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Rosy and Herb 36/100 Years by Jenny Lewis

1 February 2020

I photographed Rosy for '100 Years', a series I have been working on for the last few years for a new book; one hundred portraits from my community. The series covers every age from 1-100, celebrating and investigating the different perspectives we travel through, ages we have forgotten what it feels like to inhabit, and ages we have yet to reach. I met Rosy when I photographed her in 2016 for my 'Hackney Studios' series and she became the cover of that book.

Three years later and life couldn’t be more different for her. She had wanted me to photograph her in the style of my 'One Day Young' series but at seven months pregnant she was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. The next day she was given an emergency c-section to get the baby out of the way of the tumour so they could operate. She was in hospital for a few weeks recovering from the trauma, with a premature baby in an incubator by her side.

I took this portrait in her home a day before her chemo treatment began. Both of us wanted to capture this moment… it felt brittle, as anything could happen, but it was important to celebrate her achievement; the triumph of becoming a mother; and to stay strong for her son.

Rosy had 60% of her liver cut out in the summer after the first round of chemo and has just completed her second round… she was given the all clear at the beginning of Jan 2020 and will be scanned every three months to make sure the cancer is still in remission.

Rarely has a portrait meant quite so much to me, so it was a thrill to have it picked for The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2019 and to be able to visit it at the National Portrait Gallery in London with Rosy and her family.

Another image from the series; "Blanche 8/100 Years" has been selected for this year's International Photography Exhibition IPE162 at The Royal Photographic Society which opens February 15th in Bristol.

The Taylor Wessing exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery is showing until February 16th 2020. 

Jenny Lewis has worked as a portrait photographer prolifically in the UK and internationally for over 20 years, moving between celebrity photography on the covers of magazines such as The Telegraph with the likes of John Goodman and Peter Blake to projects for Wateraid in Malawi. Jenny continues to work for her editorial clients and also works on personal projects such as her One Day Young series, Hackney Studios, and 100 Years, explorations of the creative spaces and personalities in her community. Her work has been widely exhibited in the UK and internationally and can be found in The National Portrait Gallery's collection.

Jenny's books 'One Day Young' and 'Hackney Studios' are available from www.hoxtonminipress.com

See more work by Jenny Lewis

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