(1954 - ) is a modern photographer
and a major figure in American photograph
. Although her photography is often described as self-portraiture
, this is not really the case. Her pieces have nothing to do with Sherman’s self but everything to do with role-playing
, though she is the primary and sole model
in all of her shoots.
Born in New Jersey and raised in suburban Long Island, Sherman studied art at the State University of New York, Buffalo, where she became interested in photography. Ironically enough, her first year she failed because she couldn’t understand the technology. She began exhibiting in 1976. Apparently, a friend told her if she was going to spend so much time dressing up in front of a mirror, she ought to take a photograph of herself doing it – and so began her career. Though using different props and methods throughout her artistic career, Sherman used photography right from the beginning to challenge the images and myths of popular culture and mass media.
In her initial series that gained her widespread notice, the untitled “Film Stills” of the late ‘70’s, Sherman costumed and photographed herself in the guises of feminine roles, specifically as represented in B-movies. After exploring fashion photography for a while, in 1988 she turned to Old Master paintings for inspiration, and created a series of photographs in which she dressed herself up as figures from famous works by Caravaggio and Raphael, among others. These were not exactly “classic” as one might suppose but sometimes both terrifying and sexual. Her photography then took a bizarre twist to violent and somewhat revolting scenes of human bodies.
Sherman has received very mixed reactions from feminist viewers, who question whether she fights gender roles or perpetuates those same codes by constantly using female stereotypes. She has used many props in her work but the most prominent include various sex toys (particularly plastic dolls), garbage, and mail order teaching aids (particularly internal organs).
Her work is very hard to describe and she also comments very little on her work , so the best thing to do is go out and take a look. Her work can be shocking but is extremely powerful. She's got pieces in the MoMA (which owns her entire Untitled Film Stills) and lots of other museums.
However, I did find one quote of hers, which I like...
"Extremely 'beautiful' people are as freakish as what most everyone else would consider 'ugly'. That is why I would stare at a 'model' - because they are unnaturally 'perfect' by society's standards. So they are merely a curiosity. I like to look for beauty in places where people don't expect to or don't want to find it. But because nothing can improve on nature, I would rather invent things than photograph reality."
- In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Australia, June/July 1999 for Cindy Sherman: Retrospective