Photographer Jenny Lewis grew up in Little Clacton, Essex, but moved to East London 20 years ago. Since then she has made her living as an editorial and portrait photographer and Hackney has become both her home and the basis of her personal projects. Focusing on living and working in East London, Jenny’s project One Day Young documents Hackney-born babies and their mothers in the first 24 hours after birth. Its aim, to tell ‘a story about the strength and resilience of women post-childbirth’, a story that is so common yet goes largely unacknowledged in today’s society.
Her photographs are a celebration of motherhood in its purest and rawest form, depicting the physicality of the first 24 hours and the beauty in the women’s postpartum bodies combined with an overarching sense calm, turning pain into something positive that has a purpose and shouldn’t be feared.
Liana & Archer
When did you discover your passion for photography?
I worked as a volunteer in a Romanian Orphanage when I was 17. This is where I took my first rolls of black and white film and developed them when I got home.
It was when I returned and saw the powerful way the images told the story of what I had seen, a new language that I was instantly fascinated with. I think my work has been repeating the themes in these first rolls ever since.
Xanthe & Louie
Veronika & Eden
What inspires / influences you and your work?
People… what’s their story? and how everyone’s experience can teach you something.
How does your editorial work differ from your personal projects?
To be honest it’s getting closer all the time. One Day Young and Hackney Studio have informed my practice so much and I try to stick with this honesty when working on commissions.
Hazel & Rudy
Jenny & Agnes
How did the One Day Young project come about? (What inspired you to do it, how did you get people together, process, time frame etc.)
One Day Young was born out of frustration. I feel that mothers aren’t supported in the media, there is an invisibility of motherhood as a topic in the art world and it really pissed me off. So out of anger I created a celebration, of something normal, that’s what I focused on.
To support and empower women, creating a powerful voice that would be there to encourage and dilute the fear surrounding birth. To show the strength of women rather than the vulnerability, or at the least an authentic and honest look at the range of emotions present.
To find the people for the project I leafleted my community to find recruits, offered a free photo session to anyone willing to participate and have their photo taken within 24 hrs back in their own homes. In the end, I gathered 150 case studies, creating a mantra of faces that couldn’t be ignored.
I didn’t meet anyone or see their picture as I was aware of not wanting to cast the subjects on age , race , class or any agenda so the first time I met the women was when I turned up on their doorstep the day they had a baby.
This did of course mean I was pretty much on call for five years, having to drop everything the minute I had a text as the time frame of 24 hrs was so important.
Helen & Hudson
Chieska & Floyd
Like everything in the media, pregnancy seems to be represented by how quickly celebrities can loose weight etc. And labour is represented in TV as an almost traumatic event. However, I think your photographs juxtapose this showing that real beauty is in a realistic depiction. How important do you feel it is to portray pregnancy and motherhood in this way and why?
Exactly, as I’ve said this negative and incredibly unhelpful view of birth was what inspired the project. There is another story and this wasn’t being represented.
When I was working on One Day Young I could see from the way people were responding to the imagery around the world that there was a need for these images. A blog in America had over 40,000 views when I was only two years into the series and since there have been articles in Brazil , Russia, Israel, all around the world so it’s very satisfying to see this message of positivity and celebration spreading and inspiring women as it goes.
Danila & Zara
Jenny & Nora
What are you working on at the moment?
I have been working on another series for the last three years which is a celebration of the creatives in my borough of Hackney, it’s an intimate family tree with each subject nominating the next.
While I have been working on this the mood has shifted dramatically and as the aggressive gentrification of the area increases its pace the series has taken on a political twist. You can have a look at the evolving series here.
Laure & Tyrick
Mairead & Arlo
Marley & Etta
Suphrawadee & Evelyn
Shenelle & Arissa