Why Kids Identify with Cindy Sherman’s Photos

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If you aren’t familiar with Cindy Sherman, she’s an artist/chameleon who has appeared in hundreds of her own photographs, dressed as characters from clowns to silent film stars to models from historical paintings. The appeal of these photos to children is fascinating. They can identify with this woman who is a famous artist! And she’s dressing up! As really weird people!



Untitled #119, 1983


When I first showed Fen some of these photographs, probably when Fen was 7, her little mind was blown and she refused to believe it was the same person who could possibly have made herself look so different.





These images obviously appeal to kids’ love for dressing up and playing pretend. These are absolutely the ultimate in changing personas, which kids are hardwired to do. Even as adults, we can take in the details and appreciate the massive amount of preparation that must go into each piece. And maybe we even secretly yearn to try out some of this role playing ourselves.

Studies have shown that kids who participate in dress-up develop a good sense of empathy for how other people may be feeling. It also encourages creative thinking and problem solving skills. (Hmm….how would Spidey solve this dilemma I’m facing with my blocks….?)



Untitled #213, 1989


In a 1985 interview from Bomb Magazine, Sherman said, “I think people are more apt to believe photographs, especially if it’s something fantastic. They’re willing to be more gullible. Sometimes they want fantasy. Even if they know it’s fake they can believe anything. People are accustomed to being told what to believe in.” (Wikipedia)


cindy_sherman #92

Untitled #92, 1981


There are an endless number of things to talk about with children when you are looking at these photos.

Why do you think she takes photos and doesn’t make paintings or drawings?

How do you think she is feeling in this photograph?

Is this a person you would like to know?

Do you think someone else is with her?

Would you like to dress up in one of these costumes?



Untitled #469, 2008


A retrospective of Cindy Sherman’s work was just on view at MOMA in NYC, and is traveling to:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (July 14–October 7, 2012); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (November 10, 2012–February 17, 2013); and Dallas Museum of Art (March 17–June 9, 2013)



  1. 06/21/2012 / 1:09 pm

    What a great idea – I never would have thought about doing this, actually haven’t heard of this artist, but what you say makes perfect sense about dress up and believing.

  2. 06/22/2012 / 11:44 am

    Wow, she is amazing! I think that she takes photos because maybe for her, the art is in the preparation for the photo. The makeup, costume and concept are probably just as much work {if not more} than working on a painting or drawing. Life imitating art. This is so cool!

    Visiting from SITS! Thanks for commenting on my feature!

    ~ Ferly
    Gifts We Use {to grow, love and serve}

  3. 06/22/2012 / 3:14 pm

    I didn’t realize that it was HER in all the photos. Does she paint as well?

  4. 06/22/2012 / 3:22 pm

    She doesn’t paint, but she’s a director as well as photographer. I think she started out n college in painting and felt too limited with it.

  5. 06/22/2012 / 3:23 pm

    I think you’re right- which would be right in line with kids enjoying the whole process of getting dressed up and exploring other personalities. It’s all about process!

  6. 06/22/2012 / 3:24 pm

    She’s great- you should check out some more of her photos!

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