Picture of the Week #77: Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills


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Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled Film Stills’, examples of which you can see in this slideshow and gallery (click on the images below for a larger view), were taken in New York from 1977 to 1980. Sherman uses herself as the model for a series of set-ups which see her assuming the roles of various characters from imaginary movies, like a portfolio of stills from the career of an actress. Although we’ve seen none of these films, we recognise something of these character types: women on the run, waiting in a motel room for a lover, plotting a theft, regretting an infidelity – every expression, every setting, every prop is a prompt to create our own stories.  

What might seem like an exercise in fantasy, a professional game of dress-up, ends up poignantly conveying a sense of isolation, perhaps inadvertently encapsulating the limited options available to women in Hollywood; the feminist interpretation is there if you want it – Sherman shows how easily you can knock up a pre-fab female stereotype with a bit of make-up and a wig, and how readily the spectator will accept and participate in the construction and reinforcement of ideals of femininity. The staging is never glamorous, and always a little cheap and sparse, as if Sherman’s characters have been left stranded, out of time and out of context after the collapse of the studio system. From one picture to the next, she is troubled, locked in a private struggle with a story which is never explained to us; Sherman is invariably looking off screen, rarely returning the camera’s gaze, both exposed to us and simultaneously inaccessible, distant. In that sense, they offer a beautifully succinct summary of our tendentious relationship with the people we see on the screen above us at the cinema.



4 thoughts on “Picture of the Week #77: Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills

  1. Pingback: Cultural Myth (Figure 1) « Writing Post Literacy

  2. Pingback: Picture of the Week #82: The World’s Most Expensive Photograph | Spectacular Attractions

  3. Pingback: Cindy Sherman [Tableaux/Portrait] | Portraiture, Tableaux and Still-life

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