Taking the shame and embarrassment hinged to flaws and turning them into the English roses of our existence, British photographer Sophie Mayanne allows the scars planted onto human skin to grow in their beauty. Constituting as her most recent and independent body of work, Behind the Scars seeps beneath the skin to unveil the many souls baring the weight of the—unfortunate but very present—symbolism attached to scars. The artist creates poignant and intensely personal portraits that depict how individuals have gracefully accepted imperfections as the very markers of their individuality.
At just 24, Mayanne has blossomed into a young photographic pioneer. Her honest approach to photography has been met with a great amount of respect amongst the fashion community and beyond. Having had her work appear in acclaimed titles such as Wonderland and Dazed, it’s fair to say our near and dear Glamcult contributor has covered some important ground. Nowhere near the end of her journey—which you can follow here—the young contemporary turns an eye to life’s most intricate details that behold a much larger presence through compellingly physical and soft-spoken visual manifestations.
How did the idea for Behind the Scars arise? What do you find so intriguing about scars specifically?
The idea of this project first came about from an editorial shoot last August. Upon completing the shoot, I realized there was so much left to capture. It’s a subject I have always wanted to approach, and I have always been interested in the idea of flaws, why we consider flaws as “flaws”. I think what is intriguing about scars specifically is how unique each one really is, and how there is always a story behind it. Every scar, big or small, has a story. I also think it’s amazing what adversity and challenges the body—and mind—can survive and overcome.
How is it to get up close and personal with all these different personalities, each with their unique story? Is there one story in particular that has touched you the most?
It’s an honour to be able to capture so many different people in such a close and intimate way, and to be able to share each person’s story. People involved in the project are putting a lot of trust in me, as many are showing parts of them to me, that at some point they may have felt vulnerable about. One story from the series I think that touched a lot of people (including me) is Isabella’s, as she has overcome a house fire and her strength and confidence are incredible—and beautiful.
What kind of impact has this project left on you personally? What did you find more impactful: seeing the scars or hearing the stories behind them?
I think the project has had a really positive impact on me; it has both inspired me and given a real purpose to my work at the moment. I think most impactful is the combination of the scars and the stories. I think with this particular project, to really understand and engage with the image, it’s important to know the story behind the scar too.
As an artist you seem to be very interested in the human body. How come? Is it ever difficult for you to get up close and personal with the ‘subjects’ of your work?
I have always been very interested in people, in general. I don’t think I could 100% justify where this interest comes from; it’s an interest I always remember being there. I think our relationships with our body are very complex, and I think this is part of the reason why I am drawn to photographing it. I think when you are photographing a sensitive subject matter, you almost have to approach the shoot itself in a very matter of fact way; this makes the person being photographed more comfortable. I always chat to people a little bit before photographing them too, as this helps with any nerves, and try to make it as fun and natural as possible. As I know myself, as soon as a camera is pointed at me I am nervous.
Behind the Scars has gotten quite a bit of exposure already. What do you hope people will learn or experience from it?
I hope that people will embrace their flaws, scars, and bodies more. The series has already had a really positive impact and several people have reached out to say they feel the exposure of scars in such an honest way has given them more confidence to embrace their own. When I started the project, I said that if at least one person can take something positive away from this series, then it has been a success!