The image I’ve used as the header image for this post is what drew me to the work of Cindy Sherman. I like this image so much that I decided to find out who created it and when it was done. I assumed that it was done back in the 1940s or ’50s due to the style of the shot and the clothing being worn within it. It was only when I researched into it a little that I found out it was just one of 70 recreations in Sherman’s series titled “Untitled Film Stills”.
This was a project Sherman created between 1977-1980 and is a series of images that are shot in the style of a movie. They aren’t actually recreations of specific films but are shot in a style to look like they came from a film of the period by the use of angles, props, poses and facial expressions.
The title image is called “Untitled Still #21” and was created in 1978 but in a 1950s style. The character in the image could be said to be looking at something going on out of shot that we’ll never know about. When I first saw this image and had no knowledge of who had created it, I assumed it was an actual film still of a scene where the woman has just eluded a pursuer by losing them in the busy streets of Manhattan. I came to that conclusion pretty quickly all from the brilliance of the composition and expression on the woman’s face and direction she is looking in relation to the way her body is facing.
Many of the images created by Sherman in other bodies of work seem to depict stereotypical ideals of women throughout the ages and their roles and the often unreachable expectations of what they have been expected to look and act like. One of her other famous bodies of work is titled “Cover Girl” where Sherman recreates magazine covers with herself doing her best impression of the original cover and then sending it up in another recreation by pulling some less than flattering face. These images were set out in threes; the original, the straight recreation and then the piss-take.
Now, I’m all for equal rights and women’s lib and all that, but what does annoy me is when people pretend to be all for that cause but are blatantly just using it to further themselves, their wealth or their own agenda, but this body of work did make me laugh as I think it’s an effective way of ridiculing what woman have been viewed as and expected to be in past generations. I get the impression that a lot of Sherman’s work is based on the stereotyping and using of women but, for now, the only bits of work I’ve studied of hers have been the two I mention above.
She says that the whole taking images of herself allows her to push her ideas and try things she might not in her studio were there other people around. Because of this, she likes to work in her studio alone but when she’s out on location, she has at times in the past utilised the help of friends and family to allow her to achieve the images she wants. This help is needed as Sherman acts as pretty much every role required during the process from hair and make-up to director to photographer.
She also says that the idea behind her taking images of herself comes from her childhood when she was the youngest in the family by some margin and felt like she had to do things like dressing up in costumes to get noticed. She was also fascinated by photos when she was younger and would keep asking her parents which one was her in pictures whenever she went through the piles of them that they had.
As is the case with all these artists I’m looking at over the summer break between the first and second years of my photography degree, this is just my initial look at the artist as I introduce myself to as many as I can in a relatively short space of time.