The artist I looked at for this blog post was the infamous Cindy Sherman. She is most widely known for her Untitled Film Stills series, but I’ve only seen the most famous two of them, Untitled #7 and Untitled #21 and I’ve never gone into looking at her other works from the series. I set out to look at the book: Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills. This book contained her entire film still series, so I sat down with it for a moment to look at all the photos.
What I noticed with Sherman’s work is the attention to detail, it’s more obvious when the photos are printed out and you have the opportunity to look at them close up. The lighting is perfect in every shot and the subject matter is uncanny in some ways. They look like they are direct references to movies and films from the past but they, in fact, have no reference. They come off as familiar but you can’t put your finger on where they are from. Sherman is also the subject of all the photos that she takes, so while she is setting up the photos, she is also the subject. Making the photos more uniform in the series.
The film still that I looked at specifically is Untitled #13. The photo is of Sherman in a library picking out a book, it looks like someone or something has caught her attention from behind where the camera is positioned. It has really nice tonal value from bright whites to dark blacks throughout the photo, as well as a really nice balance and symmetry. I think the addition of having the books in the shot was a really good decision because you are intrigued to start reading the titles of the books. The problem is that they are slightly out of focus, so you can’t actually see what they are and if you know them.
I picked this film still because I thought it was ironic that I was in the library looking for her book and probably resembled her pose while searching the shelves. I’ve always enjoyed portraiture and capturing people in candid as well as very posed ways. One quote by Sherman that sums up this series really well is “I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they aren’t self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear.”. I find it interesting that she is the subject of every photo and she doesn’t even relate to the photos at all and they are a separate individual. That’s something I’d like to explore more in my own practice.
Usually I hate when people leave their work Untitled I find it very pretentious and in my own work, I find titles just jump out at me when I work on something long enough. I also feel like there are so many Untitled’s in the art world, so I gave it a try for my title (still not a fan).
Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2003