Cindy Sherman in 1985: Photographing the Photographer


On Halloween, October thirty first, 1985, photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron toted her trusty Hasselblad and tripod and arrived for a portrait session in downtown New York. Her topic was well-known photographer and artist Cindy Sherman.

Sherman as soon as stated, “I want I might deal with day by day as Halloween and dress up and exit into the world as some eccentric character.” However this Halloween day, she wouldn’t be adorning herself with wigs and taking self-portraits “because the jaded seductress, the sad housewife, the jilted lover, and the weak naif” as Kristen Gaylord, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Division of Pictures, MOMA described a few of her personas.

When Barron arrived, Sherman was wearing a easy shirt and pants; that was how she was photographed. Barron simply presumed that she needed to be photographed that approach and didn’t ask her to vary or get into one in all her characters.

Barron was somewhat nervous as she entered the well-known photographer’s downtown studio.

“I’m all the time nervous earlier than a shoot — even now — however that goes away as soon as I’m within the door and behind the digital camera,” Barron tells PetaPixel. “She [Sherman] appeared fairly comfy, however I actually don’t know! I hope she was.”

The Easy Digicam Tech

Barron, whose photographic mantra is “maintain it easy,” positioned her Hasselblad 500 C/M on a tripod (as that was her most well-liked mode with the somewhat heavy sq. format digital camera) and slapped on a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4 (a easy four-element, three-group design that took nice photographs even within the earlier uncoated variations). The 120 movie was Tri-X 400, and he or she uncovered 4-5 rolls within the subsequent about one hour that she was there.

The shoot took “lower than an hour, I believe,” Barron recollects. “I by no means keep too lengthy.”

It was all shot in accessible window mild – no reflectors.

“Perhaps a few times in my profession [I have used a reflector],” she explains. “I hate these issues — can by no means get them to fold up!”

Barron positioned her in Rembrandt lighting from the home windows and measured the incident mild hitting her face as she was involved about getting an excellent publicity.

“I positioned her in that mild — it simply appeared proper,” says the photographer. “I all the time used a Sekonic mild meter. I all the time was [worried about correct exposure] and all the time will likely be. I believe the worrying retains me on my toes.

“I’ll allow you to in on somewhat secret — again then, I typically used a softening filter, particularly when photographing girls.” [She lets me in on her secret when I tell her that I am seeing something unique in the soft skin tones.]

This easy association allowed Barron to function single-handedly with none assistants or assist.

“I solely had assistants on industrial jobs,” she says. “Once I’m taking a portrait, I just like the intimacy of being within the room alone with the topic.”

Barron Began Younger in Pictures, Very Younger!

Barron developed familiarity with roll movie when she began taking footage with a Kodak Brownie at age 9 in Atlanta, the place she was born. Subsequent in line was a Polaroid Swinger.

“At round 14 or 15, I purchased a used Mamiya 35mm digital camera,” remembers the portraitist. “Once I was in my early 20s, I purchased a used Hasselblad 500 C/M and that was my most well-liked digital camera for years. I’ve gone by a number of Hasselblad our bodies and plenty of movie magazines since then — I nonetheless love that digital camera.

“My father was an excellent beginner photographer. He had a darkroom and taught me learn how to print. That was a lightbulb second for me. I turned a full-time photographer in my early 20s.”

Barron was so anxious to get into images that she left school on the finish of her first yr to check on the Worldwide Heart of Pictures at its authentic location on higher Fifth Avenue in New York Metropolis. She spent three years there, from round 1977 to 1980.

Proper round that point, Kathryn Bigelow (the primary lady to win the Academy Award for Greatest Director with The Damage Locker) and Barron’s brother Monty Montgomery had been taking pictures Loveless with William Dafoe’s first main position. She landed the job of nonetheless photographer and discovered quite a bit from watching the cinematographer and lighting crews.

Barron’s real love was portraiture, and earlier than arriving at Sherman’s doorstep, she had taken an excellent variety of portraits — 20 or 30.

