UK photographer Sophie Mayanne has been working on a project for some time called "Behind the Scars," in which she photographs people's scars and shares the stories behind them. Mayanne told Bored Panda that she's always been drawn to "raw, un re-touched" photos, and that's what compelled her about the subject—not trying to hide people's perceived "flaws."
“When I first started the project, I remember saying that if I could make a difference to at least one person, then I have succeeded. As the project has grown, I just hope it will reach more people, and continue to have a positive impact," she said.
#behindthescars Yasmin “My tumour changed my life in so many ways. A life changing operation to remove the tumour, the size of a grapefruit gave me self acceptance on a level that was truly unconditional. In 2012 I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer wasn’t an issue, what was was the discovery of a huge tumour. It was benign, but sizeable. Attached to my liver, a bunch of nerves and my main artery to my leg. Five hours of surgery, a deflated hung, my diaphragm put on halt, a bypass with my insides out on a table. My fear going into surgery was the long term affects and how my body would recover. Will my boyfriend still love me, will he still find me attractive, will any man find me acceptable to look at? The truth was, it taught me to love myself hard, without compromise. Inside and out, there was a journey of total acceptance. My amazing body had not failed me yet, so who was I to not love it back for keeping me alive? The message is simple - we are provided with a beautiful vessel to carry our soul. It works so hard to support us daily - the love I have for my body is insurmountable. It allows me to be my glorious self - I am a very lucky girl.” @missyasminibrahim
Mayanne said many people enter a bit shy and unsure, as often folks learn to hide their scars or feel insecure about them. But in front of Mayanne's camera, they open up.
“The response has been really positive - and seeing yourself through a photographer's eyes can be a powerful experience,” said Mayanne. “For some people the experience of the photoshoot can be very therapeutic - as they may have not shared their experiences before, and for others they are consolidating their new found love of their scars - and body.”
Some share specifics of what caused their scars, while some simply want to enter the safe space Mayanne has created to share themselves:
#behindthescars Gemma “My body is littered with scars from troubles times. For a long time it felt like a battleground. My relationship with my body and it’s scars hasn’t been an easy one. Yes as I have grown older I have become less inclined to give a shit what people think. I have come to see my body as a wonderful gift - it is uniquely mine, it has taught me things nothing else could, it is resilient and it is beautiful. My body and I are now an army and my scars an exquisite reminder of my strength. Being a part of Behind The Scars feels like being in a safe space where Sophie allows all our stories and scars merge to create something empowering, joyful and deeply healing. Today I feel like I can show myself…” shot on @huaweimobileuk P10 for @dazed #RevealTheRealYou @gemmabanks
Leo explained how he is judged by his scars. He had an accident climbing a fence, but finds people often assume he was in some sort of knife fight:
#behindthescars Leo “When I was in my 20s, I was taking a short cut through the local park when I realised the gate had been locked. I decided to climb up over the railings and my footing slipped, catching my face in two places. The spikes passed through my face. Luckily the park attendant noticed what happened and called an ambulance. I feel like my looks were ruined by the accident, but I carried on as normal. People often think I’ve been in a knife attack or fight, so believe I’m a bad person.”
Felicity had several malignant melanomas at a young age, and sees her scars with gratitude for the fact that they were caught and operated on early:
#behindthescars Felicity "My body is, and has always been scattered with freckles and moles. Too many to keep track of. Last year I noticed one had changed and seemed darker and more misshapen than before. I saw several doctors, all of whom said it was nothing to worry about - but I pushed to get tested and was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma insitu. Luckily this is the very early stage of skin cancer, so it was caught with plenty of time. It was treated by removing 5mm of skin from the area. At the time I just felt so relieved. However, this summer I again noticed a mole looked darker and misshapen. This time round I was more anxious, stressed and very scared. Again I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. This time it was further along in its growth, meaning I had to have 1cm of skin removed. It’s very rare to be diagnosed twice at such a young age, and hearing the world “melanoma” and “cancer” really shook me. I’m so grateful that my skin cancer was caught early - the scars are a small price to pay. They will always be a reminder of how lucky I am, and how short life can potentially be. I would rather have a body adorned with scars, and the hope of a future - than an early death and a flawless corpse.”
