Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills is a suite of seventy black-and-white photographs in which the artist posed in the guises of various generic female film characters, among them, ingénue, working girl, vamp, and lonely housewife. Staged to resemble scenes from 1950s and ’60s Hollywood, film noir, B movies, and European art-house films, the printed images mimic in format, scale, and quality the often-staged “stills” used to promote films. By photographing herself in such roles, Sherman inserts herself into a dialogue about stereotypical portrayals of women. Whether she was the one to release the camera’s shutter or not, she is considered the author of the photographs. However, the works in Untitled Film Stills are not considered self-portraits.
Additional text from Seeing Through Photographs online course, Coursera, 2016
In her Untitled Film Stills, Sherman posed as various female characters from 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, and European art-house films we feel we must have seen. The series reads like an encyclopedic roster of stereotypical roles: the pert young career girl in the big city, the chic starlet at her seaside hideaway, the tough but vulnerable film-noir idol. “The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told,” Sherman said. Entirely fictitious, these “stills” deftly encapsulate the images of femininity that, through the media culture of movies, had a hold on America’s collective imagination at the time.
Gallery label from 2019