Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thoughts on “Bill Cunningham New York”

Bill Cunningham New York

This was a pleasant documentary following the legendary Bill Cunningham. It gave a few details about his history and his personal life, but it mostly just showed Bill being Bill. What struck me about this movie was all of the dichotomies.

Bill Cunningham is the godfather of the street fashion photography. But it was clear in this movie that he’s still a man of the people. He’s still on the street every day. He does other things too, but his primary thing is taking pictures of clothes. He’s the ultimate recorder of the people, working for one of the biggest institutions. Meanwhile so many of the people he inspired started on free blogs taking pictures of the street and moved to a little fancy pictures of celebs and models, and writing books and only taking pictures of fancy people. Bill is the people’s street fashion photographer, even with the clout of the New York Times. Which stands in contrast to all of the street fashion photographers on the web, which use the people’s platform (i.e. internet) to be sort of elitist.

[Rambling, I had a point somewhere in there, but it fell apart pretty quickly.]


So earlier this week Merlin Mann published a long, insightful, awesome, self-reflective, [insert more platitudes here] essay titled “Cranking.”

Go read it. Seriously. Go read it now.

I’ll do it a huge injustice and say it was about a lot of things, but a lot about priorities. He talks about his father and his daughter and how these things play into his process right now. I think the piece is yeoman’s work.

At the risk of being on the wrong side of the piece and its message, there was one bit that really struck a chord for me:

In fact, a depressing amount of the time–really up until this week–I would do my job until I hadn’t the slightest idea what time it was or what bullshit I was typing or what my crank was ever meant to be attached to in the first place.

But, even when my shitty little crank was not attached to anything, I did keep cranking. Because, Dads do their job. It’s what they do.

They crank. They crank and crank and crank and crank.

The emphasis is added. That’s me. Not me as in “I emphasized that bit,” but me as in my mindset. See, I can hate a lot of things about whatever I do, but all it has to be is a means of providing for my family. And not even so much my immediate family (although that is the most direct need), but my family in a larger sense. I don’t mean my extended family, rather, I think about it generationally.

I’m a second generation American. And while I’m not a raging success, by almost any account, I made good on my parents’ wishes when they came to this country: a better life. By those measures, I’ve (and my sister) have taken our family to that next step. So what I do in my life is all about providing. Providing my family now a life. But also providing my family generationally another wrung on the ladder to climb up.

So I crank.

And I think that’s the job. I’m not presently a father, but I relate to that bit of writing my Merlin Mann, at least that part about Dads doing their job. I relate to the rest of it and am inspired by it, but more than anything else, I recognize that I just crank. And while it can feel soul-crushing at times, I do it with a purpose that lets me keep at it, almost in the face of logic.

This is a poorly conceived post, but I’m putting it up anyway. I hope I can keep revisiting and revising it to make it something worthwhile, but I just needed something out there because Merlin Mann’s piece really spoke to me on a few levels.

Go read it now. Seriously.