You may not find her work too pretty, but it really isn’t supposed to be. Cindy Sherman is quite an inventive, interesting photographer, and one of the most commercially successful photographers of our time. Sherman’s work is very characteristic: she photographs herself in all of her pictures.
“Everyone thinks these are self-portraits but they aren’t meant to be. I just use myself as a model because I know I can push myself to extremes, make each shot as ugly or goofy or silly as possible.” here.
“I think I always resented the fact that people thought I was trying to entertain them with my multifaceted, chameleonlike character changes. Although I liked doing that, I wasn’t out to fool people and say ‘Guess which one is me.'” (here)
“Cynthia “Cindy” Morris Sherman (born January 19, 1954) is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. … Through a number of different series of works, Sherman has sought to raise challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art. Her photographs include some of the most expensive photographs ever sold. Sherman lives and works in New York.” (here)
I love that her photos are definitely, clearly ‘fine art’. And that her photos are both, totally NON documentarian and also documentarian. By that, I mean that her work is definitely based on idea and subject, rather than totally on subject (as a lot of beloved photography work is, e.g. National Geographic, famous portraits, etc.), but it is still presented in a way common to most subject-based work. All the photos exist to make a statement, yet they are usually presented to her audience in a traditional portrait.
“The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told.” (here)
Her intention behind her work:
“The work is what it is and hopefully it’s seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I’m not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff.” (here)
” I didn’t want to make “high” art, I had no interest in using paint, I wanted to find something that anyone could relate to without knowing about contemporary art. I wasn’t thinking in terms of precious prints or archival quality; I didn’t want the work to seem like a commodity.” (here)
“I was feeling guilty in the beginning; it was frustrating to be successful when a lot of my friends weren’t. Also, I was constantly being reminded of that by people in my family making jokes.” (here)
“When I do work, I get so much done in such a concentrated time that once I’m through a series, I’m so drained I don’t want to get near the camera.” (here)
So, a couple weeks ago, I was listening to This American Life podcast (amazing, by the way), and Ira Glass told a story about how he and his friend went to go see a show of Cindy Sherman’s work at MoMA in New York City. Apparently, while they were looking at the photos in the gallery, a woman came up to them and told them that she was Cindy Sherman. And they were totally excited and hesitant (I mean, look at her work! They are all photos of her disguising herself! Could it be her? Could it be her disguising herself? Could it be a total impostor?). And then, at the end of their meeting, the woman ‘admitted’ that she was not, in fact, Cindy Sherman.
Anyway, Ira interviews the friend he was with at the time to discuss the incident, and then actually gets Cindy Sherman on the phone (on the show) and asks her about the situation. He ends the segment by asking listeners to write in to the podcast if they had similar experiences, if they heard anything about the situation, etc. I think the story is actually immensely fascinating. Because what an ingenious and curious thing to happen! And also, even if the incident was totally independent of Cindy Sherman, the lady that did do this totally made the audience think about the work long after Ira and his friend had left the gallery. Anyway, it is a fabulous episode, I definitely recommend it!
(Click on all images to go to their original webpages.)