American Icons: Untitled Film Stills

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These are snapshots of America's collective unconscious.

Cindy Sherman grew up in the era when old movies filled our late nights. She wrote about going to a dinner party with her parents when she was a child, and ending up in the basement watching Rear Window alone. As an artist in the 1980s, she began taking self-portraits in costumes and settings that called those old black-and-white movies to mind — they were “stills” for films that didn’t exist, but might have. She would change in the back of a van and emerge on the street as an ingénue, a movie star, a soon-to-be murder victim. In a media-saturated age, Untitled Film Stills suggested that Sherman's identity as a woman was constructed from other people’s narratives. They influenced a generation of artists who play with identity as a kind of performance. Photography curator Eva Respini sees her influence much wider than that. “The selfie is not about who you really are. It’s about how you look at best in the camera to your friends, creating a narrative of what you’re doing.”

(Originally aired: October 11, 2013)

 

Slideshow: Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills

Music Playlist

  1. Carlotta's Portrait

    Artist: Bernard Herrmann Orchestra
    Album: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock - Original Soundtrack)
    Label: JB Production CH
  2. Prelude and Rooftop

    Artist: Bernard Herrmann Orchestra
    Album: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock - Original Soundtrack)
    Label: JB Production CH
  3. Jazz a Go Go

    Artist: France Gall
    Album: The Mood Mosaic 6
    Label: Yellow
  4. Theme 4

    Artist: johnny_ripper
    Album: Soundtrack for a Film That Doesn't Exist
  5. Cloudhead

    Artist: johnny_ripper
    Album: L'Esprit d'Escalier
  6. Heart is Hard to Find

    Artist: Jimmy Eat World
    Album: Invented
    Label: DGC/Interscope
  7. Evidence

    Artist: Jimmy Eat World
    Album: Invented
    Label: DGC/Interscope

Untitled Film Still 3, 1977
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches 

Untitled Film Stills is a series of 70 photographs that Cindy Sherman captured starting in the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Among her extensive body of work, the Untitled Film Stills is the only series Sherman has titled. While individual stills frequently appear with a number, these numeric titles were not chosen by Sherman. The numbers that accompany each photo are inventory catalog numbers from her gallery that have been widely published to distinguish one still from another. For this reason, and because we refer to these numbers in our feature, we have used the same numeric system here.

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 10, 1978
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

 

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 16, 1978
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 21, 1978
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

Often called "The City Girl," this still centers Sherman in an ominous cityscape as if she just stepped off the bus from Kansas.

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 24, 1978
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 25, 1978
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 27, 1979
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 34, 1979
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 48, 1979
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 52, 1979
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 54, 1980
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )

Untitled Film Still 83, 1980
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches

Helene Winer took this still at Sherman's direction. She remembers thinking, “Ooo, these are going to be the worst ones, the most terrible ones because she’s not doing anything.” Instead, Sherman looks like a glamorous Italian movie star fleeing the paparazzi.

( Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York )
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