The series Untitled Film Stills (1977–1980), with which Cindy Sherman achieved international recognition, consists of 69 black-and-white photographs. The artist poses in different roles (librarians, hillbillies, and seductresses), and settings (streets, yards, pools, beaches, and interiors), producing a result reminiscent of stills typical of Italian neorealism or American film noir of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. She avoided putting titles on the images to preserve their ambiguity. She would often pose her heroines as alone, expressionless, and in private. An overarching characteristic of her heroines were those that did not follow conventional ideas of marriage and family. They were rebellious women who either died as that or who were later tamed by society.
Between 2003 and 2004, Sherman produced the Clowns cycle, where the use of digital photography enabled her to create chromatically garish backdrops and montages of numerous characters. Set against opulent backdrops and presented in ornate frames, the characters in Sherman’s 2008 untitled Society Portraits are not based on specific women, but the artist has made them look entirely familiar in their struggle with the standards of beauty that prevail in a youth- and status-obsessed culture.