Enough subway rides are bound to expose you to the idiosyncrasies of New York City fashion. To pass my time between stations, I look for fellow riders who stand out. I have dreamt of capturing flamboyantly dressed fashion icons, like New York Times fashion and street photographer Bill Cunningham once did with his iconic portrait of Editta Sherman.
Cunningham set himself apart from other fashion photographers by not caring about who the model was, but rather what the model was wearing. He broke the rules in all genres of photography — he may have planned his street photos or taken his fashion snapshots without prior consent.
“See, a lot of people have taste, but they don’t have the daring to be creative,” Cunningham said in the documentary “Bill Cunningham New York.”
Despite breaking social norms and photographic rules, Cunningham’s style is emboldening. Through his decades-long career, Cunningham gradually reformed the public reception of his photography style. By the time he passed away in 2016, Cunningham had become a living landmark — photographers organically documenting New Yorkers’ fashion can be seen up and down the avenues of Manhattan.
“It’s not photography,” Cunningham said. “I’m just about capturing what I see.”
Seven years after Cunningham roamed the streets of New York, I went down into three of New York’s busiest subway stations — West Fourth Street – Washington Square, 14th Street – Union Square, and 34th Street – Herald Square — hunting for New Yorkers with looks daring enough to be photographed.
Try it out for yourself — take the stairs down into the subway stations and you will spot savvy dressers in the bustling crowd, breaking out looks with analogous or complementary colors, experimenting with the latest jacket trend and playing around with creative makeup ideas.