You might have noticed the colourful new paint job on this Shoreditch landmark (above), or heard of the monumentally moving photo series One Day Young. Jenny Lewis, photographer and person who makes things happen behind them both.
The One Day Young project captures mums and babies on their first day of life together, and came to my attention when I was pregnant with my baby, and before the Mumspo blog was even a thing.
The project has had oodles of press coverage, and there’s a sweet little book out by the equally watchable Hoxton Mini Press. It’s great to have on the coffee table to study the awesome power, strength and beauty of two people bonded together like no others after the literally gut-wrenching experience of childbirth.
Now Jenny has helped create one of the most striking landmarks in the burgeoning Old Street roundabout area of London’s Shoreditch with artist Camille Walala. After an Instagram-based mutual love-in, Jenny managed to get the Memphis-inspired artist to cover Splice TV’s building at the corner of Singer and Old Street in her signature graphic style. Calling it Walala’s building of dreams, Splice TV – who produce shows for Jamie Oliver et al – now stands out much more than the plain black paintjob they inherited.
Jenny is quick to point out that the colourful building is all Camille’s design, and that her only role was getting her Instagram crush to agree to it, but as this blog is about creativity in any form, that’s enough for me.
Here Jenny tells us in her words about her two amazing recent projects.
“My family is me, my husband Duncan, Ruby – eight and Herb – six.
I started the One Day Young series when my son was one and continued finding subjects for the next five years. Shooting over 150 subjects by the end.
Once I started I found myself compelled to carry on. I felt it was such an important message to explore … to spread the word and reassure and support women and to celebrate their strength in this transition into motherhood. So many thoughts and questions opened up from conversations with the women and seeing the strength of the project through the repetitive nature of the series.
It’s not a series about beauty but it also became a statement on the un-retouched woman and how powerful that natural image is. Swollen belly, bags under the eyes unsettled and with no manipulation of any sort but what you respond to is the rawness and honest of their expressions and body language. It can also be seen a snapshot of life in Britain with glimpses of our lifestyles a modern document of what it looks like to live in London at this moment due to the large diversity of the homes visited.
Of course I am so proud of everyone I shot and feel immensely privileged to have been invited into so many strangers homes at some an intense and intimately private time.
I feel I have learnt so much from these encounters and hope that others will see this respect I have for the women in these pictures and intern feel the same way.”
Clearly Jenny doesn’t struggle to get a beautiful shot, but the One Day Young project was a major struggle to fit in around normal day to day life.
“The hardest part about shooting it was it was impossible to plan as I never knew when I would get a text. Finding people to take part was of course an ongoing struggle posting leaflets everywhere in Hackney looking for volunteers and then having to do it all again every couple of weeks. Letting people down if I couldn’t get there due to work or being away. Juggling the kids or dashing off at a moments notice which made the kids and husband often feel the project was more important than them. Working so intensely on a project for five years that I wasn’t getting paid for was tricky justify in the home income balance. Worrying about disappointing mums who didn’t get back home in 24 hrs, worrying about getting them all an edit of 50 or so images the next day for them to share with friends and family, struggling with the diversity of women in the project and trying to resolve this before the publishing date. I could go on! Finding the right writer and designer and the the right platforms for the project to be written in, persuading journalists and now distributors and male reviewers to take the project seriously. I have to say looking back it has been a long hard journey but I am pretty stubborn and just wouldn’t let go. The women I had met had affected me deeply and I wanted to share this experience.”
In contrast, the new project with Camille Walala seems a breeze, albeit one enjoyed at the top of a scissor lift on Old Street.
“Camille and I have been following each other on Instagram for a couple of years and she had been supporting my work on One Day Young. Also coincidentally my best mate was living in Melbourne where she had done Living The Dream and painted Third Drawer Down. So he told me I had to see her work and weirdly we both also used to go to the London Fields lido and had probably been Instagramming each other from the poolside and not knowing it. So we met in a cafe and we got chatting like fellow creatives who support each other. Recently my husband’s business Splice took over the big black box building and I thought this is the perfect canvas for her. So for a year we were trying to work out how to do it and as of two weeks ago, we did it.”
The building designed by Camille, with painting assistance by Jenny, is on Old Street roundabout opposite the firestation. You can’t miss it.
“It’s one of those buildings that you would never have noticed before because it was so boring. And now it’s a landmark. People come out of the station and they’re on their phones and then they notice it and they’re smiling and taking pictures and talking to each other about it because it’s so amazing. It was amazing to see when we were up the ladders.”
When you get to Shoreditch, take a selfie in front of it won’t you? A tag us @mumspo and @__jennylewis__ won’t you?