Jamie's scars have been with them since almost the beginning:
#behindthescars Jamie "I was born at 24 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. The big scars across my stomach is where where my bowel had not fully developed properly resulting in tiny little holes across my intestine which caused septicaemia. The doctors described it as operating on a piece of spaghetti. The scar below it is a result of having an ileostomy bag. The star shaped scar under my armpit is where a tube was placed in order to help feed me. The scar across my neck is where a tube was placed in order to receive medication. My mother always reminds me that my scar were supposedly meant to shrink as I grew, but instead they grew with me as reminder to always appreciate my life"
Bintu has also had hers since she was a baby and doesn't remember a time without it:
#behindthescars Bintu “When I was young, I pulled a cup of hot boiling tea off the counter. As a result, it burnt my left shoulder down to my left breast and stomach. My scar has been with me since I was 11 months old - it is all I know, I don’t even remember my body without a scar. I have my confident days where I say "It’s just a scar”. I’m sure everyone has a scar. I’ve definitely had my bad days, but only when I meet a new face and they stare at it in disgust. It makes me think OMG is there something on my body? And then I remember “the burn” lol. I wear this scar because it is a part of me. It’s just a scar." @missmurad
Hannah has scars caused by self-harm and a condition that causes lesions:
#behindthescars Hannah "My body is a merry-go-round of scars - new ones arrive, choose a pitch and nest amongst the constellation etched into my skin. In time, some will fade until I can’t even remember the first time I pressed my finger to puckered flesh and welcomed them to the gang. There are self-harm scars that go back further than I care to remember, some so faint I forget that they’re there until a fluorescent changing room light flickers them into view, others stark with mottled tissue. There are skin biopsy bubbles, surgery scars and a tapestry of tokens from happy drunken mishaps that I will never forget. It’s a canvas that, by and large, I have come to accept, laugh at and learn from. The deepest layer of scarring, however, always been the trickiest to tame. The scars that ripple across my body are an unexchangeable gift from an autoimmune disease called morphea. The nature of the disease means my skin will probably never stop acquiring these new buddies; instead, they’ll come and go in shades of “fuck you”. There are old bruises slowly fading into a web on my stomach from the first two bouts, calcified white patches that are reaching fever pitch and shiny lesions that have only just stirred. If they were static I’m sure I’d be further along in learning to love all of the skin I’m in, but their tempestuous nature makes them hard to ignore. Some days they are so sensitive a brush of fabric can send shivers down my spine and showering has turned into an odd dance I never fancied learning - jumping from sensitivity to hot water, then cold water and then to scrubbing. Although - with a little push and an attempt to see them from a true outsiders perspective - I am learning to love each one as they arrive. They are a part of me: each freckle, mole, scar, tattoo, bruise, and lesion is threaded into the rainbow suit of skin I’m in. So, I’m going to embrace each new stripe because they are a reminder of every battle I’ve fought in this body. As I collect new scars, I will learn to navigate each and every evolution as it arises. " @hannahshewanstevens
Elijah also has scars from self-harm, but he celebrates the one on his chest from top surgery; they represent part of his transition and living in his gender identity:
#behindthescars Elijah “In one way or another, my scars are all self-inflicted. The scars from self harm cover the tops of my legs, and hints are on my arm. I am a trans man and started medically transitioning a year and a half ago. Last may, 2016, I had top surgery (double mastectomy) to remove my breasts. These scars are my new chest, the chest I have always wanted. They are my gender, my identity. I can’t remember having any other chest now. I have been liberated. These scars represent so much of what I have experienced.” @eliwharriz
Rachel thought she'd be talking about a different scar, but ended up discussing the acne scars on her face:
#behindthescars Rachel “Funnily enough I came to the shoot to showcase a different scar, but then changed my mind and thought I’d show the scars that really affect me. My acne scars. I suffered from I guess what you would call mild acne since I was a teenager, and although it’s cleared up since, I’ve been left with all the marks. I know some people may look at my skin and think “what’s the big deal, I’ve seen worse.”. So many people would always say that “It’ll clear up in time” or that “it’s just your age” or imply that I should “get over it” - but to anyone that’s suffered with bad skin, you know it’s not that easy. It’s difficult to understand the physcological effects that acne scars can have. For the longest time, I was so conscious of my skin that I wouldn’t go out without makeup and would literally spend tonnes on remedy beauty buys. Only now that my skin has improved have I gained my self confidence back, and begun to love and accept the skin I am in. It’s not perfect, and it may never be, but it can only get better, and most importantly I’ve got over it! The scar you see in the middle of my forehead is known as my Harry Potter scar, which, to be honest doesn’t really bother me at all. Maybe it’s because it has been dubbed with a cool name, or because I’ve had it for so long that it’s just become a part of me.” @rachelsomadina photographed in London. to support #behindthescars trip to NYC click the link in my bio!
Hebe says the operation to correct her scoliosis made her appreciate her body just for functioning:
#behindthescars “I had surgery to correct my scoliosis last year. The experience of being in hospital and the recovery process was incredibly humbling. I have a new found respect for my body. It’s a practical body, it functions. I can run, dance, jump and I’m no longer preoccupied by “problem areas” like I used to be. I feel so liberated and lucky to have realised how great and capable my body is.” @hebe_beardsall photographed in London, UK
Sigita forgets the scar on her face until people ask her about it:
Isabella survived a house fire in 2015:
Adele had a rare form of bone cancer and is still facing more operations:
#behindthescars Adele “In 2014, I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a bone cancer. I had chemo for nearly a year and several surgeries for bone transplantations in my arm. They took pieces of bone from my leg and thigh. One time, my transplant broke, so I had a major surgery which took 8 hours. In two years I had 10 surgeries and I have one planned for November 2017.” @adeleprieur
Mayanne's work is a moving tribute to the struggles people face both externally and internally, and how it makes them even more beautiful.