This touching project reveals people’s scars and the stories behind them [NSFW]

Jan 16, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

This touching project reveals people’s scars and the stories behind them [NSFW]

Jan 16, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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I remember a thought I read years ago: “A scar is a tattoo with a better story.” Photographer Sophie Mayanne has created a wonderful personal project that reminded me of this thought. Her models are people with different types of scars, and they share the incredible stories behind them. These beautiful portraits, along with many sincere stories, create a project that won’t leave you indifferent.

[Editor’s note: some photos contain nudity and/or graphic content, so viewer discretion is advised]

Many people feel self-conscious about their scars. They see them as “ugly” and unfortunately, society often supports this opinion. Personally, I believe scars are nothing to be ashamed of. They are a reminder, a memory, and they carry a personal story about each of us. Sophie shares these thoughts, so in April 2017, she started a project named Behind the Scars. It shares people’s stories through a series of captivating and personal portraits.

As Sophie tells Bored Panda, she has always been drawn to “raw and un-retouched work.” She wants to see and capture what makes us different from others, hence her interest in scars and the idea for the project. When she started the project, she thought that it would be a success if she only made a difference to one person. However, the project has been growing ever since, with more and more people showing their scars and sharing their stories. Almost a year later, her project keeps having a positive impact on both her subjects and the viewers.

A lot of Sophie’s subjects are self-conscious about their scars and they carry the trauma along with them. Sophie says that this project has often helped them change the way they see themselves and their scars. Seeing yourself through the eyes of a photographer can be a powerful experience, even therapeutic, says Sophie.

Behind the Scars really had an impact on me as a viewer. There are some incredible stories to read, and many of them got me teared up. But most of all, these photos show beautiful individuals with their unique markings. Their scars aren’t what defines them, but they just add to their personality and individuality. They are indeed tattoos with better stories.

Sophie’s project is still ongoing, and as more people find out about it, more of them are willing to share their stories. Sophie hopes to publish a book of the series someday, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for it. I’ve chosen some of the photos and stories you can see below. Of course, you can see more of Sophie’s work on her website and Instagram, and see more of the project here.

