Julie Blackmon Biography
Contemporary American photographer Julie Blackmon draws inspiration from the raucous tavern scenes of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painters, creating photographs based around the people and places in her small community.
Blackmon has compared her surroundings to a giant Hollywood prop closet, where a Starbucks employee out on a smoke break may appear in her next photograph, or the beauty shop she passes every day becomes the setting for a new piece. “It’s a fun perspective to have … to see the world around you as a potential story or idea. It changes how you see things. Nora Ephron said, ‘everything is copy,’ and that has really stayed with me. I live and work in a generic town, with a generic name, in the middle of America, in the middle of nowhere… but the stories unfolding around me are endless.”
Both comical and serene, Blackmon’s photographs focus on scenes often involving children, family, and friends, saturated with pathos and a fascination with the everyday. Her work serves as a mash-up of pop phenomena, consumer culture, and social satire. Leah Ollman of the LA Times recently wrote about her work – “Each frame is an absorbing, meticulously orchestrated slice of ethnographic theater… that abounds with tender humor but also shrewdly subtle satire.”
Blackmon was born in 1966 in Springfield, Missouri, where she currently lives and works. She studied art at Missouri State University, where she became interested in photographers Sally Mann and Diane Arbus. Blackmon left college before finishing her degree, but turned again to photography years later as a mother of three, using her domestic experience as a focus for her early work.
Mind Games was Blackmon’s first major body of work, which featured black and white images exploring childhood play. In 2004, this series won her an honorable mention in Project Competition, hosted by the Santa Fe Center for Photography, and a merit award from the Society of Contemporary Photography in Kansas City, Missouri. After Mind Games, Blackmon turned to color film to create her next body of work, Domestic Vacations, recalling the notably chaotic familial scenes inside carefully tailored environments. Blackmon’s most recent monograph of work, Homegrown, follows the same formula she developed in Domestic Vacations, while turning to environments outside of the home.
Blackmon’s photographs have been shown in a number of exhibitions and can be found in the permanent collections such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA; George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, NY; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; Microsoft Art Collection, Redmond, WA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; and The Walt Disney Corporation, among others. She has been included in exhibitions at institutions including The Fotografiska Museum, New York, NY; The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, NH; Biggs Museum of American Art, Dover DE; Houston Center of Photography, Houston, TX; and many more.