Reflective journal task
- choose 2 photographers from the lectures in the unit to evaluate and analyse
- one photographer must broadly address the question of physical likeness (via typology,visual accuracy)
- 2nd photographer must address ‘characterisation’ (prop.pose and image sequence)
Cindy Sherman is an American photographer best known for her conceptual portraits. Typically Sherman uses herself as the subject dressing up in different costumes to create vast characters. ‘Clowns’,’centerfolds,’fashion’ and ‘fairytales and disasters’ are a few of her collections where she uses extreme makeup, wigs and props to transform herself into different characters.
Her series ‘Untitled film stills’ (between 1977 and 1980) presented 69 black and white portraits where again she invented herself as different characters resembling moments in films. Characterization is used in this series through the use of her vintage clothing, wigs and makeup used to transform herself into different personas.As Sherman only used herself throughout this series without the use of these props and disguises she wouldn’t be able to create different characters and personalities as well as they are. I feel the whole idea of her series is based around characterisation with Sherman being the own director of how she wants herself presented and how the different images are set up to look like a freeze frame from a film. Sherman posed in different off guard stances also building up the characterisation of herself in the shot, for example mid speech or unguarded moments of reflection (shown in figure 2) which makes it seem like there’s a personality behind the model and a scene behind the photograph.
Opposite to the style of Cindy Sherman is the work by Thomas Ruff.Ruff is a German photographer who questioned the ‘truth-value’ of documentary photography. In his series ‘portraits’ he took “unglamorous portraits of ordinary people without expression”.Unlike where Sherman would create her characters through props and disguises creating personas Ruffs series suggests “its impossible to photographically represent a subjects inner life”.
The series of images creates a typology having each portrait plain faced, looking straight, posed with a plain white background, shadowless and cropping them to just the subjects head and shoulders.As shown in figure 1 the model has no expression and the style of his photos is quite plain with the model looking similar to someone you would just walk past in the street, The work is unmanipulated by Ruff with no influence on the models creating fake personalities, documenting exactly what is in front of the lens.
Ruff said, in centre national de la photographie 1997, his portraits acts as “both representations of individuals and standardized records of faces and bodies and therefore could be considered as a reflection on the truth value of the photographic portrait” Ruff wanted to show reality in his portraits and as his images are so raw within his sitters he presents physical likeness.