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Fashion Meets Architecture in Revived Photo Essay

In 1968, photographer Bill Cunningham began a playful project posing models wearing clothes that match the vintage of the landmark in the background.

In 1968, photographer Bill Cunningham began "Facades," a project that involved posing models in front of New York City architectural landmarks, with the playful twist that models would be wearing clothes of the same era as the construction of the landmark. Fellow photographer, Editta Sherman, who was also Cunningham's neighbor, posed in many of the photos.

A book of the images was published in 1978, but Cunningham recently donated 88 gelatin silver prints from the series to the New-York Historical Society which are featured in a current exhibition.

The passage of time has added a new layer of complexity to Cunningham's photos as the model's surroundings, the bystanders and cars in the background, are transformed into historical curiosities. A graffiti-covered subway car in one photo becomes a telling emblem of a bygone New York.

ABOVE: Editta Sherman poses in front of the "News" plaque at the entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza, formerly the home of The Associated Press. The piece was designed by Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi in 1940. It shows five journalists working on a breaking story.

Editta Sherman poses in a period costume in front of the Gothic Bridge in Central Park, which was designed in 1860. The bridge gets its name from the Gothic Cathedral style curves of the ironwork.Bill Cunningham / via AP
Editta Sherman rides the subway dressed in a Victorian period costume to a photo shoot at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1972. Cunningham and Sherman, a celebrity photographer of famous artists and musicians who died at age 101 last year, were neighbors in the famous Carnegie Hall Studios. They often rode the subway to the various locations to avoid wrinkling the costumes. The first underground subway line was built in 1904, just a few years after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.Bill Cunningham / via AP
Editta Sherman wearing a costume ca. 1910, poses in front of Federal Hall, which was built ca. 1842, in New York.Bill Cunningham / via AP
Editta Sherman poses in front of St. Paul’s Chapel and Churchyard, which was built ca. 1766-96, in New York.Bill Cunningham / via AP

"Bill Cunningham: Facades" runs through June 15 at the New York Historical Society.

Video: Valerie Paley, historian for the New York Historical Society, discusses the exhibition.