Cindy Sherman (1954-) Uses photography as her medium and has done so with much success. “ There was nothing more to say through painting. I was meticulously copying other art and then I realised I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead.” After her 1976 graduation, she moved to New York and began taking photographs of herself in a series of 69 photographs known as the Untitled Film Stills . This is her most well known and recognisable body of work.
"Untitled Film Still #6" 1977 What is the subject this photograph is portraying? What connotations/influences does this photograph draw on? Does this image respond to the historical portrayal of women as object? If so how?
# 6: Photograph looks like a movie still –”The blonde Bombshell caught in an unguarded moment at home.”
Sherman places herself in the role of B-Movie actresses. Her photographs show her dressed up in wigs, hats, dresses, clothes unlike her own, playing the role of characters.
While these photographs may be mistaken for portraiture they are really something quite different.
By titling each of the photographs “Untitled”, Sherman depersonalises the images.
She plays a type –not an actual person, but a self fabricated fictional one.
Questions the role and representation of Women in society.
"Untitled Film Still #6" 1977
Untitled film still #7 What cliché’ does Sherman illustrate here? Sherman peers from the Piano glass doorway, like a chic starlet at her seaside hideaway.
Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still # 10, 1978
Untitled Film still no.14 The domesticated sex kitten? The goddess as dutiful housewife? What cliché is Sherman playing out in these two works?
Untitled Film Still #11. 1978. How would you stereotype a Cindy Sherman persona?
Different persona in each picture.
The vast majority of her protagonists seem bored and boring, self-absorbed and unhappy.
Most of the women Sherman portrays seem untouchable. They are like the sullen, artificially glamorous women we see in many advertisements.
Images lack any obvious humour.
How would you stereotype a Cindy Sherman persona?
The untitled film stills are effectively set pieces. –B-grade movies, Hollywood connotations.
They look like what any indiscriminately chosen frame would present if you had the old VCR movie on pause.
Most of the women Sherman portrays seem untouchable.
Her performances seem familiar to us because they look the way women look in film and video –with an arrested, frozen aspect to all her expressions.
Describe the world which Sherman’s persona’s inhabit?
Cindy Sherman, Untitled (Film Still #30) , gelatin silver print, 1979 If this were a real photograph, how would our interpretation of it change?
This is a frightening photograph. Two darkened windows frame a battered woman's head. She is stunned, mouth opened in shock. Her face is severely bruised; her wide-opened eyes blackened. Sherman, presents her subject in an unforgiving close-up. If this were a real photograph of an abused woman, we could find it an invasion of privacy and too difficult to look at. But it is not a photograph of an actual person. It is a staged scene. Cindy Sherman, Untitled (Film Still #30) , gelatin silver print, 1979. If this were a real photograph, how would our interpretation of it change?
Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills #13 “ The luscious librarian”
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, #15, 1978. Gelatin-silver print, 9x 7 inches. Edition 2/10. How do Cindy Sherman’s works comment on Hollywood and in Media Representations in general? Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, #15, 1978. Gelatin-silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 7/16 inches. Edition 2/10. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director’s Council and Executive Committee Members. 97.4573. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, #15, 1978. Gelatin-silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 7/16 inches. Edition 2/10. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director’s Council and Executive Committee Members. 97.4573. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still, #15, 1978. Gelatin-silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 7/16 inches. Edition 2/10. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director’s Council and Executive Committee Members. 97.4573.
By masquerading in a series of conventional female cinema roles such as the lover or the young housewife, as if a character in a melodrama, she draws attention to the way that Hollywood cinema has contributed to stereotypes about women.
Knowing that this is a faked shot complicates matters. Is it a joke in poor taste? Or, is the photographer saying something more serious? Sherman asks us to think about the typecast roles women play as shaped by popular media and the expectations of society—pinup, fashion plate, housewife, the battered woman, among others. As real as these types may be in actual life, Sherman would like us to see them as created by a culture whose values have been traditionally those of men in power. We are asked to question those values.
This calls attention to the stereotyping of Women in films, television and magazines.
How do Cindy Sherman’s works comment on Hollywood and in Media Representations in general?
Untitled Film Still #58" Streetwise and world weary Damsel living it fast in the big city. What cliché is Sherman playing out in this work?
Untitled Film Still #48 1979, reprinted 1998
How do Sherman’s photographs relate to the Artistic tradition of Self portraiture?
Contrary to the media images they appropriate, which may require a transparent sense of realism to sell an illusion, Sherman’s stills have an artifice that is heightened by the often visible camera cord, slightly eccentric props, unusual camera angles. Traditionally, self-portraiture has been a form of auto-biography. There is an attempt at self-exploration, self-definition, and self-revelation. Not Sherman. Her work is more about assuming roles for the camera to immortalise than it is close to the tradition of self-portraiture. She rather casts herself as director and actress. Just as her photographs are artificial realities, so too do viewers become aware of how the roles she feigns are constructed, not natural—the result of social values, not nature. How do Sherman’s photographs relate to the Artistic tradition of Self portraiture?
Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977–80) have been canonized as a hallmark of postmodernist art because they utilize mass-media codes and techniques of representation in order to comment on contemporary society. Andy Warhol used pop-culture as raw material for his art. For Sherman it is her whole artistic vocabulary –and it comes ready made. Though billed as explorations of female identity, their appeal is misogynistic. Contextualising the work of Cindy Sherman Her work ‘not art photography, but art, period. “ She has succeeded in presenting her work as art, not photography, and has avoided the lower sales price and more modest attention that photographers are accustomed to receive.”