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 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!
Miriam: When I was 9 I fell off a swing on holiday and broke my arm quite badly. Being in hospital on holiday was a pain, but I made friends with the other kids on my ward and we remained pen pals for sometime after. My scar doesn’t bother me at all, I forget it is there until someone else brings it up.
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.
Adele: “In 2014, I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a bone cancer. I had chemo for nearly a year and several surgeries for bone transplantations in my arm. They took pieces of bone from my leg and thigh. One time, my transplant broke, so I had a major surgery which took 8 hours. In two years I had 10 surgeries and I have one planned for November 2017.
Hannah: “My body is a merry-go-round of scars – new ones arrive, choose a pitch and nest amongst the constellation etched into my skin. In time, some will fade until I can’t even remember the first time I pressed my finger to puckered flesh and welcomed them to the gang. There are self-harm scars that go back further than I care to remember, some so faint I forget that they’re there until a fluorescent changing room light flickers them into view, others stark with mottled tissue. There are skin biopsy bubbles, surgery scars and a tapestry of tokens from happy drunken mishaps that I will never forget. It’s a canvas that, by and large, I have come to accept, laugh at and learn from. The deepest layer of scarring, however, always been the trickiest to tame. The scars that ripple across my body are an unexchangeable gift from an autoimmune disease called morphea. The nature of the disease means my skin will probably never stop acquiring these new buddies; instead, they’ll come and go in shades of “fuck you”. There are old bruises slowly fading into a web on my stomach from the first two bouts, calcified white patches that are reaching fever pitch and shiny lesions that have only just stirred. If they were static I’m sure I’d be further along in learning to love all of the skin I’m in, but their tempestuous nature makes them hard to ignore. Some days they are so sensitive a brush of fabric can send shivers down my spine and showering has turned into an odd dance I never fancied learning – jumping from sensitivity to hot water, then cold water and then to scrubbing. Although – with a little push and an attempt to see them from a true outsiders perspective – I am learning to love each one as they arrive. They are a part of me: each freckle, mole, scar, tattoo, bruise, and lesion is threaded into the rainbow suit of skin I’m in. So, I’m going to embrace each new stripe because they are a reminder of every battle I’ve fought in this body. As I collect new scars, I will learn to navigate each and every evolution as it arises.
Iris: I’ve become the strong and independent woman I am today because of my Mum, and because of what happened. It has all been a part of my journey. It started when I was 5 months old – whilst taking a nap, a fire started next to my bed and I lost two fingers. It took one year of recovery at the hospital, and 25 years to accept it. I went through awkward handshakes and looks, children’s whispers and hiding it at all costs – which meant always using my other hand. Because of what happened, my Mum raised a fighter who is not afraid of who she is anymore. I am not going to hide it, although it still hurts when I move my hand and it is sometimes a mental struggle to fully accept it.
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.
Barbara: 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
Rochelle: I’ve always had scars for as long as I can remember. Acne scars. As I went through puberty I had irregular periods which made me decide to go to the doctors and they found a 12cm cyst on my ovaries. They did emergency key hole surgery, and when I saw the scars I was horrified. I thought I’d never be able to wear a bikini and at the age of 18, that felt like a big thing. Now I’m 22, I’ve over it and I’m quite open about the fact I have PCOS and I feel like it’s just become a part of who I am rather than a secret. I am more open to showing my scars to people now, and they definitely don’t stop me going to the beach in a bikini anymore. I decided it would be good to be a part of this series, as every one has scars, and a story behind them.
Andrea: My first scars arrived at 14, whilst playing a chasing game with friends. I jumped over the wall, but the wall moved and I ended up scarring both of my legs. For years I’ve been paranoid about showing them and only wore trousers. The scars on my left arm and face were given to me by a deranged person out for revenge, the worst part it was not meant for me. I got caught up in a fight where the person had a glass in her hand whilst punching me. I was only aware of it when blood was pouring from my face. I didn’t notice my arm until I looked down to see my arm opened up like a butterfly chicken. I now love me for me, ever since I started Focusing On Creating my Ultimate Self.
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.
David: Scars on my left arm are from self harm over the past 7 years. Scar on the top right abdomen is the result of surgery to extract rib cartilage to reconstruct my left ear.
Lamissah: Hello my name is Lamissah La-Shontae and I’m a 10 year old U.K Model and Actress Life isn’t about what colour hair or eyes you have .. or the shape of your body .. height or weight .. nor is it about the colour of your skin. Beauty is inside out.. we are all beautiful.. you just have to look deep inside to see and feel it… the eyes are the window to your soul and tell a thousand stories. I was born with several different marks and birthmarks .. most of which faded or disappeared with age, the Drs said it’s a common thing in mixed babies. Last year a brown mark I had on my arm seemed to get darker, so I was referred to a specialist dermatologist. We were reassured it was nothing to worry about. Things carried on as normal. I was following my dreams – travelling the world, modelling and filming lots of amazing film productions. I was working very hard… until earlier this year when the mark on my arm seemed to grow rapidly bigger and darker – spreading into my armpit and slightly down my arm. My GP saw me at the clinic and rang immediately for me to be seen and referred to a specialist. 2 days later I received a call from the hospital – an emergency appointment had been made for me the following morning to see a specialist dermatologist again. The morning was such a whirlwind- everything happened so fast! We arrived at the hospital and I was seen by the specialist who said he wasn’t happy, and diagnosed it as a form of melanoma which was growing rapidly. It had infact grown another CM from the day the GP had referred me. He wanted me to be seen immediately by a plastic surgeon.
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. 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”
