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Adrian Clarke‘s portraits of female former prisoners in the UK are up front and honest. The ladies insisted they go on the record and speak openly about their experiences in HMP Low Newton, an unremarkable small prison for women and young offenders in the north of England. Each woman reported only good treatment during their incarceration.

Clarke’s work is not sugar-coated. He doesn’t have the answers and his subjects, some of whom have ongoing drug addiction struggles, are searching for them.

The women – although aware of their tough lives – do not paint themselves as victims. They want to step up and take responsibility but when you’re that far down it takes a Herculean effort to wright the ship.

Low Newton, like all good portrait series, offers insight. But it does not tie the loose ends. I am left to wonder about the different definitions of normalcy we carry in our day today lives and if these women will find their own versions of normalcy and stability.

Mostly, Low Newton deserves attention because it appears to reflect a complete respect between photographer and subject.

Adrian Clarke’s portraits of female former prisoners are in the latest issue of The Paris Review.

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