Cindy Sherman – Untitled Film Stills

In feedback from my tutor: “Look at Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills project and think about how coherent the series is and how each image adds more to the series.”

 

I’ve been coming across Cindy Sherman’s work quite a lot recently, in various books I’ve been reading, and documentary series’ I’ve been watching, and have grown to appreciate her work a good deal more than the first time I saw it.

I like her attitude, which strikes me as unpretentious.  Referring to her early work, she said ‘I don’t theorize when I work. I would read theoretical stuff about my work and think, “What? Where did they get that?” The work was so intuitive for me, I didn’t know where it was coming from.’ (Sherman, cited in Bright, 2005:25)

Looking at the Untitled Film Stills series itself, there are some obvious consistencies that help the images hang together as a single body of work.

While the image dimensions may not always be exactly the same, the general format is consistent… landscape orientation, mimicking a still from a movie. They are (almost) all in black and white, with a very specific quality, like that of old B movies from the 50s. While the grey tones may not be exactly the same each time, that is logical, as not all movies would have the same tones… just as they would have varying qualities of film grain.  The inconsistencies are consistent.

A thing that is most striking, as a consistent feature, is Sherman herself. Apart from the obvious fact that she features in all of the images,  it’s her ‘performance’ that works so well. She is playing different characters, and so appears different each time, but there are these inscrutable facial expressions… you know there is something happening, something that is provoking a reaction, but you can’t quite work out what it is.

So while the locations may be different, the depicted characters are different, and the stories are different, you always know you’re looking at a moment in time, within a certain type of story, set in a certain era, with a certain mood.  You never know the specifics, but you know what kind of world Sherman is showing you.

 

Reference

Bright, S. (2005) Art Photography Now. London: Thames and Hudson