Photographer Mom Captures Unique View of Parenthood
byKaitlin StanfordOct 07, 2014
When Julie Blackmon first moved her family back to her hometown of Springfield, Mo., 13 years ago, she decided her new living room needed a little something.
"I really just wanted to get some good black-and-white pictures of my kids that I could put on the wall," she recently told The Cut. "That was when the Pottery Barn look was in, so I was just trying to make my living room look cool, basically."
So the mom of three picked up a camera again for what seemed like the first time since college, she says, and started documenting. But what started as a one-weekend project soon spilled over into full-blown love affair with the camera—not to mention, a whole new career.
Blackmon's work, which has largely centered on kids and family life over the last 13 years, is now being shared in her new book "Homegrown." Though her own kids are now grown (two are in their teens, one a twentysomething), she still continues to photograph her kids and those in the neighborhood, and says that "Homegrown" is largely inspired by the domestic scenes of the Dutch painter Jan Steen, as much as by her own chaotic ride through early parenthood.
And believe us, her stunning (and somewhat dark) photos will leave you transfixed.
"I feel like a big part of this work came out of the struggle of making sense of parenting today," says Blackmon. "It’s so radically different from how we grew up, where we kind of had our own world and our parents had another. That’s not the culture we’re in anymore—now you just structure every moment of your kids' day and have them in French."
This whole new world of helicopter parenting, she says, just isn't her style. In fact, much of what she tried to capture from behind the lens, as she stood back and let her kids be kids, was the idea that they should be free to discover who they are, without her hovering over.
"I can’t do that [helicopter parenting]. It just doesn’t come naturally to me," she explains. "I always felt like I’m this kind of spacey, disconnected mother—like some Woody Allen character. Like Diane Keaton—this well-meaning, sort of spacey, off-in-her-own-world woman—and trying to sort it all out, with kids and her own life. And the fact that your kids are the most important things in the world, but you have all these other things pulling at you—and then feeling like a failure and guilt and all of that. And, being from Springfield, Missouri, there are still a lot of traditional values. Like, I’ve been traveling almost all of September, and you still get these weird questions, like, 'How does your husband feel about that?' And other things that a man would never get asked."
(Boy, do we hear you on that one, Julie.)
Want more? Flip through more of Blackmon's best photos, and read her full interview with The Cut.