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London Photographer Jenny Lewis on the Most Important Photo She’s Ever Taken

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Joti and Kiran © Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis: One of the most important in the One Day Young series was one of Joti and Kiran. Whilst I was shooting this portrait of Joti, whom I had never met before, with her 4 hour old baby, she told me how she had lost a baby the year before, and with each contraction she had to suppress the waves of grief and fear that were swelling up attempting to drown her. The raw honesty of the conversation cemented this feeling of responsibility I felt, to tell this story of the triumphant mother, the story of strength and empowerment. I learnt a lot about compassion for strangers that day and humanity. We have kept in touch, and it’s wonderful that this moment of taking the picture and talking about her lost son Joseph was a turning point, and somehow Joti and Kiran being in the book keeps Joesph’s memory alive and their picture becomes about both boys. The picture means a lot to me, and I still get goosebumps every time I look at it.

One Photographer’s Quest to Honor Mothers, From Hackney to Malawi

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Judith, Adamissi and Sinoya, Deliver Life Campaign for WaterAid

Whether she was shooting down the road in London or in the remote villages of Malawi, photographer Jenny Lewis gave herself an unbreakable set of rules. One Day Young was to document mothers within one day of childbirth and no later; the mothers were not to be dressed or posed or made up to conform to any preconceived ideas about maternity. She was to sit with them in their own homes, listen to them, and make pictures of the very moment in which their lives were irrevocably changed.

We Asked 16 Photographers: Are you Optimistic for the Future of Photography?

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© Benjamin Lowy

Benjamin Lowy: Of course I am. The future is innovation, and photography will change and adapt, but it will continue to be a viable artistic form. Whether one can make money from it is another question all together.

J.M. Giordano: We will always have still photography and it will always be important. This came to me while watching a doc on photography during the Vietnam War. There’s a 16mm film showing the execution of a Vietcong sympathizer by a cop. It happens very fast and the film was all but forgotten. Luckily, still photographer Eddie Adams was there to capture one of the most famous war photos of all time. No one remembers the film but EVERYONE remembers the still photograph. In reality, I’m more concerned with the future of GOOD photography. The more we accept mediocrity and fear criticism, the more we’re no longer able to judge what’s good and what’s bad. Everything isn’t awesome.”

Ron Haviv: I am very optimistic about the future of photography. While the monetization of our new world hasn’t reached the level we want, the audience level has. Never before has there been more interest in photography than now. Whilst almost everyone considers themselves a photographer of some sort, those same people are appreciating great photography in a new way. We at VII photo and other places have moved from content suppliers to actual publishers through social media and other venues. It is very exciting to be able to reach an audience the same size as a magazine.

We Asked 17 Photographers About the Biggest Mistakes They’ve Made in Their Careers

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Lupo © Seth Casteel

Seth Casteel: I always struggle with a life-work balance. Even though my work is my passion, I don’t want to have a camera in my hand 24 hours a day. Sometimes I just want to take a time out and experience things with my eyes and not through the lens. But then I feel guilty sometimes because I’ve been given such an incredible opportunity – I want to make the most of it! I’m extremely proud of what I have accomplished thus far, but always wonder, could I have accomplished even more?

Benjamin Lowy: Not being a hedge fund manager? I think not running an effective business straight from the get-go was mistake. But not the biggest. Probably thinking that I just had to be one kind of photographer, that I had to specialize.

Ron Haviv: One of my great faults is thinking too much about whether I should go photograph a story or not. The best options are always to go with your gut feeling and start shooting.

We Asked 18 Photographers: Do You Always Get Permission From People That You Photograph?

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© Ayesha Malik

Ayesha Malik: It depends on the situation. If I am walking around with a small camera or my iPhone, I do not necessarily ask. I value the lightness of that process. Sometimes I will exchange a glance of acknowledgement if I sense a person would prefer that. In my more recent work exploring/documenting Saudi Arabia, I have chosen to actively ask my subjects to be photographed. I do not want them to be stolen moments. I want them to be given, to be honest, for a person to be seen as they wish to be seen. I started carrying around a laminated note in Arabic stating what my project was about and if I could take a photograph. I have no interest in telling people how to see Saudi Arabia. I believe Saudi Arabia has to be seen on its own terms. I hope that through this process, it will speak for itself, in all its variations. I find it is a country of private people, and I will always choose to respect that over anything else.

Ron Haviv: It is a situation by situation decision regarding permission. In the United States, if you and your subject are in public, there is no legal requirement for permission. If you are on or in someone’s personal property, permission is needed. In many cases, if I point a camera towards someone, and there is no negative reaction, I feel fine in taking the image. If they say no, verbally or otherwise, I respect their choice. If, however, there is a crime, violent act, or people are there for the purpose of being photographed, I will take the image.

Bieke Depoorter: Normally yes. I often feel uncomfortable with taking pictures in the streets, because it somehow feels like stealing… I feel better if I first ask for permission. When I enter in peoples home, it’s more easy, as I explain to them my ideas before they invite me into their home. I understand, though, if street photographers do not ask for permission first… the moment can be easily gone if you asked. It’s all about having respect for your subject. If you have that, not a lot of things can go wrong.

“One Day Young” Shows Women in the Earliest Hours of Motherhood

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Hazel and Rudy

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Clemmie and Imogen

After giving birth to her second child, while still reveling in the pride-laden afterglow, editorial photographer Jenny Lewis began to wonder why the only representations she had seen of this post-natal period in a woman’s life were images of corseted and flat-bellied women in magazines or heartwarming Hallmark card references, all either idealized or completely cheesy. Why was no one documenting those first transcendent moments of motherhood, when “the rug of life is just being ripped out from underneath you and suddenly you’re just like a god, a Greek god, a statue”? Childbirth wasn’t something to just get through and quickly cover up; that incomparable confrontation with one’s own creative powers, that profound redefinition of self in relation to a new other—those were things worth celebrating. And so One Day Young was born, a personal project spanning five years and over 150 subjects, capturing motherhood in its earliest hours through intimate, painterly portraits of new mothers residing in Lewis’ own London borough of Hackney.

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