Time Out, 2005 (book cover photograph) copyright of Julie Blackmon, courtesy Radius Books
I have spent this last week reading and then re-reading Julie Blackmon’s book, Domestic Vacations, published in 2008 by Radius Books. Then I remembered, that I had better share my thoughts.
At fist glance, Blackmon’s photographs are super real observations of a large knit family, on the edge of total chaos and about to go out of control. In others words; real life with real children. Whether her photographs really are direct observations or a constructed reality, they connect.
For me, her earlier photographs which were created for this series are a little more believable, which I attribute to the darker tonality, versus the hyper-lit later photographs. Nevertheless, all of her images seem to resonate with my own experience with my siblings, my own children and now my grandchildren. Probably even more so today, where I have a greater ability to stand aside and watch the ebb and flow of emotions and events.
For Blackmons photographs, there is a lot happening on and just off the edges of the photographs. The activity on the edges would seem to pull you out of the photograph, but I find that it creates more mystery while allowing you re-inspect the whole photograph for more clues. There are a couple of images that seem to go too far into the Photoshop creation aspect, which for me become her weaker photographs, where they lose that “is this really happening” aspect.
Overall, a playful and fun series, with a wonderful sense of excitement, which createds a real sense of anticipation. You have been there, and by what you see, you can almost anticipate the total chaos which is about to explode about you. Which is to say, normal life of parents in the suburb with kids.
The book is well designed with regard to the flow of her images, usually a single image per page, but with some contextual images paired on facing pages. It is 96 pages, hardcover with 45 color photographs, and includes an additional 6 black and white photographs in conjunction with her insightful interview with Alison Nordstrom.
Best regards, Doug Stockdale
BTW what I am reading now is Nick Brandt’s On This Earth published by Chronicle Books.
Update – (11/22/08)
One of the wonderful aspects of a book, unlike an exhibition, is the ability to return and browse at your leasure. A new book is also a new acquantances, that can over time become an old friend. There are some books that are easily digested and perhaps sold or donated to the friend of the library, others you keeping finding yourself returning and finding more substance for the soul. The later is my experience with Blackmon’s Domestic Vacations.
This is probably the place that I admit that I am an urban landscape photographer, who creates images with “found” subjects. That does have an influence on my objectivity with regard to the subject matter for review, thus it may take a little longer to gain a full appreciation of constructed works, such as Blackmon. The good news is that with a web-journal, subsequent content can be added!
What I did not adaquately discuss in my initial review is the creation and construction of Blackmon’s photographs. Some of which, are disarmingly simple, but with further review, become deeper in complexity. The components of her photograhers are not there by chance. Every part of her photographs provide clues, but we are the ones that have the opportunity to create the resulting story.
Such as this photograph, Green Velvet. The interplay between the girl on the couch, the woman in the painting and the action off screen on the right create an amazing tension. The woman in the painting is positioned with her vision directed off the left side of the photograph, while the dog and off screen activity is on the right. Then you notice that the countanance of the woman in the painting is a similar resignation as the girl on the couch. The girl has her remote at near hand, but apparently has to watch the adjacent dog performance, perhaps with something far better to do, eh?
Each of the photographs in Blackmon’s book need time to be read, thought about and reconsidered. There are many layers, and each one as they are discovered, can be enjoyed.
Still highly recommended!