Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Woman takes a nude self-portrait on her birthday for 40 years

lucy-hilmer-hero.jpg
hilmer-hero-2.jpg

Photographer Lucy Hilmer has been taking a nude self portrait on her birthday every year for the past forty years, and has recently documented the results online.

Birthday traditions are - of course - highly personal. From making your friends scream when you cut into your cake (it's bad luck to hear the knife touch the plate apparently) to wearing the same outfit year in, year out, there's usually something we all like to do on our special day.

But Lucy Hilmer's 40-year-long project, Birthday Suits, is rather different. Every year she takes a picture of herself wearing a white pair of underpants, socks and shoes in an intimate, but honest way to track the changing of her body, as well as the journey of her life.

She took her first birthday snap aged 29, in Death Valley, California. In 2015, she will turn 70, and her pictures show her body ageing, but her spirit remaining cheerful as she reflects on her life at the time, for instance posing with her baby daughter and husband after giving birth.

Lucy chose to take portraits nude because, she says the act is "in defiance of the prescribed definition of beauty" applied to her body.

She told photography magazine Lens Culture that "as a girl-child of the 1950s, I came of age before women’s lib, and wanted to buck the stereotypes of a culture that branded me a pretty girl, thin enough to be a fashion model and not much more. Armed with my camera and tripod, I found a way to define myself on my own terms in the most open, vulnerable way I could."

"Without fail, I’ve faced my camera every April 22nd since then to create a coded history of one woman’s journey through time."

Lucy plans to document the Birthday Suits project in a book, with an accompanying short film. Other projects of hers include The Wedding House, in which she and her husband return to the place they got married every year on their wedding anniversary, and My Valentines, a series of pictures of her daughter that she sent to friends on Valentine's Day.

Take a look at more of Lucy's pictures below:

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Lucy Hilmer

Related

hero.jpg

From the archives: A-listers doing teen magazine covers

hero.jpg

When A-list offspring turn their hands to modelling

hero2.jpg

Celebrity weekend fashion round-up: from Kerry Washington to Cate Blanchett

08-merit-divine-makeover.jpg

Global travel photography

hero2.jpg

Moving old photography series captures mothers and children around the world

alpayerdem-turkey-shortlist-open-smile-2014.jpg

Amazing wildlife and intimate family moments captured in world photography competition

Comments

More

This is why Alicia Keys wore make-up in her latest photo shoot

The star appears in colourful eyeshadow and sweeping eyeliner

by Amy Swales
20 Jan 2017

Iris Law is the new face of Burberry Beauty

A huge gig for the 16-year-old

by Anna Pollitt
17 Jan 2017

Why more and more women are embracing wigs

“I never have a bad hair day”

by The Stylist web team
15 Jan 2017

Claire Danes reveals how she tackles anxiety over her appearance

How to avoid falling into an "obsessive loop"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
05 Jan 2017

Caitlyn Jenner’s new MAC collection is here and it’s fabulous

Make-up for everyone.

by Moya Crockett
04 Jan 2017

British Army recruiters slammed for sexist “Military Makeup” campaign

"We want to know the girls behind the make up! We are searching for real beauty"

by Sarah Biddlecombe
03 Jan 2017

Hurrah: beauty grooming victory as Tesco cuts price of women's razors

A small victory

by Sarah Biddlecombe
03 Jan 2017

Breaking new ground: introducing 2017's innovative beauty products

Finally, some answers for beauty's biggest conundrums

by The Stylist web team
30 Dec 2016

Hair trends 2017: The cuts and colours ruling social media

New year, new hair?

by Amy Lewis
22 Dec 2016

Hairdressers are being trained to spot signs of domestic abuse

New law requires beauty workers to spot the signs

by Anna Pollitt
19 Dec 2016