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This Photographer Is Asking People To Share Their Scar Stories To Break The Stigma

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

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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

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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:

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.”

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Jamie's scars have been with them since almost the beginning:

Bintu has also had hers since she was a baby and doesn't remember a time without it:

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

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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:

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!

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Hebe says the operation to correct her scoliosis made her appreciate her body just for functioning:

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:

Mayanne's work is a moving tribute to the struggles people face both externally and internally, and how it makes them even more beautiful.