Kids rule the world by Julie Blackmon (Julie Blackmon, 1966). They lock their rooms, courtyards and houses entirely. They fall into a frenzy, trying to seize our attention. They are very busy with their important work – being children. Reality in photos Blackmon does to an unreal extent. This is a beautiful tale of a happy childhood. The author demonstrates the absurd, sometimes surreal, but very touching, look at daily home life – a fun, chaotic activity. Most of us imagine the classic American family as “Mom – Dad – a couple of kids – and a golden retriever …” But if we talk about Blackmon, she is an exception to the rule. Being the eldest of nine children and the mother of three, in her works Blackmon tells the story of an ideal large family and all sorts of cute episodes, so adorning daily life. Sometimes she tries to organize the chaos of her home, or allows herself to break out and take hold of life. “I love to denote the presence of parents, – says the photographer – and I like to portray the figure of the “crazy mother “- we are all kind of like that.”
Being the eldest daughter in a family of nine children, Julie Blackmon became famous for her series “Domestic Vacations”, showing fine tuned, staged photographs and collages of the daily lives of American families with many children. The subject is well known to many painters. Casual fuss, chaos, troubles, family reality – a house in a complete mess, the children playing, sad and funny adults, tired of the noise and eternal complaints from their children – but at the same time a sweet, gentle atmosphere of love and comfort .
Blackmon explores the behavior and location of family members of all ages in “domestic landscapes”, the contradictions that arise in the life of modern people-oriented towards the education of their children. Children’s games and entertainment become a safe haven, often more valuable for the adults themselves.
The small world of the adults sounding so significant and important to the children. In the next room, where the kids are making a noise and hubbub, because they are alone and no one can teach them important lessons. Interest in the child Blackmon presents as poetic rather than prosaic, though she focuses on real children and their cousins, friends and peers. The house as the creation of the family, a happy microcosm both large and small safe from all the horrors of the universe. The myth of a large American family, fictional to Blackmon, yet so sublime! But there is the mystical and the enigmatic, something that cannot be understood, because one is an adult! But any adult will forever retain ownership of their childhood, because the adult is only the derivative of the child. Somewhere in the recesses of “matured consciousness” always lives our “little self.” From time to time it reminds us of itself. In a whisper or loudly, then adult aunts and uncles begin their adult game called creativity. In dreams, fantasies, games, we go back to the myth of childhood. It is free from the conventions that reality creates. You cannot “leave childhood”, and thank God for that!
Blackmon still lives in her childhood city – Springfield, Missouri, the city of the happiest cartoon family – the Simpsons. On January 27, 1992, the president of the United States George HW Bush referred to “The Simpsons” in a speech, saying: “We will continue our efforts to strengthen the American family, to make it a lot less like the Simpsons.” But surely not, because most typical middle class American families are content with this “anti-ideal.” The cartoon certainly is a parody of the American way of life, but the stories about the “yellow men” may look naive, melodramatic and perhaps even unfunny as characters for Blackmon.
Relatives, neighbors and especially their children are the restless heroes that Blackmon photographs. It seems that people come in and out of the images created Blackmon just as they come to visit. Here and there, rising above the hands and feet characters are left in the frames. Such a method allows for images as if ejected from the frame into reality and vice versa – the reality comes into the picture. The viewer is drawn into this game. Scepticism is misplaced. Everyone needs to believe in the certainty of what is happening. He who looks at everything from the outside may experience the absurdity and artificiality of what is happening. In order to be touched by the game’s elements, it is necessary to be on the inside.
For ten years, Blackmon was a simple housewife raising her children. She was 35 when, by a happy coincidence, she became a professional photographer. The family moved to an old centenarian house with a darkroom in the basement, which was repaired and converted into a photo studio. Blackmon bought a camera and started taking pictures. “It was a way to sort out my life,” – she said. Art and life suddenly crossed and connected.
“Suddenly I discovered an intoxicating life that I had not noticed before. Over time, my work became less and less devoted to my children and more to ‘the game’ “- says the photographer. Her early photographs were black and white. However, these do not fully reflect the ideas of the artist. “It seemed that the photos were taken a long time ago. It was a documentary look at family life. I wanted to talk about this in a different way. ” Then she began to shoot interiors and in color. She would shoot first and then construct the plot after. One of Blackmon’s the first works of was “nail polish.” Her sister is talking on the phone in the kitchen, while the child in the foreground colors her nails. It was a revelation. “When I saw what happened, I thought it does not even look like reality – so funny and absurd things seemed.” The game is kind of peculiar to children, but for them it is not only a way of understanding life. Kids, after all, imitate adults in their games. The types of the imagination in the game are varied: children’s actions, creating an image of the movements, facial expressions, words, use of various objects, the construction of buildings. The game has many imaginary contexts ‘for fun’, as they say, but the experience of playing is always sincere, genuine and real. Hence, the main purpose of the game – to give an opportunity to be active, to express thoughts and feelings. The game is the need to live in a dream world. Blackmon just ‘fixes’ that need, at the level of art.
Her exhaustive composite drawings of the game are beautiful. The photographer is directing their work: she puts people in a room and uses pre-fabricated surroundings. In addition, she studied Dutch and Flemish painting, as it entails a special way of building space by the Dutch artists of the XVII century. Jan Steen – one such artist – was specializing in domestic scenes similar to Blackmon’s. “I like his paintings because, despite the fact that they are about 400 years old, they have something very modern about them. Perhaps this is the irony. In his paintings at the same time there are hundreds of things going on. ” For example, the picture “of the dissolute life of families” and Blackmon’s perfectly checkered Wall.
Gestures in her compositions, like the Wall, are a very important element of the narrative around them and build an entire universe of images. “Sometimes the idea is incorporated directly into the picture – said Blackmon. It is often hidden. The truth is important, not formal, but it is our perception of living in the moment.” Most adults are struggling to be normal, while children say about normality that it is boring, and so do such things that adults do not dare even to dream of. The philosophy of Blackmon is that life should be seen as a holiday, then the ideal world will become a reality.
Movies, photography and painting, Blackmon does not consider her work to be a particular kind of creativity: “It’s kind of a modern creative synthesis. I am an artist who looks to the canvas in the evening, and thinks that I will write on it tomorrow. ” Though she adds: “My things are in line with the development of modern photography.”
© Bleek Magazine. Text: Olga Averyanova.