Hilary Walsh

When it comes to photography, Hilary Walsh is known in the fashion world for her uniquely intimate portraits of beautiful women, oftentimes captured with their children in fleeting dreamlike moments. There’s a poetic thoughtfulness to her pictures that is both entirely emotional and warm. Walsh also happens to be a partner of the ethical clothing brand Dôen, and currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Emmett Malloy and her two divine sons, Henry, and Gus – and so what a treat to catch her on holiday in Australia, the family's very first visit to the country. Here, the photographer shares her off-duty album 

  2. Photographed by HILARY WALSH 


Sea Change: above, photographer Hilary Walsh on holiday with her sons Gus, 4, and Henry, 7. Walsh wears Dôen throughout.

What inspired your love of photography? 

My high school photography teacher ignited my photography fire. He allowed me to take the class twice and then my father's interest in photography helped to continue my momentum. 

Your pictures are captivating, they seem to always capture an intimate moment – what do you hope the audience takes away from your work?

You know, I don't really think about what the audience will take away from the photos. I don't think at all about what happens after I take the pictures. For me, it's more about the moment I'm taking them in and how I feel and how the subject feels and finding a moment in that place and time. I prefer to shoot film so I don't spend much time thinking on what just happened or what will happen. In fact, I almost totally forget about the pictures until the film comes back from the lab and then I look at them with a critical editing eye but it's a totally different process then taking the actual photo. 

Did you grow up in a creative environment?

I did grow up in a creative environment. My mother was, and still is, a textile artist. She was always working on projects and all of our homes had big project rooms full of her fabric, dyes, weaving looms and equipment. She taught me about the process of creating things and about delaying gratification by giving into the process and various techniques. When I started photography, I loved the dark room. I still do but it's hard to find time to print anymore. 

Creatively, is there a theme you keep returning to, or a common thread throughout your work?

The common thread in my work would have to be simplicity – and denim. I didn't choose it that way but I always find myself trying to strip away all the elements of a photo which would give a sense of time and place, and what is usually left is very simple and often has denim in it. Another element of simplicity which repeats in my work is natural lighting.

The ethical label Dôen is another wonderful creative project you are involved in. Tell us what you love about this collective:

Dôen was an idea that was thrown out to me while I was in the hospital visiting my dear friend Margaret Kleveland just after she gave birth to her son. Her sister Katherine and myself had been working together for years as designer and photographer. In that hospital room Katherine told me that she was going to start a clothing line with her sister and they wanted me to not only be the photographer for the line, but be part of the brand and have a portion of ownership as well. I didn't believe it would really happen but six months later I saw how hard they had both been working on it while still attending all of their maternal duties and I felt really moved to be involved. Katherine and I actually gave birth to our younger sons at the exact same time and saw each other in the hospital. The three of us have been very connected through motherhood and through our career transitions post having children. Our path so far as partners in the brand has been an amazing adventure both as co-workers and as friends. Its been very collaborative and inspiring.  

What is your viewpoint on motherhood, in particular on raising boys?

In my head, I was always meant to have a girl. I am an only-child predominantly raised by my mother and I have no idea how to properly raise boys. Every day is a learning experience. I try to take it slow and be patient with the things I don't understand. They teach me as much as I teach them. I'm just hoping to raise socially-aware boys who have traditional values but in a modern context.

And as a mother, how do you nurture your sons’ creativity?

There is an amazing art program near our home that I sign my boys up to each session. I try to pick different subjects that will unlock different parts of their personality. Some classes they love, others they don't. But I feel like I need to keep trying until something sticks. I also bring both of them with me to work at times so they can see what a non-traditional career looks like. When Henry was five he was asked what his mom does for a living: his answer was "she hangs out with her friends and talks". Not exactly true, but not that far off.

What brought you to Australia, and can you share your favourite adventures here:

We came to Australia for both a vacation and for my husband's work. It has been an amazing trip, my first time! We had a really amazing few days at Mackerel Beach, which I was so sad to leave: fishing and kayaking and overall relaxing with the kids. They loved it as well and had a great time searching for wallabies and goannas. We had a surf day at Bondi beach with perfect waves for my seven year old. And overall I feel like I ate my way through the city of Sydney – so many great restaurants, I will need to come back to finish the list of places I wanted to eat in!  

 And what did you love most about your stay?

What I loved most about Australia is the perfect fusion of culture, tropical climate, beautiful ocean, good food and nice people all in one. Another thing that excited me was the cockatoos! I've been an avid bird lover and owner my whole life and to see cockatoos in the wild flying around the city was really stunning. I feel like that changed me and I'm sad now for caged parrots. The wildlife in Australia is really incredible. 

  2. Lastly, it's always such a thrill to find in one person a great sense of style in everything – please share your current inspirations:    
  3. Your signature fragrance: Growing up I had a signature, hibiscus oil, that I wore all the time, I'm currently in search of a new one.
  4. Your beauty essential: MSR cream and eye brow plumper.
  5. A favourite artist: A tie between Egon Schiele and Picasso. I am currently very interested in some modern ceramics artists like Makoto Kagoshima, Rebecca Miles and Magdelena Suarez Frimkess.
  6. The movie you could watch over and over again: Moore, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and The Red Balloon.
  7. Most memorable read: I am an avid reader of biographies and sci fi.
  8. The secret to success: The secret to success is having goals and not giving up. Also living a life true to yourself and being honest when things are not a good fit. 
  9. The living person you most admire: I honestly admire anyone who chooses to spend their lives helping other people: nurses, doctors, aid workers, fire fighters etc. Creative careers are amazing but also a bit selfish and self involved. I admire people who dedicate their lives to public services. 
  10. The trait you most deplore in yourself: My lack of patience. 
  11. The trait you most deplore in others: Greed and wastefulness. 
  12. Your family motto: Take things slow.‚Äč