Skip to content

100 Years In The East End

May 16, 2021
by the gentle author

Photographer Jenny Lewis has taken a hundred portraits of people in the East End aged between zero and one hundred. Below I have published a selection of favourites and you can find them all in her book One Hundred Years.

“It’s clear to me now, from the people I’ve met while making ‘One Hundred Years,’ that every sorrow we endure helps us live a little deeper, love a little stronger, experience the world with a few more hues. Human interaction has an energy. It recharges the batteries in a way nothing else can. Working on this series has changed how I want to engage with the world, and the people in it.”

Jenny Lewis

0 years old

2 years old
‘Have it, eat it, apple.’

8 years old
‘I have a black eye because I was playing sword fighting with a cardboard tube. It’s my fourth black eye. The only thing that would scare me is if a sabre-toothed tiger came up to me. I do get worried sometimes. I get loads of thoughts, at night-time mostly. When one comes, then another one comes, then another one comes. I write things that worry me down. It doesn’t look as scary then.’

15 years old
‘I push myself and I push myself, like I do with everything. I don’t like losing. I always want to be first and be at the front. I’m always going to try my hardest to win. That’s my motto, I just want to win. I did one of my raps about racism in front of the whole school. If I was rubbish at rapping it would be different, but I know I’m good.’

23 years old
‘When you’ve been told at a young age that you mean nothing, you don’t matter, you’re not focused, then you act like it. Now I work with kids. I’m very careful not to use any harsh or negative adjectives towards them, because it sticks, and I would rather help them find who they really are than plant a negative seed in their brain.’

25 years old
‘I talk very slowly. I go over everything I’m going to say in my head, like a script, checking it’s safe. I’ve always thought that’s just the way I am, but recently I discovered it’s a common trait among survivors of childhood abuse. Everyone is shaped by their experiences, whether it’s trauma or privilege. We all have a choice about how we respond to whatever happened to us.’

30 years old
‘My generation is probably the last that grew up without social media and I think we were very lucky to just be ourselves. I understand the compulsion, but it’s just not for me. I don’t have social media or seek that trigger. I’d like to think I don’t seek other people’s approval, which is not to say I don’t want to be liked, but I have no interest in taking pictures of myself having a good time.’

34 years old
‘This stage of life has surprised me. I thought I’d be the perfect mum. I thought I could give and give and give. But then I turned around and realised I was totally depleted. You think you’re throwing love at someone, behaving with the best intentions, but what your children actually need is to see you taking care of yourself; saying no sometimes. I can tell them whatever I tell them, but what they’re going to learn is what they see me doing.’

38 years old
‘I was arrested for doing a graffiti mission the day before my wedding – I made it out a few hours before the ceremony – but when my first child was born, that was it. I promised my wife I was done. There are four kids now looking up to me. It’s what I signed up for. They need me and I’m hungry for it. Can you imagine the amount of times I hear “Daddy” each day? This is my life and I love it.’

42 years old
‘I had anorexia, bulimia and everything in between. To me, it felt like an addiction, like being an alcoholic. It’s a distraction from life. I don’t see my traumas as doom and gloom, but as positive things – they are my chapters, you know? My family is my close group of friends, and my partner. We’re solid: both very independent, free souls, but together. I always call it “together alone” – and that’s where I’m most comfortable.’

50 years old
‘I feel a little bit sheepishly luxurious in my life, compared to people who have to go to work every day and do what they don’t want to do.’

56 years old
‘At 18, it was key for me to have someone older in my life to guide me. I was so happy and proud to work for Joe. Everyone just loved the man. We could trust each other, he was 100% my mentor. We worked together for 25 years until he got really sick from cancer. He deteriorated so quickly. I bought the workshop and changed everything over to my name. He was more a father to me than my actual father, the connection was very powerful. Knowing how important it is to have a mentor I’ve carried on that tradition. You can see the effect on kids when their father isn’t there that much. You have to listen so they can talk. You hold their hand until they let go and then you see them fly.’

57 years old
‘The older I’ve got, the more I enjoy acting. I thought that after I’d had my family I might have softened and let go a bit, but actually I’m more fiercely passionate.’

59 years old
‘You need an incredible doggedness to be an artist. I was always fairly positive that I’d make my living out of my art, but it took a while to happen – it wasn’t till I was about 40 that it kicked off. Even when I started to have success my dad was still saying, “Why don’t you become a picture framer on the side to make a bit of cash?” There’s a part of me that wants to keep going and create more and more, but there’s also a side that thinks maybe I can relax a bit now, and not be pushing myself so hard all the time. Having said that, there are still stories I want to tell, there are still things I want to do.’

62 years old
‘A friend of mine brought their niece and nephew round. He was like, “I told them we were going to a museum.” I didn’t know if it was a compliment or not. They couldn’t stop talking about it to their parents. “Do we pay you?” They really thought it was a sort of gallery that I only opened to special people, you know. He brought her back a while ago as she’d asked to come back to the museum. It’s quite sweet.’

63 years old
‘My parents were really strict, and yet they let me have 14 arcade machines in my tiny bedroom. I was a pinball hustler. First time I played, it was literally love at first sight. It was like a religion to me. The machines seemed alive, with personalities. I’d practise for eight hours a day. My parents were a little worried about me. I’ve got about 190 pinball machines now. I chat to them in my workshop.’

69 years old
‘I’ve never lived on my own. I’m finding it fun. The only time I find it really scary is alone in bed at night. That accentuates the fact that there is no partner in my life anymore. And I’m beginning to realise that might be permanent. That’s the biggest sadness, but there’s fuck all I can do about it. I miss sex. Christ yes! And that to me is bizarre, because for me a whole life includes that. And yet somehow I can’t have it, I’m not allowed it. It’s horrible not being fancied. And I know that is such an unfeminist thing to say. But I would really like to be fancied.’

80 years old
‘I always wore my own clothes that I made. When I arrived here in my twenties, I had a jacket like Liberace with black and silver thread in it. I had a checked shirt, black trousers with white stitching down the sides, moccasins that were off-white, and lime green socks. One said “rock”, one said “roll”. When I see my boys in football shirts and tracksuit bottoms made of the nastiest fabric, I think to myself, they should be arrested walking around in those clothes. I wear better things to clean my car… when I had a car.’

83 years old
‘Before the war, virtually every garden had pigeons. People didn’t have radios – they didn’t have much at all – so many men, young and old, kept pigeons. They may also have used them for eating purposes. Even today, someone will stop and say to me, “Are you selling them? Can I eat them?” I still race them but, like me, they’re too old really. I’ve raced three times this year, but they came last each time. That’s never worried me. I’ve had some good times with them.’

99 years old
‘I don’t feel any different to when I was 30 or 40. Or 20, to be honest. When my daughter was round a few years ago, I was using a pickaxe in the garden and she started taking photos. I couldn’t understand why. She said, “Dad, not many people use a pickaxe when they are 95.”’

Photographs copyright © Jenny Lewis

You may also like to take a look at

One Day Young

Jenny Lewis’ Hackney Artists & Makers

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    May 16, 2021

    What a beautiful article, such interesting people. Len’s story made me cry.

  2. May 16, 2021

    What wonderful portraits. Some of them say so much. Thank you and have a great Sunday, say hello to Schrodinger for me, please.

  3. May 16, 2021

    Such a wonderful start to my Sunday enjoying this posting. Found it very moving but uplifting at the same time and I’m energised to get going on my list of things I want to do – thank you.

  4. May 16, 2021

    64 years old

    ‘I was born in Göttingen in Germany and live in Kassel. As a child, I came into contact with old issues of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, which my father had received by subscription from an American GI in the 1950s, thanking him for my father’s help. I was deeply fascinated by the colorful Kodak travelogues. Especially the July 1956 travelogue “A Stroll to John o’Groat’s” by ISOBEL WYLIE HUTCHISON.

    As soon as I had my driver’s license, I set out on a 6-week trip to Great Britain in 1978 to repeat exactly the tour described in the magazine. I also circumnavigated the entire British Isles along the way – it was 6500 kilometers. That’s how I got to know and love England and Scotland.

    I am a war resister and pacifist. I studied product design. Worked in advertising agencies. And today I do such unusual things as repairing a memorial cross for a 4-year-old boy who was run over by a careless motorist while crossing a crosswalk in 1997. I put it back up at the scene the day before yesterday, and here’s the latest photo:

    And addressed to HERB and RORY I say: look at ALEC, this is a worthwhile life goal!’

    Love & Peace

  5. Annie Green permalink
    May 16, 2021

    Bought it! So wonderful I decided not to spoil the book by reading all of the post. What a fabulous project. Cannot wait to receive this gem. Thanks, GA!

  6. Lesley permalink
    May 16, 2021

    Lovely to look at the photos and read the comments. Such fantastic people. Elaine, trust me, your gorgeous.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    May 16, 2021

    This is a wonderful post and now I have read about each of the people I think I will be hard pushed to do anything better today. Everyone has their story to tell, each one unique, different and important. I enjoyed everyone both looking at the photographs and reading their comments. Blanche certainly seems to be a very wise child, bless her!

  8. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 16, 2021

    What a fantastic mix of characters and stories – I’d like to know how Jenny found them all (although I suspect there is no such thing as a dull person!)

    Great photos as well of course. I recommend the One Day Young blog too which is very moving.

    Carry on the good work Jenny (and GA!)

  9. May 16, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what a fabulous array of photos and reflections from this eclectic group of East Enders. In addition to her photography skills, Jenny must have great people skills to elicit such responses from all of these subjects.

    Very moving…

  10. paul loften permalink
    May 16, 2021

    What a great collection of photos! and the comments are so thought-provoking. It occurred to me if I were Kimberley and my friends had brought their children to my place with a similar comment, the children would have got exactly the same treatment as Bernie Cribbins did on checking out at Faulty Towers Hotel. However, she is quite right, it could be taken as a compliment if you look at it from another angle. Thank you, GA and Jeeny Lewis for the story and photos.

  11. May 16, 2021

    Superb portraits. I particularly like Anka.

  12. May 16, 2021

    Really interesting images, and even more interesting insights. Lovely post!
    Good to see Saskia Reeves too. Haven’t seen anything about her for ages.

  13. Cherub permalink
    May 16, 2021

    Such a lovely walk through the different generations.

    Len looks like a very content and happy man, his smile is infectious. I love pinball Geoff when he’s on The Repair Shop – it’s the joy on people’s faces when he’s fixed their old games and memories come flooding back.

  14. Pamela Traves permalink
    May 17, 2021

    Thank YOU for these Lovely Pictures. They are ALL Amazing!!?????????

  15. Kelly Holman permalink
    May 17, 2021

    Such a lovely collection, moving and inspiring. The pictures and words have been so sensitively ‘captured’. Thank you.

  16. May 17, 2021

    What a fabulous collection of personalities, so beautifully and sensitively captured. thank you for sharing.

  17. May 17, 2021

    Oh that was a lovely emotional journey! Thank you so much! I’m inspired to write again…whether I do it or not depends on whether I let my covid inspired teenager habits get on top of me……63 years old!

  18. May 18, 2021

    Thank you so much for all your thoughtful responses.. it feels quite emotional to share these stories and faces I have been gathering for four years. So glad you have enjoyed discovering them as much as I enjoyed finding them all for you.
    Much appreciated. Xxx

  19. Linda Granfield permalink
    May 19, 2021

    Very moving, each portrait.

    Just finished watching Saskia R. in “Belgravia” and “US”–two entirely different shows/time periods. She’s excellent in both (always has been a star) and I look forward to her new work.

  20. July 1, 2021

    Elaine you are stunning! I fancy you , honey! Cannot believe you’re that age.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS