Written by Sophie Wyatt
While some people see scars as ‘imperfections’, artist Sophie Mayanne is creating images to capture the beauty behind people’s raw selves. Starting in April 2017, the campaign entitled ‘Behind the Scars’ has captured the images and stories of 477 individuals. Sophie intends to reach the mark of 1000 photos in order to complete the project. The photos range from people with medical scars, to ones they’ve been born with or gained through life struggles. But they are all equally encompassed in the projects manifesto that all scars (whether big or small) show love, beauty, defiance and should be celebrated, not hidden. Scars are much more than just damaged skin tissue, they are an entire story.
Sophie encouraged men, women and children of all ages to take part in the project, not only be photographed but to tell the story behind their scar. At only 26 years old, Sophie decided that she wanted to make sure people had an outlet in which they could understand the beauty behind their scars, and be able to embrace them. The series also allows its audience to challenge their perception of themselves in terms of their own levels of self-love.
Sophie explained to us that she had not initially intended for the project to be as big as it has become. ‘Behind The Scars first began as a small editorial shoot, which was inspired by a boy I had met previously with scars. The inspiration for the project grew with each shoot, leading it to where it is today.’
After explaining that ‘No story is more important, or impactful than another – I view each story equally’, Sophie went on to tell us about the emotions she has experienced whilst creating the project. While the project as a whole is deeply moving and thought-provoking, Sophie divulged that much like the stories themselves, each is so unique that unique emotions are connected to every different one. ‘I actually often don’t experience emotions until afterwards – when I am reading through their stories etc. On the day I try to stay as neutral as possible – we are both there to create a photograph, so sometimes the image captures unspoken emotions, as I already have an understanding of the person I am photographing prior to the shoot too.’
‘The emotions the audience feel is very much up to them, and their personal experiences. Simply put, I wanted to tell the stories behind people’s scars – to challenge beauty norms, and my own photographic practice too. The project has gone beyond what I want it to be now – it’s up to the viewer what they wish to take away from the images they see.’
The response to the project has been ‘overwhelmingly positive‘, and as the project has grown more and more people have reached out to Sophie with the desire to be involved and share their stories. ‘People usually find me. Social media has played a large part in this, as I have actively shared the project from it’s early days.’
‘Behind the Scars’ is continuing to build until it reaches it’s goal of 1000 photos and stories. Sophie explained that rather than planning for the next project, she is just enjoying being immersed in the current project while it continues to grow. ‘I don’t know what project will be next for me, and I doubt I will know until this one is finished. I’m not too worried about that though, ideas come when they come sometimes!‘
Check out some of the amazing photos and stories from ‘Behind The Scars’ below, or head over to Sophie’s website to find the whole project.
View this post on Instagram
Hello everyone , I’m Freya (@_144fw ) and I was born with a rare skin condition called Giant Congenital Nevus (occurs 1 in 500,000 births) which is dark coloured birthmarks all over the body caused by genetic changes in the fetus that lead to excessive growth of melanocytes, the cells in the skin that are responsible for skin color. Growing up with CMN used to be very tough especially as a child as i didn’t understand why people would stare at my skin and whisper horrible things however as i’ve grown up i’ve learned to just ignore the hate and embrace the body i’ve been given . from a young age (around 4 years old) i used to have laser surgery to remove the birthmarks from my skin condition on my arms and face which was an operation done every 6 months however at the age of 14 i decided to stop the surgery because i wanted to live my life to the fullest without having to worry about future operations , so in total from the age to 4-14 i had about 25 laser surgery’s which is why some of my birthmarks on my face and arms are lighter than other areas of my body. one of the main risks associated with CMN is skin cancer (melanoma) which is one of the main reasons people with CMN choose to get laser surgery / removal surgery to remove the birthmarks therefore i have to avoid the sun and if i can’t i have to use sun cream to protect my skin. i’m excited to be doing the takeover this weekend 💕.
View this post on Instagram
Jim for @behindthescars_ “I think that my face and body, fairly well reflect the life i’ve had up to this point. Skateboarding, motorcycles and martial arts have all left their marks in a number of ways. I’ve never been too concerned by injuries, broken bones or scars, and consider myself lucky that i’ve escaped with what I have. Because of the martial arts there tends to be an assumption that I must like or enjoy violence. This could not be further from the truth. What I do enjoy is the sense of belonging, the discipline, the confidence, the fitness, the healthy competition and the sense of tradition that I get from the training, along with many other positive benefits that others will attest to. What it can also mean is that if ever a situation arises that cannot be avoided and calls your safety and wellbeing into question, you can hopefully give a reasonable account of yourself in dealing with it. On the 2nd Feb this year I was locking up at the shop where I work when I was jumped from behind by a couple of fellas who had decided that they would try and relieve me of the bag I had over my shoulder and the potential rewards within. The days takings?, a phone, a wallet perhaps? in fact all that is really in my bag is a load of junk and some clean dry underwear as I ride a motorcycle all year round and am regularly soaked through. After a brief struggle, my two attackers made off with nothing more than a feeling of being a bit worse for wear. As it was winter time I had on a lot of big bulky and restrictive motorbike gear, which probably hindered me as much as it helped. Due to the struggle I felt hot and sweaty and as I wiped my head I ended up wiping blood from my face into my eyes. Although I’d felt nothing at the time I realised I’d been cut somewhere. I went back into the shop to clean myself up before heading home and it was then that I saw the wound for the first time. Their also turned out to be multiple slash marks made to my jacket which I’d not noticed or felt at the time.” Continued in comments @jimpatston
View this post on Instagram
Hi there I’m Natalie and it’s now take over time… Any questions please ask away – I do enjoy telling my story and sharing the different stages in my burns journey. I never had a choice but to accept my scars – they are branded across my neck and chest. 6 years ago I was badly burnt from a towel rail – a total freak accident that left me initially with a patchwork scar across my neck plus additional scars from my skin grafts and reconstructive surgery. After 15 operations, laser sessions, invasive surgical procedures and over 300 visits to the burns unit, what was a patchwork scar is now a wonky but thinner scar. No one ever wants to be associated with a Halloween feature or something that’s used in movies to make characters scarier, nor to be pitied because I have scars that are permanent! Over 300 hospital visits later to Chelsea and Westminster – with the right support from family, friends and the health professionals, i learnt to see my imperfections as a reminder of my story; a story that says I survived. Additionally My story wouldn’t be the same without our fabulous NHS that I have an eternal appreciation for. Sophie captured my scars just after my 15th operation. I am here all weekend to share more of my journey and to answer any questions you might have so ask away…