Cindy and the Lens
Do you enjoy posing for a photo? I do not. I remember dreading the ‘SAY CHEESE’ moments of family pictures, I could never seem to pull my self together and relax in front of a camera. But we are living in the era of self image making, so even people like me are getting used to striking a pose. To pretend they are in control of their situation and smile.
This attitude of performing in front of the camera was made an art by Cindy Sherman long before the selfie culture took over our lives. Being the last and far younger member of a big family she used dressing up as a way to draw attention. I guess she couldn’t have imagined back then how this tricky behavior would take over the rest of her life.
Of course she understood her arty nature and began her journey with paintbrush in her hands. But soon she found that world to be male - dominated and decided to carve out her own niche by taking photography classes. She decided to study art at SUNY Buffalo State, where she failed her introductory course in photography - another fail of our educational system to identify one’s capabilities. But she became interested in how Eleanor Antin, Adrian Piper and others were using role-playing in their work and fell in with a group of artists, including Robert Longo, who became her boyfriend. She and Longo moved to New York in 1977.
Sherman found the city terrifying as being shy and an introvert. So she stayed in and played dress up. And took pictures of her disguised self. That endeavour would somehow lead to her famous Film Stills series, ‘a hybrid of photography and performance art that reveals femininity to be effect of representation’ as described by Douglas Crimp who gave her the first coverage. Since then her art has influensed self-made imagery everywhere and has won every record an artist could desire.
She stars in all her photographs. She has raised critical questions on what it means to be female. She works solo in her studio and acts as director, make up artist, stylist and model. She denies every narcissistic hint in her work, as every sartorial choice projects a complete identity far apart from hers. Those pictures expose the societally constructed nature of preconceived female roles.
What really interests me in her work is the fact that her camera has always been lying, exposing performativity. Just like the thousands of Instagram posts in numerous so called ‘influential’ accounts - though these pretend to be true ... So I became curious to find out about her stance around street style photography and Instagram.
‘It’s business but there’s something dead about the whole thing’ she claimed while coming across with some accounts. She felt physically repulsed by them. And Project twirl was born. In it she posed as modern-day street style star in collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar. You can see her using high fashion creations with irony and wit by constracting caricature peackoking creatures when wearing them. The Gucci green suit in the picture above ? She found it so outhere that she might have actually wear it….!
And what about Instagram? Take a look at some of her latest pictures on her personal account :
Mock self portraits of ordinary people but cartoonishly caricatured - overmanipulated by apps. You know, the ones we all use to retouch our pics…a laugh at our society being obsessed with what we were programmed to consider as perfect.
Cindy is now 64 and lives in Soho. Her latest cover page is on The Gentlewoman. She considers to turn to film. I am filled with anticipation…