Lucy Hilmer – My Valentines

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

35 thoughts on “Lucy Hilmer – My Valentines

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  1. It looks great, Lucy!! Your blood, sweat, and stress paid off!! How do I order a copy and how much is it (price + postage to Sweden)? Congratulations!! Stor kram (that’s a big hug in Swedish)

  2. Reminds me of the Michelangelo quote re carving to set free. You have carved away so much to get to the beauty of this visual quartet- 3 people and a rose. There is no excess- no forced metaphor- no striving for effect.Just an elegant simple yet profound expression of Love.
    Congratulations !
    Bill Jersey

  3. How nice to have a review worthy of your beautiful book. Your devotion to your art is an inspiration to us all. it is such a pleasure to hold the world of those 21 years portrayed elegantly, lovingly, and truthfully, sitting right there between the covers in one’s lap. Bravo

  4. This is a beautiful book. It was a christmas gift this year for some friends, but I ended up having to buy one for myself because I didn’t want to part with it.

  5. Having known Lucy almost all my life I have been privileged to receive the annual cards and because they are so beautiful I have kept every one. Well done Lucy; this is wonderful. Much love Ms A. xx

  6. What an insightful review. It strengthens the brilliance of this work. I sit here, thinking. Of aging, beauty, memory….thank you.

  7. Congratulations Lucy! I always loved getting the postcards in the mail, but I think my favorite was always seeing the whole series in your kitchen 🙂

    1. This is an exceptional project by a talented artist. I have followed her work for years and saved all the postcards. I look forward to hearing more at the Noe Valley Library today.

  8. hey. this is amazing. this is the BEST blog about photography I’ve ever seen. Thanks for doing this great work here.

  9. This book of love, and determination chronicles this family through 21 years. Lucy’s creativity in orchestrating the poses, the affection between father and daughter and the ever present rose make this sweet book a must buy.

  10. My dear Lucy, Bob, & Annie, How priveledged I feel to be the recipient of your treasures all these years. Your friendship & family are one of my most treasured possessions. My most heartfelt congratulations!

  11. I own the book and the previous Valentine’s Day cards and I absolutely LOVE them!! Lucy Hilmer is not only an amazing artist but she understands what is most important in the flow of life!! ..Suzanne Hershey

  12. A thoughtful review about a beautiful project. Moments captured in time. As with the Dutch masters, the details of family life become the most enduring.

  13. Lucy, this is such a great photo story of love! I am very proud to have been a small part of bringing your photo’s to live on georgious paper! I show the book to all my friends and they have told me that they are buying it as a Valentine gift!
    Congratulations Lucy!

  14. Lucy, the book is beautiful and I am thrilled to see it completed after all of the loving care you and Hemlock Printers put in to it. The images look fantastic on the paper we chose and your big heart and sharp eye shows through. Congratulations! Ann

  15. From womb to womanhood…
    so long-awaited a treasure.
    This precious chronicling of your respect, love and wonder!
    A work of art…first Annie, and now your book!

  16. As one of the lucky ones who received each card year by year and member of the extended Hilmer family, I rejoice at the courage and gift to all, a witness to dedication of epic proportions. Bless you Lucy.

  17. Buy this book! Hilmer may be one of the great undiscovered photographers of the last thirty years. What more praise can you give a photographer than to say that her images achieve accuracy. The result is not mere elegance but emotional precision. What is love? Here’s someone who goes for the big questions.

  18. Thank you Lucy for sending our family a intimate window into your life for all these years…

    with all our love on Valentine’s Day 2011 !!

  19. How graceful — images idealizing a father and daughter’s growing relationship over 21 years — each
    page a stage of development — and then a look at everyday life! Both
    are aspects of our human condition.
    This is love, love, love.

  20. I have been waiting for this book for 21 years. It is a book for parents to treasure. We sense the passing of time but wonder how to mark it. We sense that love changes as our children grow up, but wonder how to express it. These pictures, with the same, but not same, two persons, capture what is poignant and precious about the cycle of life and love.

    I wait with hope for Lucy’s next artistic vision. This alone, though, is enough.

  21. Congratulations, Lucy, on your delicious review! Of course, the artistry of MY VALENTINES leaps from every page. There’s such beauty and poignancy here. I found myself turning back and forth, eager to see the subtle etchings of passing time. It makes me love my family even more!

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