Lysa TerKeurst once said that scars are beautiful when we see them as glorious reminders that we courageously survived. Scars tell a story, and are a physical and permanent reminder of something we have gone through and learned from. Often looked down upon in public, people unfortunately have seen scars as ugly, or gross, dismissing the story behind it. This has resulted in too many people having to hide their scars and feel self-conscious about it. A photographer from London, England has been working to change that very thought, in a powerful photo project called ‘Behind The Scars’.
Sophie Mayamnne has been crafting a series of photographs of people, telling a story of each individual and their scars. Starting this project off, Sophie had hoped to at the very least make a difference in one person, and to her, that would be considered a success on its own. As a photographer, she has been “drawn to raw and un-retouched work, and what makes us different from one another” and this is where her interest in scars stemmed from. Sophie aimed to unmask and uncover the insecurities of these individuals, and have them break out of their shells that they have been hiding in for too long.
Each individual has their own story and has decided to come forward for this project. This photoshoot has been seen as a powerful experience, and a therapeutic one at that, having the platform to share and be portrayed in the eyes of a photographer and finding a new love for their body in doing so. As time has gone on, more people have begun to find out about the project, and have come forward to share their own story. Here, we take a look at some of the individuals who bravely shared their experience, and how their scars came to be.
When Megan was 14, she rescued a stray horse named Fly, whom she fell in love with. When she was feeding the horses in the field one morning, Fly tried to kick another horse behind, but instead ended up missing and kicking Megan just below her left temple. Shocked at first, and covered in blood, she wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. 4 years later, after a few trips to the hospital, the scar is now just a part of her face. The scar created an adhesion to her cheekbone which is noticeable, however if she had the opportunity to remove the scar, Megan says she wouldn’t, stating “I don’t think beauty has to be symmetrical!”
Mercy’s scars are from a domestic abuse case that involved a fire. At the age of 29, she was burnt and has had a hard time coming to terms with it. Fortunately, she knows that “The comfort I take from my scars is they make me who I am today”. She claims that it’s her “most precious, and expensive piece of jewelry” she owns. Mercy hopes that having her photo taken and exposing her scars will help others do the same.
Maya was diagnosed with a skin condition known as epidermolysis bullosa at the age of 18 months. In the recent months, the condition has deteriorated immensely, which has been a challenging time for her. For most of her life, she has been able to manage it and keep it hidden, however, it is now getting rapidly worse, which has taken a toll on her confidence and self-esteem. She reminds herself that she is still the same person, and still beautiful, and her condition won’t define her as a person. Although it’s a big part of her life, she won’t allow it to take over her life.
At the age of 27, Abi was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer known as Osteosarcoma. It was believed that she had her tumour for over a year. During sleep, getting dressed, or even chopping vegetables, her right arm would ache. She decided to see a chiropractor who moved her arm around, which was painful for her. Dismissing her pain, he claimed she was just being dramatic. Working in South Africa at the time with anti-sex trafficking victims and abused women and children, she was approached by a girl who had claimed to have had vivid dreams about her, and that she needed to come to visit her at home. Her curiosity led her to this girl’s house, but when she got there the girl wasn’t home. Her dog was there, and it bit Abi, injuring her arm. This led to her seeing a doctor, who determined she had a very clean break, but the scans showed something else. Something had been eroding her bone, and she was diagnosed with cancer.
At the age of 20, Leo was taking a shortcut through a local park, when he climbed up over a railing and slipped. He had hit his face in two places, with the spikes passing through his face. A park attendant noticed and quickly called an ambulance. He feels as if his looks were ruined by this accident, but he’s carried on normally. He says that people often think he may have been in a knife fight and may believe he’s a bad person because of that.
When Iris was 5 years old, she was taking a nap, when a fire started close to her bed. She lost two fingers at the time and required a year of recovery at the hospital, and another 25 years just to accept it. She had been nervous to shake hands, and got looks and whispers from other children, as she tried to constantly hide it. Through the help of her mom, she is confident and doesn’t hide it anymore, even if it still hurts and takes a toll on her mentally at times.
