Cindy Sherman is an art photographer who takes pictures of herself. A few days ago, I saw the Cindy Sherman Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I was completely unfamiliar with her work, but a friend of mine had strongly recommended that I see the exhibition. I’m glad she did. 

Almost all of Sherman’s photographs are of herself. She is the photographer, model, wardrobe supervisor, make-up artist, and hairstylist. By carefully manipulating the camera, using photoshop, and employing costumes and make-up, she creates a different persona and story in each of her pictures. The MOMA is exhibiting several of her photographic series in which she explores gender, class, and the role of women in society. 

Sherman’s early work includes the Complete Untitled Film Stills. In this series of photos, Sherman poses herself as a B-movie, foreign film or film noir actress of the 1950s and 60s. The photos are in the style of movie publicity stills, but they really tell the story of how the media stereotypes women according to a set of expectations.

For me, the last gallery of the exhibition is the most poignant. Here, we have photos of rich middle-aged women (women of a “certain age”) clinging to youth through cosmetic enhancement, too much make-up and opulent clothing. We see tragedy and resignation in their materialistic shallowness. They are trapped in a set of expectations demanded of them by their class and society.