I became obsessed with Cindy Sherman the first time I heard about her which was, of course, my first semester of college, majoring in Photography at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. (I won't go into, here, why I think majoring in photography was a bad choice for me, just bear with me. It was.)
Cindy Sherman. I think the reason I loved her work so much is that at that point in my life my whole personality was trying desperately to shift--shift into being something that this bigger, cooler, artsier New Yorkier world could embrace. I was trying on a series of costumes. Party Girl, Uptown Intellectual, Bohemian pot-smoker, Party Girl again. Cindy Sherman's work is all about costumes. Its about non-identity at the same time that its about universal identity tropes. Somewhere in there, something rang a bell for me. I was jealous of Cindy Sherman. Artistically and personally stuck, age 19 (and 20 and 21), I connected with the idea of becoming an everywoman of some sort--a film noir actress, a perky, sex-kitten librarian, a booze-soaked Joan-Didion ex-actress rotting away in the Hollywood Hills. These are clearly defined roles, and I wanted one.
But, alas, unless you have the genius of Cindy Sherman to take yourself out of reality and into your own fantasy (or someone else's), you're stuck with you. That's why I find self-portraiture (and portraiture in general) so interesting. Its about identity, always, but it can also be about escapism, or passion, or storytelling, or emotion.
Here are 9 portraits (self and otherwise), taken by some of my favorite Etsy photographers. They speak to a universe of themes, and each one of them, beautiful.