As a renowned portrait photographer, Jenny Lewis has worked with some of the world’s most famous beauties — even a former Miss World — but I doubt any of her celebrity subjects would be brave enough to step in front of the camera for such an unflinchingly intimate project as Lewis’s latest. In One Day Young, the artist’s subjects are at their most vulnerable; each shoot was conducted within 24 hours of a mother giving birth, capturing a moment rich with contrasting emotions.
The over-riding feeling conveyed by Lewis’s images — and the one which the artist most wanted to convey as a positive message to mothers-to-be — is one of unbridled joy. We see the mums and babies in the crucial stage of postnatal bonding (something usually reserved for close family and friends), and the sense of intimacy is only increased by the babies’ complete state of obliviousness to the whole affair. The compositions, with one subject sitting for a portrait and the other shot candidly, creates an interesting dynamic to the pictures. We can also see other feelings in the mothers’ expressions which add to the series’ impact. A sense of relief that the “ordeal” is over. A certain amount of exhaustion. Pride at what they have helped to create. Perhaps even a tinge of trepidation as to what lies ahead – something which the viewer can know nothing of. One Day Young is published by Hoxton Mini Press as part of its East London Photo series. Lewis shot more than 150 portraits of subjects living in her native Hackney borough, of which 40 have been selected for inclusion. The book is available directly from the publisher, whilst an exhibition runs at Shoreditch shipping container mall @BOXPARK until the end of the month.