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What do Cindy Sherman's costumes mean in an age of Photoshop?

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Rachel Wetzler examines how the work of Cindy Sherman, a photographer known for transforming herself through makeup and costumes, has been changed by the ubiquity of Photoshop editing.

Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman

Long before the advent of modern Photoshop techniques, photographer Cindy Sherman was transforming herself on film with makeup and costumes, becoming a corpse, a B-movie actress, or the subject of an Old Master portrait. Now that digital manipulation has made such images simple to create — to the point that Sherman herself uses the software — Rhizome author Rachel Wetzler wonders how this might change the way we see Sherman's work. "For those of us who first encountered Sherman’s photographs before 'Photoshopped' became part of the vernacular," Wetzler says, "her work carries rather different connotations: it is less about a process of editing or altering the image than one of altering the self." In a world where it's assumed every image has been tweaked and manipulated, how do people see a photograph that is both completely "real" and portrays something that's obviously false?