Julie Blackmon at The Hood Museum of Art

Art Notes: Photographs Balance Childhood Innocence and Darker Narrative Possibilities

By EmmaJean Holley And Nicola Smith
Valley News Staff Writers

The filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, best known for his psychological thrillers, felt it was important to distinguish between the suspenseful and the merely surprising.

Surprise, he said, is when a bomb goes off without the audience knowing it’s coming: “Prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene of no special consequence.” Suspense, on the other hand, is when “the bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there.”

But the photographer Julie Blackmon, whose exhibit on the theme of “The Everyday Fantastic” opens at the Hood Downtown on Friday, complicates Hitchcock’s black-and-white conception of these narrative devices. Not only does Blackmon’s work create suspense in scenes that Hitchcock might write off as “absolutely ordinary,” but this suspense also hinges on the element of surprise that the great filmmaker seemed to hold in disdain. The seemingly mundane props in Blackmon’s scenes — houses, storefronts, children’s toys — are of “no special consequence,” until, unexpectedly, they are.

In other words, her photographs depict such apparent ordinariness that to realize they are suspenseful comes as a surprise.

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