New photography book celebrates Hackney’s residents of all ages

Three-year-old Vivi was one of the youngest people photographed for the book. 

Three-year-old Vivi was one of the youngest people photographed for the book. - Credit: Jenny Lewis

An award-winning local photographer has released a new book of portraits of people in Hackney’s community.

Published on April 15, One Hundred Years, by Jenny Lewis, is a heart-warming compilation of one hundred portrait photographs in chronological order, from birth to one hundred years of age.

The book has been published by local indie publisher Hoxton Mini Press and includes an introductory essay by Lucy Davies.

Each portrait photograph is paired with quotes from interviews that Jenny conducted with the subject to capture a unique snapshot of their life and personality.

Jenny spent over three years gathering the photographs to create One Hundred Years.

“I really just wanted to explore people who had absolutely nothing to do with my life,” said Jenny, 47, who lives in Dalston.

“I wanted to talk to older people and younger people, all from different walks of life.”

The cover of Jenny Lewis' book, One Hundred Years, published by Hoxton Mini Press. 

The cover of Jenny Lewis' book, One Hundred Years, published by Hoxton Mini Press. - Credit: Jenny Lewis

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She uses a digital Canon 5D camera for her work, and said: “I'm not interested in film or fancy cameras. It’s more about the engagement with the person in front of the camera.”

Jenny photographs her subjects in their home environments or in a location meaningful to them, to try to paint an authentic picture of who they are.

“My aim is to just capture as honest a portrait as possible,” Jenny said.

Rather than using a casting agent, Jenny preferred to gradually find subjects – by approaching strangers in the park or asking acquaintances for recommendations. But finding an appropriate person to fill each specific age could be a long process.

“And then a pandemic comes along, and you're not allowed to photograph anyone,” Jenny said, reflecting on the last year. “At that point, I still had a lot of the over-70s to find, and it just felt inappropriate to go up to strangers and ask if I could photograph them.”

Hackney teenager, Mia, aged 16. 

Hackney teenager, Mia, aged 16. - Credit: Jenny Lewis

Jenny used lockdown to extract quotes from the hours of conversations she had already had, and to identify any gaps that needed to be filled in the project. When restrictions were lifted in summer, she was able to photograph the remaining people – and was helped with a tweet from the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, to find the final ages.

“The whole book seems to have taken on a different meaning now, because of what we've all been through,” Jenny said.

Jenny hopes that the accompanying quotes to each portrait will help to provide some insight into different generational outlooks in Hackney, where she has lived for 25 years.

“Everyone's so different and so interesting, and has been through such different experiences,” Jenny said. “We've all got so much to learn from each other, and you can get such warmth and openness from strangers.”

Cynthia, 58.

Cynthia, 58. - Credit: Jenny Lewis

From the anxieties of teenagers to lessons on parenthood, love, and loss, the book explores ages from all angles.

“The book is a celebration of our community and the rich diversity that we've got around us, whether that's experience or cultural backgrounds.”

Jenny has had two other books published by Hoxton Mini Press, and hints that she has other exciting projects in the works to be revealed later this year.

Hackney resident Ron Hitchens, 92. 

Hackney resident Ron Hitchens, 92. - Credit: Jenny Lewis

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