I am _
This is a series of portraits and stories from women who spent time incarcerated. Women who bravely stepped out of prisons and made themselves new lives, they were the ones who beat the system. I asked each woman to fill in the blank "I am ___", with something positive about their character, or who they are.
In the UK, women make up just 5% of prisoners, although that figure is on the rise. So, for this project I felt it was mandatory that they should be represented. Within 5 years of release, 95% of prisoners will have been caught re-offending. Remember, they're just the ones who got caught. As a response to this kind of failure of many Criminal Justice Systems, including that of the UK, this project was born.
Over the space of a year, I built rapport with women who had recently come out of their past lives of crime. Women who desperately wanted normality, safety, love, trust and to make something positive with their lives. Women who, at some point, had undeniably been neglected. I, as a photographer - but also as a human, was blessed to have been let into conversations discussing some of the most impactful parts of these women's lives. After many meetings, these women were ready to be the poster-girls for change. I only hope you can see the beauty that I saw in them.
These women, along with many men, will carry the stigma and the negative labels with them for the rest of their lives - no matter how much they change, no matter how hard they try for a better life. I truly believe that together we can build a safer, kinder society if we all take a moment to assess how we innately judge others. The five women you see here represent the first stage of this project, which saw the completion of a book containing portraits and stories in the words of the women, each woman starting with a positive defining characteristic, disarming the label 'ex-offender', by filling in the blank 'I am __'. Their quotes were combined with factual text in book-form alongside the portraiture, which was used to illustrate harsh realities and issues for women of this profile.