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Face Value

important New York architecture dressed in the fashions of the time...

Face Value

Although seemingly light-hearted, Façades – published as a book in 1978 – serves an important purpose as a document of architecture in a city which has a history of demolishing its treasures; the series began soon after the destruction of the much-mourned Penn Station...

Bill Cunningham,
Editta Sherman on the Train to the
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, ca. 1972.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

The New-York Historical Society (answers on a postcard as to the why or whatnot of its hyphenation) is currently conducting a guided tour of the city’s architecture, with photography as the medium and director Bill Cunningham calling the shots. This is a tour with a twist, however, as Façades – taken between 1968 and 1976 – adds a fashion aspect to the mix. Cunningham and his fellow photographer Editta Sherman, who acts as model and muse in many of the images, delve into their dress-up box and find period clothing which illustrates the age in which the building was constructed, giving a fascinating extra context. (Opened in 1904, the New York subway probably didn’t look quite how it did when the duo turned up in 1972.)

Cunningham donated the collection to the society in ’76 as his career moved towards capturing contemporary fashion through street photography. Although seemingly light-hearted, Façades – published as a book in 1978 – serves an important purpose as a document of architecture in a city which has a history of demolishing its treasures; the series began soon after the destruction of the much-mourned Penn Station. The exhibition runs through 15 June, as they say in the States.

@nyhistory

Bill Cunningham — Façades, New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham,
Paris Theater (built 1947), ca. 1968-1976.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham — Façades, New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham,
General Motors Building, ca. 1968-1976.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham — Façades, New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham,
Guggenheim Museum (built 1959), ca. 1968-1976.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham — Façades, New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham,
Grand Central Terminal (built ca. 1903-1913), ca. 1968-1976.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham — Façades, New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham,
Federal Hall (built ca. 1842, costume ca. 1910), ca. 1968-1976.
Gelatin silver photograph.
New-York Historical Society,
Gift of Bill Cunningham

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