HILARY WALSH

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS HILARY WALSH AT THE HOUSE THAT SHE SHARES WITH HER HUSBAND EMMETT AND HER SONS HENRY AND GUS IN SILVER LAKE, CA. THE PHOTOGRAPHER, OFTEN MISTAKEN ON SET FOR THE MODEL BECAUSE OF HER BEAUTY AND HER TALL & LEAN FRAME, IS MOST NOTED FOR HER FASHION EDITORIALS AND CELEBRITY PORTRAITURE. WHILE SIPPING HOMEMADE COFFEE WALSH SHARES WITH NATALIA HER THOUGHTS IN THE BACKYARD OF HER HOME

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Describe your photographic aesthetic in three words
Classic. Pretty. It’s not ‘cute’, it’s not beautiful, it’s pretty. Feminine.

When you were starting out, like many photographers, you were an assistant. Was there any photographer that you assisted at the time who has given you a piece of advice that has somehow impacted your own career?
Yes. Two people. Kurt Markus. He told me never to let them run me down (she laughs), meaning, you know, we don’t have a boss per se in this job, but we have hundreds of them and it can be a bit daunting trying to please everybody all the time; trying to impress everybody. His advice was to remember that you have to stay creative, you still have to be the talent at the end of the day and not get too bogged down by other people’s schedules and details. And Tierney Gearon, for just being herself, always doing what she wanted anyway (she laughs) and not listening too much to other people.

Was there a moment when you felt you had made it as photographer?
I think the first time someone flew me to Paris to do a job, because I had never even gotten to Paris as an assistant. I had lived in Paris and I had assisted there, but no one had ever flown me anywhere, I was always someone’s local. So the first time I got on the plane with a ticket purchased by someone else, having an assistant with me, I felt ‘Ok. I made it to the other side.’ (she giggles in the cutest way).

In your field there are so many outside voices, if I make sense… How do you manage to keep your own voice? Do you have a philosophy to approach work that stays consistent?
I try… You know, it’s hard, but I try to make sure, at the end of the day, that I can stand behind my own work. Because if I start shooting for somebody else then I’m so lost that I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. So, if I’m not happy and the client is not happy, that’s the ultimate worst case scenario. But I can walk away from a job if at least I feel I did the best I could.

You often have muses for your personal projects. You actually dedicated a book to one of them: ‘Lola’. I remember your saying how ‘having a muse’ has a deadline, because at a certain point you don’t get as inspired any longer. What attracts you to your muses?
Physical characteristics, probably… Just, yeah, you know, someone a little “unusual” looking. But I think that the common link of what attracts me towards those girls is a freshness and an unawareness in them. When they become too aware of themselves it doesn’t feel as unique of an experience.

If you were to choose one, who’s been your favourite subject so far?
I really like actresses that like playing dress up like I do. So, Imogen Poots, I love. Isabel Lucas, I love. They are very aware of themselves, but in a controlled way, where they can go into character and try out different things too, which is fun for me. You know, most models are showing the fashion or they have the same kind of attitude towards the shoot, whereas with actresses you can harness a different character.

I know that the casting process depends on the job, but if it’s really just sort of up to you, is there a kind of woman that you always keep going back to or is it kind of schizophrenic and it changes all the time?
It is kind of schizophrenic. I mean there are a lot of models that are great and, as you said, it does depend on the job, you know? Sometimes you’re shooting in a bunch of greenery and it’s better to have a blonde, and so on… But generally I think that all the girls that I like to shoot could live in a world together, they all look similar in some way. They are all fairly feminine, I think. I am not really attracted to like maybe say what a gay male photographer would be attracted to.

No boobs, no ass…
I like women that look like women: young or old, all different kinds of bodies, but I find myself being attracted to a more feminine shape. Maybe finding some imperfections in them is something that I am drawn to as well.

What’s the quality you appreciate the most in people?
Humour.

Which is the one you like the least?
So many (we both laugh)… Overconfidence, maybe.

What’s the best quality about you and what’s your worst quality?
Best quality? I’m a peace maker. I can get along with a lot of personality types. Worst quality… I get stressed out easily. Not on shoots, but in life.

Has motherhood (Walsh has two boys: Henry is 3 and a half years old, Gus is 7 months) changed the way you approach your work, at all?
Yes. Working has become a privilege.

Before having children sometimes women have an idea of how motherhood will affect or not affect their careers, and often the end result doesn’t match that initial idea. Did your expectations before having a family match your experience of being a working mom?
No. Not at all. You leave your heart at home, every day. So (she pauses), it’s hard.

What’s the sexiest quality in a woman?
Humour.

What’s the sexiest quality in a man?
Self-deprecation.

…and what’s the biggest turn off about a man?
Ear hair. Bad breath. Ill-fitting boxers (I can’t stop laughing).

What’s the personal belonging you could never part from?
My dad’s military dog tag, from when he was in the Marines.

What current project are you excited about?
The new vegetable garden in the front yard (she laughs). I have a book, a new book (she’s published two books, ‘Lola’ and the most recent ‘A Denim Story’). I have a new kind of muse I’m working with: she’s young, she looks a little like an alien, her name is Delaila. We’re gonna go to Big Sur in a few weeks and take some pictures.

What are you really good at?
I think I’m good at being a mom. I’m not sure, because they’re young, maybe I’ve peaked as a mom, maybe I’m good at being a mom of babies (she laughs self-mockingly). Yeah, I think I can say that. I’m really good at “googling”, I can find anything on the internet and I’m really good at making coffee. I’m boring (she laughs).

What are you really bad at?
Scheduling, remembering people’s names and all sports.

If you could host an imaginary dinner party and invite seven people, dead or alive, whether you’ve met them or not, who would you invite?
Oh (she pauses for a while). I’m really on the spot. Seven people? I really want to answer to this, but it’s hard… I feel I have to give names that will make me sound so smart (she laughs self-mockingly).

Don’t worry. It will always be “smarter” than my imaginary dinner. Mine would be so shallow: I’d invite every man I ever had a crush on. Paul Newman…

I know (she laughs), he was on my list! I have to say Michael Pitt, sorry, I know he’s alive and well…

They can be alive…
…that makes it even more embarrassing (she laughs). Steve Mcqueen. Diane Keaton, she seems cool, I read her book. Jack Nicholson. I can’t help it, I gotta stop thinking about actors… Irving Penn, he’s a good one. Diana Vreeland. Corinne Day. Heidi Fleiss, I’m pretty interested in her. She’s got like a bird sanctuary. She’s a pimp (she laughs).

Oh, yeah, you’re obsessed with birds! I held a chicken for the first time in my life modelling on set with you. Where does that obsession come from?
I know… It’s weird. I think it’s because I was allergic to dogs and cats, so my parents gave me a Token Bird and then I just blossomed from there (she currently has two chickens and a parrot and all kind of birds can often be found in her photographs).

One last question for you, what’s your favourite camera?
Oh, that’s a really good question (she starts laughing). It’s my Nikon F3. My dad gave it to me before he passed away when I was nineteen. I told my assistants and my husband that they could never borrow it, nobody can borrow it, but my husband borrowed it and broke it and lost it. He went to have it repaired and no one has seen it since. So, apparently he’s at the office right now looking for it (she laughs). It just happened. But, yeah, that’s my favourite camera.

No way. I hope he finds it. Poor Emmett (director Emmett Malloy)… I feel bad for him.
I know! Nick (Walker, photographer and director) was like “Man, everyone at that office is looking for it” (we both laugh).

I hope he finds it.
Yeah, me too (she smiles).

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