Copyright Lucy Hilmer 2010 courtesy of the artist
Over a period of twenty one years, Lucy Hilmer in partnership with her husband, daughter and many long stem roses, created a series of black and white photographs. These photographs were subsequently printed as postcards and mailed to family and friends to celebrate Valentines Day, an American holiday of love and romance.
Each year, Hilmer created their annual photograph within a constant motif, daughter in white, her husband in black and of course the long stem rose. The photographs vary in composition in conjunction with the steady aging of both her daughter and husband. Hilmer’s daughter is the principal subject in each photograph, with the flower and her husband providing a foil and counterbalance. In most of the photographs, the young girl gazes directly at the lens, engaging the photographer and subsequently the viewer.
Each valentine’s card is endearing and when viewed in a series, it is wonderful to see the young child develop into adolescence and eventual adulthood. We can perceive the changes, from a young, playful girl who is being directed, to one who is now understanding what the photographic process may create to finally becoming a willing model and partner in the creation of the body of work. The body of work is a sweet visual narrative about change, evolution, memory and the steady passing of time.
The photobook leads into the twenty one valentines and then follows with the background story for each photograph, with the contact sheet for the shoot and the cropping of each photograph. It is enlightening to see the raw shoot the development of the final photograph, but in the case of this photobook, more space is spent on the proofs and the background story than on the project itself.
The book ends with a series of self portraits in conjunction with her family. The subtle narrative of the book is around the creativity and transparency of an artist. For photographers, this is also a story about being out of sight as most artists are, yet having a desire to be seen, known and not forgotten. By reinserting herself into the epilog of the book, Hilmer is attempting to not be forgotten.
In the play Hair, one of the main characters expresses late in the performance that he wants to become invisible, but yet at the end of the performance, when he is no longer perceived to exist amongst his friends, he finds that it is not the result he desired. Likewise, photographers and artist, in creating a body of work, become invisible to the work that they have created. We may become familiar with the images of a photographer, but if that photographer who created these photographs was to walk by us; we would not as much as blink. That just may not be what the photographer has intended to happen, to become invisible.
This self-published hardcover book is beautifully printed and bound in Vancouver, Canada. The photographs are also accompanied by poems written by Hilmer.
by Douglas Stockdale