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