Profile of an Unusual Photographer - Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman does not want you to know what she thinks. For this reason she does not title her own photographs. Sherman wants the viewer to write their own narrative, and thereby engage with the often macabre, challenging and disturbing images she creates. In 1990 Sherman explained to the New York Times, "I feel I'm anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they aren't self-portraits... I disappear."

Born in New Jersey and growing up on Long Island, Sherman developed her unconventional style by using herself as her model. From 1977 to 1980 she dressed in wigs and costumes producing a series of black and white photographs depicting various "roles" women in films and society play, elevating playing dress-up to a whole new level. There is the prostitute, the housewife, the actress, dancer, damsel in distress. The collection of photographs is known as the Untitled Film Stills and was sold to the Museum of Modern Art in 1995 for $1,000,000 (US). In 2003 MoMA released the 69 images in a volume titled "Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills".

All images Copyright Cindy Sherman

From 1985 to '89 Sherman went on to change her style almost entirely, producing photographs commonly referred to as the Disasters and Fairy Tales series. This was Sherman's exploration into intentionally shocking and disturbing images with campy lighting and poses. In 1992 she continued the thought and went on to use tortured fragments of dolls and prosthetic body parts in sexually explicit poses, often photographed in extreme close-up to mimic classic horror film techniques of shocking and repelling while simultaneously drawing in.

All images Copyright Cindy Sherman

Recently Sherman has returned to using herself as model. At a show in her New York gallery, Metro Pictures, Sherman displayed a series of images of herself in the roles of iconic California women. The women represented are meant to be a "type", for instance the Divorcee or the Ex-Realtor. Contrary to some of her earlier works, these images are more straightforward, not as figurative.

All images Copyright Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman has greatly contributed to the current collective discussion of modern art by challenging widely held views of gender - what is beauty and what is ugly, both literally and figuratively. Says Sherman "I don't want people to be able to absorb the images, I want there to be questions in the work. I'm trying to engage the viewer to do a little bit of the work."

Sherman is featured on PBS's ART:21, Episode: Transformations, and her popularity is growing internationally. She has exhibited in Japan, Germany and France. Today the average selling price for her photographs is around $90,000 to $150,000 (US).

PBS's Art:21 -
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Filed under: Photo Extras November 18, 2009
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