Julie Blackmon’s photographs of charming, chaotic scenes of family life

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Julie Blackmon’s show “Fever Dreams” opened at Fotografiska in completely new York City, although has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, that has a reopening date yet to be confirmed. inside meantime, follow the museum’s Instagram account here.

In Julie Blackmon’s photographs, her quiet neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri, is usually transformed into a theatrical stage where children reign. They gather poolside inside balmy summer; direct talent shows inside garage; in addition to prepare to take flight off of kitchen chairs, leaving toys in addition to household ephemera strewn about. Adults, when they do appear, are often cropped out of frame, obscured like the unintelligible grownups of Charlie Brown’s world.

The artist has lived in Springfield her entire life, calling her home city inside Ozarks region the “generic American town.”

Blackmon’s forthcoming show at Fotografiska, “Fever Dreams,” plays on fiction in addition to reality.

Through her lens, Springfield becomes a setting for magic, chaos in addition to discovery.

In her work, the photographer takes cues by Dutch genre paintings of the 17th century, where the home could become a setting for both quiet everyday moments in addition to raucous behavior, carefully staged with symbolic details in addition to elegant light. “The chaos in addition to humor seem contemporary in some ways,” she said in a phone interview by her home.

‘Tell all the truth, although tell which slant’

The artist has also been inspired by the work of American photographer Sally Mann, whose landmark book “Immediate Family” by 1992 similarly toyed with truth in addition to fantasy in evocative — in addition to often controversial — scenes of her children.

Mann framed her work through Emily Dickinson’s poem “Tell all the truth although tell which slant,” noting in her foreword to “Immediate Family” which “When the Great pictures come, we wish they tell truths, although truths ‘told slant’…We are spinning a story of what which is usually to grow up.” which’s an idea which stayed with Blackmon when she was first introduced to Mann as an art major in college — though Blackmon did not pursue photography in earnest until over a decade later, when she, her husband in addition to three children moved into a home that has a basement darkroom.

"Night Movie" (2011) by Julie Blackmon

“Night Movie” (2011) by Julie Blackmon
Credit: Julie Blackmon/Courtesy the artist in addition to Robert Mann Gallery

Blackmon may be influenced by her own upbringing — she grew up in a family of nine kids that has a mother who encouraged them to run free — although her work is usually not autobiographical. “I don’t definitely ever want the work to be just about my life,” she said. “(although) even though the images are fictional, what I have to draw by here is usually endless.

“A lot of people assume there is usually not a lot going on here, in a generic town that has a generic name in middle America, although I found which not to be the case,” she added.

When Blackmon began shooting, she began with portraits of her children, although today her practice has evolved into more complex compositions born by her imagination. Her kids have grown up in addition to moved out of the house, so she asks the children in her large extended family or around the neighborhood to play the subjects in her work, tapping into the charm of her hometown to bring the stories to life.

In her recent image, “completely new Neighbors,” two young sisters stand side by side in matching red dresses with white collars in addition to black bows, redolent of Stanley Kubrick’s unsettling twins by “The Shining.”

They face off across the driveway that has a toddler on a tricycle, who has stopped in his tracks at their presence. Blackmon will often start with details — like the girls in their matching dresses — in addition to then work out the scene by there.

“Sometimes which’s the unexpected moments which are the best in addition to sometimes the moments which you dream up,” she said. “There’s no real formula to getting a piece which resonates with people.”

"completely new Neighbors" (2020) by Julie Blackmon

“completely new Neighbors” (2020) by Julie Blackmon Credit: Julie Blackmon/Courtesy the artist in addition to Robert Mann Gallery

completely new interpretations

While the United States in addition to many countries around the globe practice social distancing in addition to people remain largely confined to their homes to stop the spread of coronavirus, Blackmon has been looking at her work through a completely new lens.

“One of the things which inspired me when I first began (photographing) when my kids were little is usually which conflicting desire to connect in addition to disconnect,” she said.

The need for alone time in close quarters can be seen in her photograph “Power of right now,” where every family member inside yard carries out their actions several feet apart, or in “Birds at Home,” taken during a period of confinement during a heavy ice storm.

"Power of right now" (2008)

“Power of right now” (2008) Credit: Julie Blackmon/Courtesy the artist in addition to Robert Mann Gallery

although Blackmon’s work is usually not just about the lives of plucky in addition to rambunctious children in addition to the parents who must find balance; which’s also “a metaphor for being overwhelmed,” she said.

“At any age, we’re trying to live This specific delightful life in addition to appreciate everything around us,” she added, although chaos can ensue, or the nagging feeling which something might go wrong.

Blackmon’s themes are universal — the desire to manage one’s life, in addition to the impossibility to do so.

“Even if everything is usually wonderful, I have a feeling of being out of control,” she said. “Maybe This specific work is usually a way of producing sense of which.”

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