In her earlier years, Bintu had pulled a cup of boiling hot tea off a counter, which burnt her left shoulder down to her breast and stomach. Since 11 months old, she has had her scar and doesn’t remember a time without it. Through her good and bad days, she wears the scar as a part of her now and is reminded of the burn she had suffered years ago.
For the first 21 years of her life, Grace went through no health issues at all. Not a single break or illness. Suddenly, she was having brain surgery. Through two operations and radiotherapy, she was fortunate not to have lost much hair, however, she was left with a scar on the side of her head where she would no longer grow hair. She embraces it. It is a reminder of what she survived. The scar on her stomach is newer, which has been harder to come to terms with, but she’s owning it. “My body is a collection of markings and memories,” she says.
At the age of 14, her first scars appeared upon playing a chasing game with friends. She had scarred both of her legs while trying to leap over a wall. She had worn trousers for years to hide her scars. Andrea then got scars on her left arm and face, from a “deranged person out for revenge”, revenge that was not even intended for her. She was caught in the middle of a fight where a person had a glass in their hand while punching her. Now, she wears her scars proudly, and loves “me for me”, remaining focused on creating her “ultimate self”.
Billy was diagnosed with rare bone cancer that affects young people, known as Ewings Sarcoma, at the age of 18. He had never heard about this condition and how much it would impact his life. His treatment process involved having his femur replaced with titanium, which gave him a scar the length of his thigh. Fearing that the scar would remind him of his ill days, he has learned to view it as a symbol of health, recovery, and a chance at a longer life. “I can now zoom out and see more than a sick body, but a person even more motivated in life than before.”
At the age of 9, Ela had been diagnosed with scoliosis, which was right away classified as “severe”. Unfortunately, she felt her dream of being a ballet dancer evaporated upon leaving that consultation. It’s been tough for dance teachers to want to teach her ever since. Her spine began to cave in on itself, and by the age of 13, she required spinal fusion surgery. She still got to attend a dance school at 15, where she was able to fulfill her love for ballet and not be restricted due to her spine. She was treated the same, and not as a disabled individual, which she is proud of.
Maddie had broken her arm at the age of 9, riding her bike on a rainy day. As she fell, her appendix burst as well. The focus was initially on her broken arm, until she couldn’t walk or move, and was constantly throwing up. It took several visits to the doctor for them to finally determine what it was. Her family was informed to rush her immediately to the hospital, as she has developed “tendinitis”, which is when the poison from the appendix leaks into the bloodstream. She was placed in intensive care for months and had to learn how to walk from scratch. She had missed a lot of school but came to learn that if she had come to the hospital just a day later, she would have died. Her scar represents her will to now live out every day.
Blanca was involved in a motorcycle accident with her father while on holiday in Thailand. Heading back from dinner in the evening, they were struck by an oncoming vehicle in the opposite direction. She broke her femur, along with suffering cuts and grazes all over her skin. The only scar she had gotten was from her broken leg, and years later it was revealed she tore a knee ligament, which resulted in surgery that left her with six more scars. It took a couple of years of trying to hide her scars before getting more comfortable with them. She has learned to embrace what the accident has taught her despite the reactions and looks she may get from others. Still feeling the psychological and physical effects 10 years later, she says she wouldn’t change a thing.
In 2014, Aimee was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition called Fibromyalgia. Just a year later, she was also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which got in the way of her passion for dancing. Her condition worsened, and her hip would dislocate easily, and she required surgery in 2017 to length her IT band so she could walk and dance freely again. Today, she wears the scars she has gotten over the years with pride.
A year ago, Hebe had corrective surgery for her scoliosis. Her experience in the hospital recovery was humbling, and she has found a new respect for her body. She can now run, dance, and jump, and doesn’t suffer anymore. Today, she feels liberated and celebrates her body’s capability.
In 2015, Isabella was in a house fire. “My clothes and way of life are up in flames,” she said. She had to spend her summer in London in a burns unit on Fulham Road, and today, as her scars and scar tissue continue to change, she has never felt more beautiful.