In a world that places a premium on looking perfect, even the tiniest body blemish gets airbrushed or filtered out of photos. But one United Kingdom-based photographer is challenging the prevailing idea that only flawless bodies are beautiful.
Behind the Scars is an Instagram page and activist initiative launched by Sophie Mayanne that features women and men showing what others might label disfigurements—everything from scar tissue on burned skin to missing digits and limbs to deep scars from major surgery. "It's about celebrating the skin we are in, the challenges we can overcome—and encouraging others to embrace themselves too!" Mayanne writes of the project on her Kickstarter page.
Mayanne has photographed 100 people so far, capturing images of people who embrace their scars rather than hide them, whether they've had the scar their whole life or from an injury or operation. The stories behind them vary. One subject was scarred after spilling boiling water, another is a cancer survivor, and a third is a transgender man who underwent a double mastectomy.
#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
#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
#behindthescars Deborah "My body is full of scars that represent my cancer journey. Each one is a war wound that has meant I have faced cancer and kicked it head on! At first I hated my scars, but as time has gone on I've learnt to love them. I suggest we carry our scars with pride, knowing they have built us rather than defied us. 7 months ago my life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. People say I'm brave to be going through what I am, but I'm not – I just have no other choice. I'm still me, I can still be sexy, I can still have fun – cancer doesn't need to define me." @bowelbabe
Mayanne's aim is to take Behind the Scars to the United States to shoot even more people who want to take on the cultural assumption that scars must be hidden. This week, the campaign reached its Kickstarter goal, and the initiative will be heading to the United States in February.