Bus Riders

Carolin’s thoughts: Tourists, students, employees – as a means of transportation, the bus takes everyone from A to B. Exasperating red lights, squished passengers and minor accidents are endured collectively – nevertheless, each individual passenger is more or less concentrated on him- or herself, listening to music, reading magazines or talking on the phone. Cindy Sherman’s skilfully composed portrait of “bus riders” shows how different the behaviour of various passengers tends to be. In my eyes, this case study draws on some clichés – why is it the young lady who gossips, the middle-aged woman who carries her purchases? Of course, to handle the range of personalities and to present the catchy, memorable characters, the artist needed to utilise certain categories. However, these images can still not be compared to prejudices, since this piece does not leave me with a negative impression. It is a particular sense of humour, perhaps emphasised by the “vintage style” of all the images, which amused me whilst observing them. Overall, Cindy Sherman’s “bus riders” are captured during seemingly rather unimportant moments of their lives: taking the bus. During my next bus ride, I will certainly keep an eye out for one of the presented characters…

Jasmin’s thoughts: Most people might find that their everyday lives do not contain anything worth sharing, as everyone tends to seek for the extraordinary and exotic things in life such as a special talent or even the purpose of life itself. We only share great moments and accomplishments on social media streams and no one ever shares their way home from school unless something special happens.

Cindy Sherman, however, manages to see the beauty in everyday life and embodies it in her series ‘Bus Riders’. The characters in Bus Riders are shot in a studio with a simplistic background to emphasise exactly that ordinary moment of people sitting in a bus doing nothing but sitting there. Sherman’s self-portrayal of the bus passengers’ body language is not there to convince us of something, and even the individual photographs alone do not show us the whole story, but when put together they give us a glimpse of the everyday lives of those people sharing that bus, probably even on a daily basis. It is a fantastic capture and presentation of everyday life that shows us how interesting an everyday moment can be.

Anastasia’s thoughts: In this picture, something common and usual like taking the bus is transformed into a piece of art. What does the photographer want to communicate with these series of portraits? First of all, the use of the white and black gives the picture an old-fashioned aura and also the artist’s choice of making a series of pictures instead just a single one really succeeds in its aim of capturing the onlooker’s attention and making them think about different lifestyles. Why? Well, because the spectator finds himself in front of the same person in the same place, “transforming” into different people, resulting in an interesting combination of stereotypes and realism at the same time. Let’s talk about the stereotypes first. There is the worker, the woman with an established career, the old woman with bags (a classic to find on buses), the flirting young lady, the “tough” boy… nobody seems to miss in this set and it is worth noticing that it’s not just the way in which the different characters sit, but also the expressions which change: does it perhaps mean that behind every ordinary appearance there are individuals with a different story to tell? It seems kind of obvious but I think this is one of the main messages the artist wants to communicate. And also, does it mean that stereotypes will still be a part of our way of thinking, no matter how “modern” and liberal the point of view? Maybe the implication is that stereotypes are a part of us, and that even if we don’t want to, we always judge with them in mind. As far as the realism is concerned, it is noticeable that the picture could possibly represent a situation of daily life. Even if it is a photograph, it has a somewhat dynamic and expressive feel, making it feel more real – but at the same time the pictures cannot be considered entirely “true” because in all of them the photographer is dressing up and impersonating different people, giving it a “false” impression.

Benedetta’s thoughts: I see “Bus Riders”, by Cindy Sherman, as a great metaphor of the journey of life. Everybody has dreams and ambitions, but how do we actually work to reach them?

What I find extremely interesting in the photograph is that it seems that all the characters are connected to an electricity cable; they take all the energy by an external source that keeps them active and alive. I think that this electricity cable may represent the society in which they live that impose them determinate standard and objective. The characters may look radically different one another, but what they all have in common is the exaggeration of their appearance. However, I believe that the aim of the picture is not to impose some stereotypes of society today but, instead, to demonstrate, exaggerating the concept, how people try to look as everybody else to reach the society’s standards. The emblem of this behaviour may be the black woman wearing white tights, trying to cover her normal skin colour to not look different from the majority. Furthermore, I think that the image of the bus is very important. A bus is a vehicle that follows an already chosen path, in the moment you take it you know where it will lead you. It represents the lack of effort from people: they are transported in their journey whose end has already been determined and imposed by society; they do not follow their own ambitions but try passively to reach the objective they have been taught must be reached. Cindy Sherman, in “Bus Riders”, is openly criticizing our society and the passivity of people against life. I felt her pessimistic view of life through the photograph, which leaves me with a sense of bitterness and disillusion towards the world I live in.

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