|Sherman's Untitled 153 (1981) broke the record this week for the most expensive photograph sold at auction|
But the date of the work – 1981—reminds us just how long-standing, influential, and thoroughly relevant the aesthetic of Sherman’s photographic self-portrait projects remain. These are images that speak to a culture of accelerated technological mediation and the tension between real life and “on-line” identities. As art historian Amelia Jones argues in her research related to the self-portrait photograph as a technology of embodiment, “The photographic self‐portrait is like history or the memory that forms it: it never stands still but, rather, takes its meaning from an infinite stream of future engagements wherein new desires and fascinations produce new contours for the subject depicted.”
|Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II (2001)|
In this sense, Sherman’s photograph has many thematic connections to the work it ceremoniously displaced, Gursky’s 99 Cent II (2001). Gursky’s is a photographic work focused on the superficial display of consumer goods, digitally manipulated to reduce perspective. In many ways, it is a self-portrait of a different kind, carefully reflecting the process of reification and new subjectivities engendered by our contemporary culture. It is also a meta-narrative that acts as a nice counterpoint to the much more intimate portrait provided by Sherman’s Untitled 153. Whatever the case may be, female artists and photography enthusiasts alike can rejoice for the moment in the landmark valuation of both the medium and one of its most important contemporary pioneers.
Henry Brown, David. “Look at Me: Self-Portrait Photography After Cindy Sherman” PAJ: A Journal of Performance Art 22.3 (2000): 47-56.
Jones, Amelia. “The Eternal Return: Self-Portrait Photography as a Technology of Embodiment.” Signs 27.4 (2002): 947-978.