“For the portrait on Halloween Day 1985, I had known as Cindy prematurely and made a date to return down and {photograph} her in her studio,” the photographer remembers. “That’s the best way I did it in these days. It was quite simple, really — no emails and texts forwards and backwards, only a cellphone name. Arduous to think about lately.”

The Ebook and Restricted-Version Portfolio

Quick ahead to 2020, and Nick Groarke of NJG contacted Barron proper after seeing an article From Warhol to Basquiat: behind a revealing set of artist portraits in The Guardian.

“He needed to debate probably doing a little tasks with me,” says Barron. “Since this was through the pandemic and we additionally dwell on completely different sides of the ocean, we had many Zoom conferences and designed the Cindy Sherman e book nearly.

“We lastly met in individual a yr and a half later and spent a day in my studio taking a look at every little thing for future tasks. We have now many books and tasks within the works proper now.”

CONTACT (NJG, 2021) is the whole sitting of forty Cindy Sherman portraits, together with 4 contact sheets and the photographer’s authentic markups in Sherman’s studio. What characterizes these portraits is a form of transparency, a fact of types. Photographed with out the fanfare of the numerous props, make-up, or wigs, Sherman is her personal topic.

The e book is named Contact as a result of there are contact sheets proven within the e book.

“I believe it additionally might confer with having the form of contact one has when taking a portrait,” explains the artist.

Hahnemühle FineArt Picture Rag is the paper that Barron now makes use of for all her digital printing.

“And I’ve three printers,” says Barron. “Chad Kleitsh in Rhinecliff, New York, and Jochem Schoneveld in Rome, Italy (I work there quite a bit). And Pete Mauney in Tivoli, New York, makes my silver prints and does all my drum scans.”

On Going Digital

Barron tailored to digital very slowly. The truth is, she resisted it for an extended whereas and her analog photographer associates instructed her to not do it. Ultimately, she did make the swap.

She nonetheless shoots on movie, however digital makes up for 80% of her work lately.

Barron, who lives in Connecticut and Rome, Italy, for a part of the yr, at present makes use of Fujifilm’s GFX system, together with the smaller Fujifilm X100V.

“I additionally love my Fujifilm GFX670 movie digital camera,” she says. “I apply it to the 6×6 mode. And I nonetheless use my Hasselblad often. I really like the iPhone and use it for my Desk Tops.

“I’ve even taken some good portraits with my iPhone. The good factor is it’s all the time with me, so I by no means miss a photograph. I took many photographs for my e book, Roman Hours, with an iPhone.”

Barron loves photographing artists and inventive individuals.

“I’d say that Cindy is one on the highest of the record,” she says of her most memorable topics. “Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jasper Johns, Keith Haring, Bianca Jagger, and Ryuichi Sakamoto all come to thoughts. I simply photographed Eileen Myles out in Marfa, Texas, and liked that have.”

Barron’s all-time favourite picture is her portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

“I like the best way he appears to be rising from the shadows — I believe it form of mirrored what was taking place in his life at that second,” says the photographer. “I additionally like the best way he’s taking a look at me so immediately. I did arrange Lowel Tota-Lights for that shot.”

“One of many nice issues about being a portrait photographer is having the chance to fulfill all of those fascinating individuals. And a few of them turn into associates.”

Barron appears to have achieved all of it within the final 4 many years, however she is much from achieved.

“Proper now, I’m on an actual portrait jag and loving it,” she admits. “I’m all the time taking photographs of Tabletops with my iPhone, particularly after I’m in Italy. And I’ll get again to my colour Mirrors (shot with my Fujifilm GFX) later this summer season. I’m in the midst of designing a number of books and {a magazine} shoot now, so I’ve a reasonably full plate.”


In regards to the writer: Phil Mistry is a photographer and trainer primarily based in Atlanta, GA. He began one of many first digital digital camera courses in New York Metropolis at The Worldwide Heart of Pictures within the 90s. He was the director and trainer for Sony/Fashionable Pictures journal’s Digital Days Workshops. You possibly can attain him right here.


Picture credit: All photographs by Jeannette Montgomery Barron and courtesy of  NJG.



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