Cindy Sherman

Untitled Film Stills is a series of 69 black and white photographs that all contain self-portraits of Sherman as different characters. The idea behind this series was to create billboard-like images to advertise a film. Each image shows a narrative; Sherman went to great detail when creating  her characters, their position and the area they are shot in.

In Contemporary Art: The Janet Wolfson de Botton Gift, p.99. Sherman talks about having a collection of clothing “more for my own personal wardrobe as well as for the sheer fascination with what those garments stood for”. Sherman’s many characters may have stemmed from her college days when she had these clothes that stood for something different to her. Each morning we decided what to wear based on our day ahead, how we’re feeling and how we want to be perceived. Clothing isn’t just clothing- it’s a form of identity. In these Film Stills, Sherman holds a new identity and narrative; she is interpreted differently and as different people.  It epitomises the way a certain look or pose can create a prejudice about that person, and yet she has done so many so what do we learn from all of these images of Sherman?

How dare you think any one of these is me. But also, see, I can be all

Interestingly, a camera captures the moment, a painting captures the painters view of the moment. But Sherman manipulates the trust people have in a photograph.

Sherman also did a series of 15 black and white photographs called based on people she had observed on the bus. This piece is interesting because it’s representing real life people that people the artist has seen. Sherman interpreted those people and made her own representations of their identity with outfits, make- up, wigs, props and their stance. Contrasting to the film stills series, these photographs look very staged and Sherman has made little effort to hide the evidence of staging these characters: leaving clothes in the frame and having the camera lead in the frame, and in one photograph there is an unknown leg appearing from the corner! …..

In the 80’s Sherman began using colour in her photographs, the following series of images were less focused on the theatrical aspects we see in the previous artworks and more about the psychological elements that person is experiencing. The series of Horizontals or Centrefolds were originally created in response to a magazine commission (which ended up refusing to accept them)- the magazine commission included two facing pages which led Sherman to think about ‘centrefold’s‘ in men’s magazines. In contrast to nude females in centrefolds, Sherman has the women wearing clothing but there is still a sense of vulnerability that is present with the photographs. I think it’s something about it a horizontal female – a woman standing up seems to hold a bit more power almost but when she is lying down she’s more vulnerable. As a viewer, I almost feel that I’m intruding on moments of sensitivity for the woman in the image. I think its the fact that none of them seem to be looking at the camera, they’re lost in their thoughts and their emotions. The roles Sherman plays in these photographs are displaying stereotypical female roles, which is an interesting way to convey irony with the centrefold tradition of female photography:


Another series that Sherman did in colour was the Pink Robe Series. The photographs in this series have a sense of mystery, in that she’s using a robe to cover parts of her up and we aren’t given much information, unlike her other works. This series got a lot of criticism for showing too much vulnerability but when you look closer at the images you see that the woman is holding her own power – she is the one choosing how much is seen, she is looking straight at the camera therefore aware and in control, and using the shadows to her advantage, also the expression on her face is quite strong willed. The Pink Robe series was inspired also by the centrefold idea but is vertical instead of horizontal.



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