Julie Blackmon's Unexpected Darkness


In her article for Hyperallergic.com (October 15, 2014), A Tale of Motherhood in Julie Blackmon’s Playful Photographs, Laura C. Mallonee explains how Blackmon rekindled her interest in photograpy after dropping out of college to get married and start a family in her hometown of Springfield, Missouri. 
"When Blackmon got back into photography, at age 35, she was still immersed in the same universe of her youth. She lived — along with five of her siblings and 150 of her relatives — in her childhood neighborhood; her kids attended her old elementary school; her third-grade teacher lived next door to her parents; the corner store where she used to buy Dolly Madison pies, with money stolen from her mother’s purse, was still standing."
"Her work has since been one collective love letter to that quickly disappearing life, even while it questions nostalgic yearning for the past. A recent photograph, 'Thin Mints,' depicts five of Blackmon’s nieces traversing a zebra crossing in poses that evoke the Beatles’ Abbey Road. The oldest girl draws a red wagon piled with green boxes of Girl Scout cookies; the youngest sits at the rear, her face smeared with chocolate as she sobs (presumably from a stomach ache). Norman Rockwell might have painted such an image, yet the week before Blackmon took it, a 9-year-old girl was raped and murdered just a few blocks down the road — an uncommonly violent crime that inspired many candle-lit vigils and marches. The question of the children’s freedom to safely peddle Girl Scout cookies, an iconic symbol of American girlhood, undergirds the photograph with tension. Was the crime proof of a wholesome world going amok, or were the children never truly safe to begin with? This is what makes Blackmon’s images so arresting: they peel back the saccharine veneer of the idealized America they seem to depict. Like light leaking onto a film strip from a faulty camera, an unexpected darkness begins to emerge."
Homegrown won the 2015 IPPY Award silver medal in Photography because of that "unexpected darkness" and dreamlike edginess her images invoke, such as "Thin Mints" pictured and described above. Click here to see more images from the book.




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Sparking New Conversations About Art

Since 2007, Radius Books has grown out of Santa Fe, New Mexico to encompass a global photographic collection of publications. Non-profit Radius Books was launched when photo editor Darius Himes and publicist Joanna Hurley joined with book designers David Chickey and David Skolkin in an effort to create artistic conversation through accessible, award-winning photography and fine art collections. Radius was founded with a simple goal: get people to talk about art. Since then, they have shared stunning visuals with the world that demand discussion, including two recent IPPY award winners.

The first requirement in Radius Books’ selection process comes in a simple question: “Do we love the work?” It is evident that every Radius book is a labor of love. As the company’s mission states, every book Radius publishes should be “important in some lasting way” and fit “into a broader cultural dialogue.”

To ensure that everyone can be involved in that dialogue, Radius donates at least 300 copies of each title to schools and libraries across the nation with the hope of inspiring the next generation.

Radius has co-published a number of books in collaboration with museums including The Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Skolkin explains that the appearance of Radius books on museum shelves reflects “more and more galleries… seeing books as a central means of expression, and [they collect] accordingly.” Radius offers reflections and monographs in addition to a vast collection of original works that carry on the conversations sparked by the original artists. In addition to trade copies, many books are also printed in limited editions which contain signed original artwork.

In 2014, Mitakuye Oyasin by Aaron Huey won the IPPY gold medal for Photography. A haunting collection of pictures taken at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Mitakuye Oyasin portrays “both the broken social landscape and the ceremonial warrior culture” of the Oglala Lakota tribe. The book opens and closes with traditional Lakota prayer and the photographs within reveal the beauty and hardships of the Lakota people in their everyday lives.

In 2015, Julie Blackmon became an IPPY silver medalist in Photography for her book Homegrown. The book features pictures of home life that form, as Billy Collins says in his introduction, “oddly fleshed out worlds.” The dream-like collection concludes with an interview conducted by Reese Witherspoon. (See sidebar for more about Homegrown.)

Upcoming Radius Books publications include a look at the beauty and complexity of artificial light and the impact of consumption in Lux by Christina Seely; Billboards, a collection encompassing an “ambitious statewide exhibition of 336 billboards created by Cuban-born artist Félix González-Torres” that was put on display in Texas; and a book focusing on the green rooftop movement in Rooftop by Brad Temkin that features essays from authors John Rohrbach and Steven Peck, as well as architect Roger Schickedantz.

To learn more about Radius Books, visit their website here

Anais Mohr is a senior at Central High School in Traverse City, Michigan. She is a member of Front Street Writers, a program where high school students are coached in a workshop setting by professional writers. She loves to read fractured fairytales and middle-grade fiction.