Sophie Mayenne from London is working to change the way society perceives scars in an inspiring photography project titled ‘Behind The Scars.’ It’s a series of poignant photographs of people with their scars and the unique stories behind them.
“As a photographer, I have always been drawn to raw and un-retouched work, and what makes us different to one another – and this is where my interest in scars stems from,” said Sophie. “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.”
Sophie’s subjects, often insecure or vulnerable after years of hiding away their scars have embraced her project enthusiastically. It seems that Sophie’s project is undoubtedly having the positive impact she set out to achieve, as people are excited to tell their stories and shed the burden of insecurity.
Scroll down to see some of the photographs from Sophie’s amazing and powerful project, as well as descriptions of the stories behind them.
“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 jewellery I own. I have survived and if having my picture taken, and exposing my scars can help anyone else then that’s good for me!.”
“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.”
“In 1997 at the age of 7 i survived a gas explosion. I have undergone 27 reconstructive surgeries. I have always been comfortable with my scars, to me they are beautiful and they tell you different stories. They are special.”
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. 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 is almost non existent 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”.
“I started self harming when I was 13 and have struggled with it ever since. The issue with self harming is it gets progressively worse and you end up doing more and more damage to yourself than you think is possible when you first start. It truly is an addiction and you get to a point where surgeons tell you that plastic surgery can’t fix the appearance of the scars, so the only thing you can do is love your scars so much that all the negative connections that come along with self harm slowly disappear – along with all the pain attached to the scars. My scars tell my story, and I’m never going to let anyone else’s thoughts or opinions change that. “
“I was born without both radius. When I was one I had my first surgery on my right hand. One year later doctors decided to operate on my left hand. Two different doctors operated on my hands. The first operation went well. During the second operation, there were some complications. Doctors didn’t know that bones in my left hand are different from the ones in my right hand. When I was 15, I noticed that there was something wrong with my left wrist. I had to have surgery once again. This disease is called hemimelia, and a case like mine happens for 1 in 100,000 people. I always had a big problem with my scars – I couldn’t accept myself because of them and other people also had a problem with my scars. Now I think that this is who I am. Finally I can feel that I don’t have to hide it, because this is the real me.”
“I was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer called Osteosarcoma when I was 27 years old. Doctor’s think that I had the tumour since I was 26. My right arm was aching whilst I was sleeping – everyone I would chop vegetables, and get dressed. I went to see a chiropractor – he moved my arm around and I screamed very loudly. He just said that I had damaged my muscle and said I was very dramatic. Unknown to him, what lay behind my “dramatic” scream was something quite sinister. I was living in South Africa, Cape Town and had recently received my visa to live there. I was working with ant-sex trafficking victims and supporting abused women and children. I had just started helping out at a support group, when one of the girls approached me and said “Hey, you don’t know me very well, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve had 3 vivid dreams about you in a row now. In them you come to my house, and when I wake up I feel God’s presence, so I really feel that you need to come to my house.” I’m quite a spiritual person, and had dreams in my childhood that had come true, so I thought I’d go and see her. The day I went to her house she wasn’t actually in. as I was walking out of her courtyard, I had a sense that her dog was going to go for me. The dog looked chilled, so I just shut the gate and as I put my hand through the gate to lock it, I heart the dog bark, and jump up to bite m, so I gently jumped back and my arm completely snapped as I landed. My friend took me to the Doctors. I was sent for a scar and it showed that I had a very clean break. The Doctor’s face dropped when she saw my scan. she booked me in to see another Doctor the next morning. I was in so much pain I didn’t really question why I was seeing another Doctor. When I saw him the following morning he asked me a lot of the typical cancer questions – Have you lost weight, have you passed blood, and so on. He said something had been eroding my bone- my heart was pounding thinking of all the things it could possibly be. He then said those dreaded words that literally took my breath away – you most probably have cancer.”
“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.”
“I played with a hand gun at age 14 and it gave me a lifetime in a wheelchair. But despite what you might think, I’ve never found a reason to be victimised by my condition. My spiritual and physical scars made me grow stronger, empowered. I wanted to be a tennis player, so I became a tennis player. I wanted to be a model, and guess what… I am a model. As a model of diversity, I work in the fashion industry representing people that have limitations but are not limited. They love, they fight, they win, they lose. They are real and my story helps them to see how beautiful and meaningful they are. All scars included.”
“Today I am a little angry at the world. I’m angry that it’s been 2 years and 2 days and I still don’t feel complete. I have been cut up and then stitched and stapled, but today I don’t feel whole. I’m angry that my memories and dreams of what happened blend together with the present. It’s 2 years and 2 days and today I don’t feel okay. But I will.”
“In 2014 I was diagnosed with angiosarcoma of the breast, a rare and aggressive cancer. Three surgeries and two chemotherapy treatments later these are the scars I bear. My recent operation was an innovative surgery which involved removal of my sternum and four ribs, which were replaced by surgical cement, muscle from my back and a skin graft. It took me a long time to finally embrace my scars. They document my journey and the courage and strength I did not think I had. Recently I was told the cancer had returned. Surprisingly I feel at peace”
“I was born at 24 weeks, weighing 1 pound 11 ounces. The big scars across my stomach is where where my bowel had not fully developed properly resulting in tiny little holes across my intestine which caused septicaemia. The doctors described it as operating on a piece of spaghetti. The scar below it is a result of having an ileostomy bag. The star shaped scar under my armpit is where a tube was placed in order to help feed me. The scar across my neck is where a tube was placed in order to receive medication. My mother always reminds me that my scar were supposedly meant to shrink as I grew, but instead they grew with me as reminder to always appreciate my life”
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 London in a burns unit on Fulham Road. My scars and scar tissue continue to change, but I have never felt more beautiful.”