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.
Lewis created One Day Young in Hackney over five years, and she had closed that chapter when she was contacted by WaterAid, a non-profit working to deliver clean running water and sanitation to poverty-stricken communities.
In the beginning, the photographer feared the mothers in Malawi’s Simulemba Health Centre would have little in common with her London moms, but as soon as she began meeting the women—many of whom had trekked for miles on foot for access to medical care and midwives—she rediscovered the acute beauty and fortitude she had recognized in her own neighborhood.
The overwhelming courage of mothers, regardless of their backgrounds and cultures, often goes unnoticed. In Malawi, women face extraordinary pressure to gather water for their families, and because that water is so often unclean, their children are vulnerable to infections and fatalities. In Hackney, the mothers didn’t want for basic sanitation, but still, they faced the threat and trauma of delivering babies who did not survive childbirth.
Throughout the process, Lewis has come against her fair share of skeptics, of people—mostly men—who look down upon or shy away from her subject matter as being too feminine and sentimental. It’s the women she’s photographed who keep pulling her back and reassuring her of the importance of telling their stories. They’ve stuck with her, each woman and each child, leaving an indelible imprint that has forever changed the course of her career.
One Day Young peels back the layers of everyday life and cuts to the quick of the human condition. In honor of Mother’s Day, Lewis shares with us this mini-documentary on her process. Buy the book here, and please consider making a donation to WaterAid to help their efforts.
Clemmie and Imogen
Shenelle and Arissa
Joti and Kiran
Efrida Phirri, Deliver Life Campaign for WaterAid
Liviness and son, Deliver Life Campaign for WaterAid
Alinafe and Boyson, Deliver Life Campaign for WaterAid
All images © Jenny Lewis