists of the 91 gelatin silver prints from the series, which Cunningham donated to the New-York Historical Society when the book was completed.

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Scope and Contents Note

This collection consists of 91 photographs by Cunningham of his friend, neighbor and fellow photographer Editta Sherman posing in period outfits in front of buildings of the same era as her clothing. Cunningham and Sherman scoured antique shops, street fairs and auctions for period clothing and conducted painstaking research to identify appropriate matching buildings. The project took eight years to complete and culminated in a 1977 exhibition at N-YHS and other venues, as well as the 1978 book Facades, also held by N-YHS.

Arrangement Note

Photographs are arranged in chronological order of the date of the costumes and buildings depicted.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Available by advance appointment only. To schedule an appointment, contact the Print Room Librarian at printroom@nyhistory.org. Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Use Restrictions

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to:

Department of Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as: Bill Cunningham Facades Photograph Collection, PR 307, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

The library also holds a copy of the 1978 book Facades, call number Print Room Ref NA 2840.C97.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Gift of Bill Cunningham, 1976.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Fashions and Facades, 1766-1836
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Fashions and Facades, 1840-1875
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Fashions and Facades, 1885-1890
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Fashions and Facades, 1893-1905
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Fashions and Facades, 1911-1919
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Fashions and Facades, 1920-1929
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Fashions and Facades, 1930-1939
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Fashions and Facades, 1940-1968
circa 1970's
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Editta Sherman in costume on graffiti-covered subway car

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