/ The Electrifying Power of Photography

A photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is currently featuring the work of Cindy Sherman, a renowned artist who has pulled off a number of near-impossible feats in her 35-year career. Strikingly original, the exhibit includes 171 photographs created–and this the key word here–solely by Sherman herself.

How does she do it?

Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. She shoots alone in her studio and performs multiple roles, e.g., model, wardrobe mistress, makeup artist and hairstylist. She also designs the lighting, sets the stage and operates the camera.

In her work, Sherman is revealed and hidden, named and nameless. As she explained in an interview with The New York Times in 1990, “I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself. They are not self-portraits.

I think of becoming a different person. I look into a mirror next to the camera–it’s trancelike. By staring into it I try to become that character through the lens. When I see what I want, my intuition takes over. Seeing that other person that’s up there, that’s what I want. It’s like magic.

What has she achieved?

In her landmark 69 photograph series entitled the Complete Untitled Film Stills–and, for which she achieved international recognition–Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film-noir-style actresses. Fifteen years later, MoMA acquired this series for an estimated $1 million.

In 2010, Sherman’s six-foot-tall chromogenic color print, featuring her as a mud-caked corpse, was sold for $2.7 million. Last year, a print of a lovelorn woman clutching a personal ad while lying on a kitchen floor, fetched $3.89 million at Christie’s auction house.


On working with music

“I can’t work without it. And, it has to be the right kind. If it’s not, I get into a bad mood. I work with a remote so that I can change CDs instantly–if I need to.

On creating her photographs

“When I work, I get a lot done–in a concentrated period of time. But, once I’m through a series, I’m so drained I don’t want to go near a camera.”

On handling her success

“At the beginning of my career I was feeling guilty. It was frustrating to be successful when many of my friends were not. And, I was constantly being reminded of this by people in my family making jokes.”

COMMENT: Having recently viewed these photographs my feeling is this: be forewarned. Even though this collection is astoundingly creative, it is also quite disturbing. In fact, MoMA has posted a “warning” sign on the 6th floor entry to the exhibit.

Sources: The New York Observer, March 12, 2012, the Financial Times, March 3-4, 2012, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Wikipedia.

Photos: Courtesy Cindy Sherman and Metro Pictures, New York

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