University Of Tasmania

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The dialectical nature of Cindy Sherman’s fashion photographs

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 22:33 authored by Llewellyn NegrinLlewellyn Negrin
This article seeks to interrogate the increasingly prevalent consideration of fashion photographs as ‘artworks’, independent of their commercial function. Using Cindy Sherman’s fashion photographs as a case study, I argue that they cannot be read either as a straightforward subversion of the fashion industry or, conversely, as totally subservient to it. While most of the writings about these works have focused on the ways in which they interrogate media constructions of feminine beauty ideals, the reasons for their embrace by the fashion industry have been largely neglected. I seek to address this lacuna by arguing that the challenging nature of Sherman’s fashion photographs, far from being antithetical to their commercial function, is precisely their source of appeal to the fashion industry. Her images are sought after by the fashion world, not because they adhere to the promotional tropes conventionally seen in fashion advertising but because they seek to distance themselves from them. This paradox can be explained by the fact that the economic success of elite industries such as haute couture rests increasingly on their ability to promote themselves as being ‘above’ commerce. It is this double-edged nature of her fashion photographs that enables them to operate simultaneously as critical interrogations of feminine ideals of beauty in an art world context, and as promotional tools within the fashion industry.


Publication title

Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty








School of Creative Arts and Media


Intellect Ltd

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Intellect Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

The creative arts; Visual communication; Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies