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1-100 A century of portraits

I was walking down the street when I saw a young photography student holding a sign that said “I am taking a photo of a stranger every day for a year, can I take your photo?”. I got chatting to him and let him have an image of me.

That sparked off the idea. I always like to work on a project, but recently all my projects have been landscapes, so I thought I would really like to work with people. I wanted a project that I could really involve people with and have people of all ages, not just children or teens or adults; the 1-100 was born. A book of one hundred faces, one for every age.

I quickly decided that each portrait would be a simple headshot and in black and white. I hope that by choosing black and white it will allow you to view each face and look at the details of the face, the sparkle of the eyes, the lines of experience and age, the beauty within every face.

The next thing I had to do was find 100 people, all of a different age. How do I reach out? I hit social media, Facebook and Twitter. I posted on my own Facebook page, and I contacted the admin of a Facebook group called Photography of Cumbria who let me post through their group.

The response was phenomenal and I was able to quickly book several people into the studio for their shoot. 1-100 started to come to life.

Every person I photographed was so open with their expression and I hope that you can see some of their personality, whether it is shy, happy, wise or sad. But really it is the eyes, the eyes can tell a story. I have found that studying the eyes of each portrait allows you to truly see the person behind. The sparkly eyes of youth and wonder, the quizzical eyes, the sad eyes, the happy eyes, the laughter in the eyes. As the faces age, the eyes show the experience they have of life and they say “I have been there and done that, look how far I have come”.

Meeting the people for their portraits was so much fun. I really wanted to capture each portrait under the same conditions, the same lighting, with a simple plain white background, so there are no distractions from the face. So nearly all the images were shot at my studio. A lot of laughs were had; running around after the two year old, the 55 year old twins destroying the studio with their selection of clothes, the family of seven all giggling at each other, the best friends pulling faces at each other. I had three generations of the same family in the studio, people who didn’t want to smile and people who giggled all the way through their session. I will never forget one hundred year old Kath, she was so proud to have reached such an incredible milestone, proudly announcing to me when we first met that she is one hundred years old. I have seen so much love and laughter whilst building the book of portraits, it has been fascinating, remarkable, funny, educational, challenging, enlightening and yes, hard work. But I have totally loved it. I never expected to feel so emotional.

For this project all the images have been taken with a Nikon D810 and a 50mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 prime lens. I would usually take 40 or 50 images of each person at different angles, different heights asking the subject to try different facial expressions and looks. One of the toughest parts of the project has been to select just one image from the 50 of each person to put into the book. I didn’t want every picture to be of a smiling face. I wanted a picture that captured a little of the person behind those eyes and showed a bit of personality so the viewer would look and perhaps see a glimpse of the person in the photograph. This book isn’t only a book of portraits, it is a collection of experiences, of personalities, of memories.

Working on this project has been the most amazing experience and I am grateful to every person who has been involved and given up some of their time to be part of it.

Thank you to everyone who has let me take their photograph. For giving up your time. Without you, my 100 volunteers, this project would not have been possible.

A special thank you to my friend Jayne Odell for designing the cover, to Joss Naylor MBE for taking part in this project, to Cally Marsden who made the long drive, a second time, to bring Joss for his portrait and to Permajet who donated the paper for each person’s individual portrait to be printed.

Thank you to my husband, on the cover, who is always at my side, supporting and encouraging me.


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