The word ‘picture’, used colloquially, is also nonspecific. A picture book could be a book of drawings or photographs, and in common speech a painting, drawing, or simply a print is often called a picture. Equally important Crimp defines a picture in its verb form to refer to a mental process as the production of an aesthetic object.
The rationale behind Crimp definition is that he moves away from the catalogue text for pictures and focuses on specific issues and an aesthetic phenomenon of a picture. Aesthetic, in the world of art, is used to illustrate the principles and position of nature, as well as an appreciation of beauty. It entails judging the beauty of the picture. Crimp’s definition tries to bring the judgment of a picture in a subjective approach. This definition pulls us from the original exhibition based photography to a more contemporary approach where certain features of photographic images differ in the way they please the viewer. It is pegged on the simple fact that humans tend to extract certain visual features on the basis of intuition where they can discriminate between aesthetically pleasing and displeasing images. There is a general feeling that Crimps definition was intentionally molded in a way that it would function as a transformation. The transformation would be from the earlier catalogue text based pictures to a more humane aspect of pictures where the human aspect of intuition would be involved in the pictures.
Douglas Crimp uses the photo of Cindy Sherman to help us understand the modern photographic production. In the photo, we see a young woman, wearing a suit and hat with a style coming from the 1950s. She looks what then would be a career girl, and this can be told by the fact that she is surrounded by office towers of the big city. Crimp helps us understand the presentiment aspect of the picture by concentrating on facial aspects of a person. He easily points out the suspicious glance of Cindy Sherman. He provides several aspects that could make a picture presentiment, such a juxtaposition of close-up face with distant buildings.
The picture under scrutiny is a still photograph from one of Cindy Sherman series’. In such a photograph one cannot tell what is happening but surely something is happening. Douglas helps us understand more about a still photograph. According to him, a still photograph is one that is seen to announce itself as a direct transcription of the real through transcending both space and time and contravening that very fragmentation aspect. This is the status-quo of a still photograph. Crimp however helps us to further analyze Cindy Sherman’s photo which is of interest and which does not conform to the fore-said status-quo. Cindy Sherman’s photo appears in fragments just like snapshots; however, the fragmentation is not of the usual continuum, but rather of a syntagmatic sequence that is segmented temporarily. In other words, they are like quotations from the frame sequences that make up the narrative flow of the film.
Crimps help us understand this psychological shock from this very special type of photograph. Where he says that the best way to understand, it is in a scenario where it appears in relation to a normal frame. The sudden denouncement of the narrative time raises a need of reading which must remain in the picture, but same time do not shy away from the temporal mode of it being a fragment.
- Crimp, Douglas. "Cindy Sherman: Making Pictures for the Camera." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 38, no. 2 (1980-81), pp. 86-91.
- Douglas Crimp, “Pictures” in Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis (New York: New Museum, 1985); Eva Respini, Cindy Sherman (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012), 25.