UNTITLED FILM STILLS, a series of black and white photographs, taken between 1977 and 1980 were Cindy Sherman first real work as a professional artist and photographer, and yet became her most recognized and without a doubt one of the most influential work in contemporary art.
She imagined, modeled, styled, made-up and photographed all the characters herself, mostly in her flats and the streets of New York, occasionally with the help of a friend or family member, in a planned yet very casual and improvised manner.
Meant to look like, and mostly inspired by European film stills, they all play to some mysterious scenario.
Inhabited by solitary women interacting with, or part of, an out of frame drama, letting the viewer complete the story. The unseen becoming just as important, if not more, than what is seen in the picture.
Who is she looking at, who’s watching her, who’s following her, who is she talking to, all unanswered questions that leave us uncomfortable and give the pictures all their sense of drama and power.
Like watching a foreign movie with no subtitles, we are free to write our own story, add layers and offer different meanings than were initially intended.
A lot has been written about the significance and message of UNTITLED FILM STILLS especially from a feministic point of view, but what strikes me when I look at them is first and foremost Cindy Sherman’s love and trust for the picture itself, on its own, whatever context it is taken from.
She doesn’t really care what the film is about because one single still image gives her enough satisfaction as viewer and photographer.
Like Warhol said: “I don’t read, I just look at the picture”