In this project I’ve looked at the way in which scars mark people, what they mean to them, the stories behind them and how the scars themselves look. As body modifications have become more popular in the western world (tattoos, body piercings, cosmetic surgery, etc), what are people’s perceptions of scars? Are they beautiful? Or are they ugly? Do they give us an identity? Or do we wish we never had them?
They say time heals everything, but scars always remain. One might forget about the pain behind them as we tend to block out traumatic events, but the reminder on your skin stays forever. For many they bring bad memories, for other scars may hide a funny story and for some, they might be a way to stand out from the crowd or identify as part of a group.
From an aesthetic point of view, scars appear as a transition of the body, as skin changes from one form to another, including the magical process of healing. They come in various sizes and textures with their appearance always changing – some fading with time, some changing their colour, some becoming more prominent. I find it fascinating how a scar can change someone’s appearance, but when looking up closely the scar itself has its own identity. From rugged creases to shiny patches, from stretched lines to colourful smears, scars come in all kinds of patinas.
In part one, I explore how different people feel about their scars including some of mine. I’ve interviewed some of the contributors on video and others have kindly written about their scars. I’ve also taken photographs when possible, but due to the current Covid-19 circumstances in many cases, I’ve asked the contributors to send their own.
In part two, which I plan to finish in the new year, I will further explore my own scars in a more controlled studio environment. I am hoping to get better textures through the use of more refined lighting, various macro lenses as well as print processes including cyanotype techniques.
As someone with a lifetime of scars, I’ve always been interested in the subject. I got my first scars as a baby as part of a tribal ritual in Nigeria. Ironically, I was raised in the UK with hardly any contact with my country of birth, so the scars that were meant to make me part of a community lost all meaning in South West England. Though these marks are very much part of my identity, they no longer serve the purpose they were intended for.
And then there are the burn marks on my legs in an attempt to make me walk as a toddler, the countless operations through my childhood to try and make life easier for me, the accidents that any child has had falling off a bike, or the really annoying ones which I just wish I hadn’t done, the ones you couldn’t foresee happening, like a scar from a dirty can I stubbornly insisted in washing up for recycling. All in all, I have 20 scars, each one telling a different story, like a disjointed diary of my life engraved on my skin.
Whilst some of the scars don’t bother me (like the marks on my face), others make me feel very self-conscious. They are part of who I am, a somewhat gory record of my journey, but some I wish I never had. By looking closer at my scars, I wonder if my perception of them will change, whether I’ll find beauty or simply acceptance.
This project has exposed a lot of things in ways I wasn’t expecting. It’s been a privilege to hear all the different stories. Talking about the scars has been like opening a can of worms and I’m very thankful to everyone who has kindly contributed so far.