Cindy Sherman

Born: New Jwesey, U.S., 1954

Cindy Sherman was born Cynthia Morris Sherman in January 1954, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey and grew up in Long Island, New York.

In 1972 she entered the State University of New York from which she then majored in painting before switching to photography. She graduated in 1976 and was first noticed in 1977 when she worked on “Untitled Film Stills (1977–80)”, a series of work consisting of 130 black-and-white self-portraits where she is seen depicting different female roles, many of which considered as clichés. The series is today considered as one of her best-known work.

When questioned about the series, she explained that it was “about the fackeness of role-playing as well as contempt for the domineering male audience who would mistakenly read the images as sexy.”

During the 1980s Sherman started using prosthetic parts and big amounts of make-up in her work. She developed a new genre that she expressed in colour films, shown on very large prints. Her style became darker; she began working on psychological disorders, insanity, and death, and sometimes featured mutilated bodies.

In 1986 she worked on a series of pictures called “History Portraits” inspired by the work of many great painters.

Her work mainly evolved around horror and grotesque, two themes very present in her 1985 series “Fairy Tales”, and then in her series called “Disasters” on which she worked from 1986 to 1989, and finally on her work in “Horrors and Surrealist Pictures” inspired from horror movies on which she worked for two years from 1994.

“I’m trying to make other people recognise something of them-selves rather than me.”

In the 1990s, she started introducing mannequins into some of her photographs, and in 1997 she directed the film “Office Killer”. Two years later she worked on allying violence and artificiality in an exhibition showing dark images of dolls and doll parts. She worked on that same theme again in 2000, posing this time as Hollywood women with disproportionate breast implants and great amounts of make-up.

That same year a retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Sherman is today 58 years old, she lives and works in New York. Her work is recognised internationally and she is considered as a pioneer in the field of post-modern photography.

The renowned artist, produced the Clowns cycle between 2003 and 2004, utilising digital photography to create vividly colourful backdrops and montages of various characters. Her untitled Society Portraits in 2008 featured characters that were not specific individuals but depicted the struggles with prevailing beauty standards in a youth- and status-obsessed culture. Sherman’s exhibitions have included a photographic mural accompanied by selected films at the Museum of Modern Art in 2012. She also explored the concept of reality and fantasy in her artwork.

In the realm of fashion, Sherman has collaborated with prominent brands such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Marc Jacobs. She has created advertisements, fashion editorials, and even designed jewellery. Sherman’s work has been influential, with many contemporary artists and photographers drawing inspiration from her innovative approach to portraiture.

However, her career has not been without controversies. In 2017, Sherman participated in a selfie project with W Magazine, which raised discussions around the concept of “plandid.” Additionally, she faced sexual assault allegations from male models, which she strongly denied.

Sherman’s work often explores femininity, representation, and the gaze, leading to discussions on its feminist implications. While some critics argue that her work challenges the male gaze and addresses feminist issues, Sherman herself does not label her art as explicitly feminist.

In terms of the art market, Sherman’s pieces have fetched significant prices at auctions, setting records for the most expensive photographs at the time. Her influence on contemporary artists, especially portrait photographers, is widely acknowledged. However, some attempts to re-stage her work, like James Franco’s “New Film Stills,” received negative reviews, being perceived as lacking depth and understanding.

Cindy Sherman Biography

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Written by Marine Lazarus

Marine Lazarus, an Anglo-French photographer who moved to UK 3 years ago to study journalism at Brunel University in London. Marine is responsible for our Photographers Biographies section.

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