Our bodies can tell the stories we might be embarrassed or scared to admit. Scars and marks, whether accidental or congenital, change the way we see ourselves. They remind us of moments when we were brave, afraid, hopeful, or reckless. Not unlike rings found inside a tree trunk, our visible markings can weave our entire life’s tale. Even when we don’t want to admit it, they become part of our history, setting us apart from all others.
While some might be allowed the choice of hiding their scars, others can only present themselves with these. People around us can tell us to embrace them, since our scars can remind us of how lucky we are. But, how can anyone else understand when they don’t have to walk and exist with them?
Sophie Mayanne is a London-based photographer who’s created a series and movement titled Behind The Scars. Through portraits and interviews with different people who have marks, both big and small, she’s been able to capture and portray the reality of living with your biography on display.
Some of the scars come from surgery, from health scares, and lifesaving operations. Others come from accidents, like falling off a tree during recess or being in a multiple car collision.
But some of these marks come from a different origin altogether since several of the models admit to self-harm. It’s through acceptance of both themselves and their history that they are able to continue to find healing.
“Learning to embrace my scars and accept them as part of me is a major step. I also feel that hiding them away perpetuates the feeling of guilt/shame."
Some of the models explain the story behind their scars. Others talk about how these marks remind them of difficult episodes in their lives. But what I find interesting is the variety. They all have different scars, in different places and sizes. Yet they all have a particular relationship with them. Even ones that are barely noticeable to the rest of us can be a constant note for them.
Unlike tattoos, scars are unintentional. We don’t go out of our way to get them. They just happen. But, like tattoos, the world around us can judge or have preconceptions about our person based on them.
Mayanne’s work doesn’t try to make the scars more or less noticeable. The images are left for the audience to see them as they would in real life. By also having the models’ accounts we are presented with the other side of each story. Someone who has scars of self-harm might be perceived by others in a certain way. By having the person in question speak out, the rest of the world can see their inner struggle to get better and to survive despite the odds.
You can check out more of her work on Instagram or her website, as well as by searching for the hashtag #BehindTheScars. At the moment the series has only been done in the United Kingdom; however, the photographer hopes to find new models and stories in other parts of the world.
Donate to the project here