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People Reclaim Their Scars As Beautiful And Share How They Got Them In Stunning Photo Series

"Although being faced with an opportunity to remove the scar, I never would."

Scars are too often thought of as "flaws" that should be covered up. Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed by their scars. But 24-year-old fashion and portrait photographer Sophie Mayanne hopes to help people reclaim their scars as something beautiful that makes them unique. Through her portrait series Behind the Scars, Mayanne aims to encourage people to accept and love themselves despite their imperfections.

The photo series encourages people to celebrate their scars by showing them off in beautiful shoots and sharing the personal stories behind them. Their incredible stories and the stunning photos don't only help the people who share them, but they also encourage others with their own scars or flaws to embrace themselves and love the skin they're in. 

Both men and women of all ages have participated in the project and shared their incredible — and at times heartbreaking — stories. From gas explosions, to surgeries, to domestic abuse, these people opened up about their personal journeys and shared how they overcame their challenges. 

"Sometimes you see scars and images, but they're used more as a shock factor as opposed to actually exploring the person's story," Mayanne told the BBC

Mayanne does not retouch any of the images in this series. "These, in my opinion are some of the best, and most honest images I have ever taken," she wrote on Instagram.

As of October 12, 2017, she has pledged not to digitally manipulate the bodies or skin in any of her photography work. "Instead, I will spend my time truly learning my craft and creating honest images that capture the TRUE beauty of the people I am photographing," she wrote on Instagram.

Mayanne plans to continue the project in 2018 by visiting different cities and giving more people the opportunity to share their inspiring stories. 

You can see some photos from the project and read participants' stories below.

Megan

"When I was 14, I rescued a stray horse called Fly, and I fell in love with him immediately. One morning, I was feeding the horses in the field (just like every other morning). Fly tried to kick another horse behind him, but missed and kicked me in the face, just below my left temple," Megan told Mayanne

"At first I was shocked, I was young and alone in a field and covered in blood. However, after a few trips to the hospital, the scar is just a part of my face. Now it's been 4 years since I was kicked, the scar has created an adhesion to my cheekbone which is why it is noticeable. Although being faced with an opportunity to remove the scar, I never would. I don't think beauty has to be symmetrical!"

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," Rachel told Mayanne

"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 psychological 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."

Billy

"At 18, I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that predominately affects young people. Before my diagnosis, I had never heard of Ewings and had no idea how much it would impact my life. Part of the treatment process involved having my femur replaced with titanium which resulted in a scar the length of my thigh. I often felt as if the scar would remain a constant trigger of the times I spent sick to my stomach in hospital, but I'm gradually learning to view them as symbols of health, recovery and a chance at a long life. I can now zoom out and see more than a sick body, but a person even more motivated in life than before," Billy told Mayanne

Maya

"The last few months have been extremely challenging as the condition of my skin as deteriorated massively. From 18 months old when I was diagnosed with epidermolysis bullosa to earlier this year, I was able to live an almost normal life despite my skin, it was easy to hide and easy to manage," Maya wrote on her own Instagram

"But earlier this year it started getting rapidly worse and I am now able to do less of the things I once could. My confidence and self-esteem [are] almost nonexistent most of the time. So much of my day is spent managing my skin or being in pain from it. But now, more than ever, I need to remind myself that I am still the same old me. I am still beautiful and this condition that I will be lumbered with for the rest of my life, does not define me as a person. It will always be a huge part of my life but I will never let me take over my life. 

"EB is so rare that there is so little awareness for it and in a lot of cases it is life-threatening, so I'm posting this not only for me but for everyone suffering. Because of the lack of awareness, the funding towards trials and research is so limited that I probably will never access to a cure, as much as that upsets me, I just hope that future children will get access to more treatment and a possible cure. If anyone cares enough to find out more about EB, Google search 'Debra eb.' "

Deepshikha

"I did not see myself before my scar — I have had it for as long as I can remember. I was [4] months old when I had a surgery to remove one of my spare kidneys. Yes, I was born with an extra one, which was making me very ill," Deepshikha told Mayanne. "My mum says my scar was very tiny after they operated, probably because I was tiny overall. As I grew, my scar grew with me — and so did my discomfort and embarrassment over it. It's very much a personal journey, but I am fortunate to have support from special people. It's taken me 34 years to come to terms with it — I haven't got to the point where I can confidently wear a [sari], or a two-piece bikini without a care in the world, but hopefully — one day — I will get there soon!" 

Mercy

"My scars are from a fire related to domestic abuse. I got burnt at the age of 29, and it's been a difficult journey coming to terms with it. The comfort I take from my scars is they make me who I am today. I call them my most precious, and expensive piece of jewelry I own," Mercy told Mayanne. "I have survived and if having my picture taken, and exposing my scars can help anyone else then that's good for me!"

Isabella

"In the summer of '15, I was in a house fire. My clothes and way of life up in flames. I spent my summer in a burns unit on Fulham Road. My scars and scar tissue continue to change, but I have never felt more beautiful," Isabella told Mayanne

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