Date of Award

December 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Jennifer Johung

Committee Members

Sarah Schaefer


Cindy Sherman, Instagram, photography, self-portrait, selfies, Untitled Film Stills


As a prominent artist of self-portraiture, Cindy Sherman has been captivating audiences and scholars for decades. Recently, some media outlets have begun generalizing all of Sherman's work under the selfie concept using her dual role as model and photographer as the defining factor along with her recent activity on Instagram. In this paper, I argue that characterizing all of Sherman's work as selfies is problematic and inaccurate while illustrating similar themes present in her early Untitled Film Stills series and more recent Instagram photos. First, I start by outlining the fundamental criteria for characterizing a photo as a selfie using the work of previous scholars of social semiotics. Next, I use prior analysis of Sherman's Untitled Film Stills to identify parallel themes in her Instagram photos while highlighting the differences in viewer reception and creation methods between both sets. Finally, I use the criteria of a selfie from section one and use the themes from Sherman's Untitled Film Stills and Instagram photos to show how the photos from both subvert the selfie concept. Ultimately the analysis of both sets of photos provides more understanding about Sherman’s Instagram photos and provides a unique case study for illustrating how selfies are a genre of self-portraiture and that not all self-portraits should be considered selfies.