If you don’t know who Cindy Sherman is then…well, you’re probably not alone. I don’t mean that in the “she’s a nobody” sense, because in fact, she’s quite the opposite. She’s a photographer with 30+ years under her belt, who has made millions off of her famous self-portraits. What I do mean is this: she’s photographed so many different characters (though they’re all “her”) that it’s hard to tell who the “real” Cindy Sherman is. Her whole life’s work has been centered around dressing up as other people; what does the real Cindy Sherman dress up as? What does she pose for in real life? Some people have a hard time getting an idea of who she really is, because she’s famous for being who she isn’t.
I’m still thinking about her identity (better than having to figure out my own), but in the meantime, I’ve been asked to find a few compelling photos by her, and I’m starting with this one:
titled Untitled Film Still #3 of her Untitled Film Still series. She mentioned that these photos were meant to resemble film stills of European actresses; apparently they were notorious for looking like they were “in the middle” of an action or emotion, so that, in the film still, the anticipated emotion is ambiguous. I think that can definitely be said for this photo. The woman, cooking or about to cook, looks interrupted. By what? The way she rests her head on her tensed shoulders suggests someone (or perhaps a disturbing thought) has entered the scene. The way she holds her hand on her stomach suggests something like fear. Or, hell, maybe she’s just hungry and that’s why she’s cooking. The ambiguity of what has grabbed this bob-haired woman is what makes this photo compelling.
This photo is a part of her historical portrait series (note: other than her Film Stills, she doesn’t title her photos–go figure for someone trying to figure out her identity). It’s particularly interesting because, unlike the majority of her photos, this one shows a (actually fake) breast. It’s a pretty accurate recreation of Renaissance art, I think: a pale woman’s face, void of emotion, revealing herself for some omnipresent gaze, usually of masculine tendencies. I find it interesting that she doesn’t look at the viewer. She looks away, at someone or something else. Now for photo 3:
It’s from a relatively-recent series of photographs in which she wears vintage Chanel (jealous), with stormy landscapes in the background. This photo was interesting to me because of the strange clash of the character and environment; they seem to be of two different worlds. Her gradient opacity and the painting-like quality of the background create a confusing image resembling the nonsensical logic of dreams.
I highly suggest looking into her work; there are literally thousands of portraits of hers to check out. Maybe you can find your own identity in one of her characters.