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 feels like being in a safe space where Sophie allows all our stories and scars merge to create something empowering, joyful and deeply healing. Today I feel like I can show myself…
Zuzanna: 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.
Chloe: 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.
Sam: 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.
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. 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 cheek bone which is why is is noticeable. Although being faced with an opportunity to remove the scar, I never would. I don’t think beauty has to be symmetrical!
Tracey: My name’s Tracey. I’m a 45 year old mother of two. In 2012, my GP diagnosed me with a common cold which drastically got worse. I was given cold medication which made me feel awful. I called 999 and someone came out to see me. They said everything was fine. Everything was fine for 40 minutes or so. I asked my daughter to make dinner, and then I went upstairs to lay down – and didn’t wake up. My daughter called 999 and her and my friend Chyle got in an ambulance to Kings College Hospital. When I awoke, I was confused. I did not recognise my daughter or friend. They ran a CT scan and found out I had two types of meningitis. I was put in an induced coma for a month. When I was awoken, I could not speak. My daughter came to see me daily – I could hear her but couldn’t reply which annoyed me. I later found they’d put feeding tubes down my throat – I was told that I kept trying to pull all of the tubes out. I was kept in intensive care for a further two months before having a heart attack. Whilst I had my heart attack, Doctors found a growth on my heart valve and a whole in my heart. They replaced my valve with a titanium one – which ticks like a little clock. After the operation they moved me back to the ICU, but this time I was in an isolated room because of the meningitis and recovery. After a month I was given a tracheostomy which allowed me to talk and communicate with Doctors, nurses and my family. For a while, I couldn’t speak properly and could only manage basic communication and small talk. I found it hard to understand others, but tried through one word answers. In April I was moved to Lewisham hospital’s neuro ward where the Doctors taught me the basics of counting, talking, walking, eating, drinking, washing and dressing. For the first month I could not walk properly so I was given a wheelchair – and then a zimmer frame to walk around the ward called “Frank Cooksey”. The cooks on the ward kept feeding me as I was a size 2-4 at the time – after weeks of walking around the ward, they let me walk around the hospital with family, friends and hospital staff.
Becky: The first time I realised I was one of the small proportion of the population prone to keloid scarring, I was 5 and I got my ears pierced. My body didn’t stop healing- it grew along the gold hoops, trying to enclose them. Of the 16 or so piercings (including DIY ones) I’ve had since then, only my tongue and my nose have healed properly. I’ve had plastic surgery on my upper ear to remove scar tissue after my cartilage piercing got ripped out in a mosh pit. I have more than my fair share of wild nights out, leaving me with lifelong memories.. I’ve had tattoos around my scars to embellish them, which is a much better way than the painful steroid injections to reduce them. I turned the one on my shoulder into a clitoris – in a suggestive orchid/ lily flower. The one on my chest is the one I get asked about the most I think, and sometimes it’s a bit awkward to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe me. When I was 19, me and my ex used to play a lot of S&M games, we tied each other to the bed and carved our names into each other and had sex with the blood running between us. It was a J but it has spread over time. I think breastfeeding stopped me being embarrassed by it. I used to self harm, and hide all my imperfections, but now I accept and love myself. Some people might argue being addicted to collecting tattoos is a legitimised form of self harm – but it comes from a different place, a creative, happy and strong place.
Leo: When I was in my 20s, I was taking a short cut through the local park when I realised the gate had been locked. I decided to climb up over the railings and my footing slipped, catching my face in two places. The spikes passed through my face. Luckily the park attendant noticed what happened and called an ambulance. I feel like my looks were ruined by the accident, but I carried on as normal. People often think I’ve been in a knife attack or fight, so believe I’m a bad person.
Grace: I managed to make it from 1993 – 2014, to 21 years old having no health issues whatsoever. No broken bones, no serious illnesses – then suddenly, I was having brain surgery. I was so stupidly happy not to lose that much hair when I had my 2 operations, a year a part. I didn’t even lose much during radiotherapy. I do have this line now, all the way around the side of my head that will never grow hair. I love it. Every day I see it, and the dent in my head beneath it, and the lump where muscle has slipped and gathered. It reminds me what I’ve been through – and how I didn’t just survive, I smashed it. I will be having the scar on my head “re-opened” early next year (2018) – they’re reconstructing my dented face. I am hoping for the best resulted, but also that I get to keep this pronounced, near perfect line. My tummy scar is newer. That’s been harder to come to terms with – but i’m trying not to give it too much power. I’m owning it. My body is a collection of markings, and memories. It’s a map of me. Someday I’ll leave this world, I will escape my skin, and I will leave behind a form of myself that was loved – so loved – by myself and others – and it will have been lived in!

[via Bored Panda]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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2 responses to “This touching project reveals people’s scars and the stories behind them [NSFW]”

  1. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    March 1990, I experienced a third degree burn changing a boat battery. I’m right-handed, but my left had had better access to the battery. I was tightening down positive when the back of the pliers hit the negative terminal and arched across my wedding ring. I jumped in the lake to cool off the burn. I got to see what a tendon looks like. Now I have a scar around my ring finger. Two doctors thought that I would lose the finger; but after six days, I was confident that I would keep the finger.
    I wish that I thought of photographing the recovery process. It was remarkable to see the skin layers grow back and fill in.

  2. mark summerlin Avatar
    mark summerlin

    I went to the Basma Hameed clinic to get my scars removed, and it was the best decision I ever made. I can barely see the scar now and feel so much more confident in myself. Definitely recommend this clinic to anymore interested in camouflaging their scars. ITS AMAZING!!!!