Typing this, I trace my finger down and around my neck where my latest war wound lies: a smiley-face shaped scar stretching from one ear to the other. During my 24-year journey I’ve collected an impressive array of them; each one a not-so-gentle reminder the human body's resilience.
Scars are more than the tissue left behind after an injury or illness. They are physical memories etched into skin. A reminder of the journey taken, these skin anomalies expose our stories; the pain we’ve endured, the mistakes we’ve made, the fights we won – or not.
These are the chronicles explored by 24-year-old photographer Sophie Mayanne in her strikingly powerful photo series, ‘Behind The Scars’. As the name suggests, the project showcases survivors, warriors, champions, men, women and children and their unique stories through Mayanne’s lens in an incredibly intimate way.
Mayanne, an avid portrait photographer from The Cotswolds, UK, founded the project on Instagram where it has received global recognition for opening up dialogue around body image, mental health, self-expression, self-acceptance and modern-day beauty standards; which many social media users are eager to have. From Sam who paralysed herself with a handgun as a child, to Isabella who suffered burns from being trapped in a house fire at the age of 15 – each story is a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, a lesson in embracing the differences that make you, you.
#behindthescars Catrin “After I was severely burned in a coach crash in 2013, my life turned upside down. I fought for my life, for my physical abilities and my future. Now, I’m 23 and have learnt to love the skin I’m in, embracing being a 96% burn survivor, and seeing every scar as a step in a long journey.” @catrinpugh
"Prior to starting the project as a personal endeavour, I found it hard to find images of scars that were portrayed positively. I found a few projects but felt that they were going for the shock factor and didn't acknowledge the person's experiences, or personal relationship with their body and scars", says Sophie. "Scars are something that is often seen as negative - particularly in movie and TV scenarios. In reality, scars are deeply personal experiences and awareness of them can help others on their own journeys", she continues.
#behindthescars Gemma “My body is littered with scars from troubles times. For a long time it felt like a battleground. My relationship with my body and it’s scars hasn’t been an easy one. Yes as I have grown older I have become less inclined to give a shit what people think. I have come to see my body as a wonderful gift - it is uniquely mine, it has taught me things nothing else could, it is resilient and it is beautiful. My body and I are now an army and my scars an exquisite reminder of my strength. Being a part of Behind The Scars feel like being in a safe space where Sophie allows all our stores and scares merge to create something empowering, joyful and deeply healing. Today I feel like I can show myself…” shot on @huaweimobileuk P10 for @dazed #RevealTheRealYou @gemmabanks
"The project has become a huge part of my life, and one I am very much emotionally invested in. It's an amazing privilege to be able to capture such amazing portraits and stories"
Mayanne doesn't have a scar story of her own. Instead, she focuses on helping other people tell their stories. Each portrait is taken in similar style: with minimal clothing to showcase the person's scar and, more often than not, a gleaming smile. You can't help but feel somewhat envious that through their tribulations, these incredible souls have found self-assurance which is something that most people don't discover until much later in life.
We're living in an age of aspirational paradox; where our lives have become dominated by trying to achieve unrealistic perfection. Mayanne is campaigning for self-acceptance in an age obsessed with falsification. In the era of the filter, be unfiltered and appreciate what you have.
Mayanne is continuing her call-out for participants in her project and hopes to turn her Instagram feed into a series of books: "Behind The Scars is still an on-going project, so while it's achieved many great things so far, it's not quite finished. I would love for the project to become a book and a series of exhibitions", she says. Sophie hopes to photograph 1,000 people to really embody as much diversity as she can.
If you would like to be involved in Sophie's project email her at [email protected] She's also holding an exhibition at the Norman Rea Gallery in York on the 7th May, which will be curated by Isabella Fernandes.