“Can you stop talking to strangers?” ask six-year-old Herb and eight-year-old Ruby, as their mum Jenny Lewis chats to women at playgroups and playgrounds, reassuring them about their pregnancies. “Don’t worry about it, you’re going to be fine,” she can be heard saying. What struck me when I met Lewis was her positive and contagious energy.
Giving birth is both one of life’s marvels as well as it’s most fundamental experience. Lewis captured this by photographing 150 Hackney women at home with their one-day-young babies within the course of the past five years.
There is something deeply emotive about the 40 portraits published under the title of One Day Young. Each picture is strong individually but it takes the series to realise the similarities between them all. Only then do you notice how Lewis has systematically managed to capture the domestic surroundings of one of the most intimate moments of a woman’s life with true honesty and real intensity.
All of the photographed women seem grounded with a similar inner strength, confidence and selflessness. There is a combination of tenderness and raw intimacy in the relationship photographed. But there is also a much less tangible relationship that filters through: the one the photographer had with her subjects.
In each of the portraits, you can detect the sincerity of a photographer who cares about the women she photographed who are essentially all her “next door neighbours”, living in the same borough and who, in her own words, she finds “fascinating and inspiring”.
The captions that pace the book hint on the depth of the open-hearted discussions Jenny might have had with some of those women, evoking life and death, anxieties and hopes for the future.
One Day Young is published by Hoxton Mini Press. ISBN: 9780957699885 RRP: £12.95