How does it feel to live with a skin condition? Only those who live with such a condition would understand the gravity of this issue, and Sophie Harris-Taylor, a photographer, understands what it exactly means to live with a skin condition. According to her, she has suffered from severe acne and it has had an adverse effect on her self-esteem. Shame and embarrassment followed her until she learned to live with it.
In her portrait series called the “Epidermis”, which was initiated to provide others with similar skin conditions to share their stories, we can see how others view themselves. In this world of technology, one can hide their real faces and reflect a radiant, glowing and flawless skin. However, in reality, they do not possess such skin. Many are under pressure to hide their flaws because they may be suffering from eczema, rosacea or acne but Sophie reveals to us several women who are brave enough to show their bare skin and are unashamed of it.
According to Lex, being diagnosed with an incurable skin disease has had a great impact on her life, especially as a child. She felt as if she had no control over her appearance and as a result, her self-confidence was affected and was afraid of her future.
The Epidermis series was a result of Sophie’s commercial and personal projects and it goes back for around 10 years. She says that she is interested in the human condition and that she uses people to express her own preoccupations and concerns and they are often portrait based.
Mariah states that she went through constant pain both physically and mentally, and that it was unbearable. However, she further states that she wouldn’t change it because it has made her strong and confident than before.
Most of Sophie’s personal projects are born out of her own life experience and to a certain extent it shares her own vulnerabilities as well. She says that she often reflected on her past suffering from severe acne. It was harder because almost everyone seems to have had flawless skin, therefore she had no idols, role models or such people to look for inspiration. This led her to suffer from her own self-image. Nevertheless, has been a long way in developing body positivity and making people speak up about beauty standards and the promotion of diversity. Even so, Sophie had felt that there was something lacking in how the skin is represented in an open and honest way. Thus, Epidermis was her way of showing beautiful women is skins that are not so often seen.
Issey reveals that she had accepted her condition of eczema as one that will “wax and wane” instead of considering it as a flaw in which she must constantly fight to get over with.
Sophie did not only want a discussion based on this topic but also wished that this would empower other people in which it would make other people feel more comfortable with their own skin. Although it is something she personally struggles with, she expects to practice what she preaches. She does understand that there is an element of shock involved but she says that it was the opposite in which she truly needed to achieve. According to her, she needed Epidermis to be seen as a beauty shoot first and then consider it as a commentary on skin.
She states that it worked because of the beautiful models that stood in front of her camera. Her project was social media-based and she says that she approached a few people who were sharing their skin story and as a result found a voice and as well as an outlook.
When she started sharing a few photos, she says that it was easier to put on an open casting because people realized that it was not a way of exploitation but rather that she was trying to identify beauty amongst this.
Annie shares with us her story that when she was younger, she tends to wear makeup and would never leave without it. However, at one point she stopped and since then she would often go out without wearing any. She says that she likes its transformational effect when she goes out in the evening, but other than that she has moved away from using makeup and does not make it a tool in covering up herself anymore. Rather, she sees makeup as an artistic venture and nothing more.
After working on her series, Sophie has realized the fact that we people are more self-conscious of our image than one could imagine. She shares the fact that she was amazed to receive good reception and coverage for her series. She states that she has received personal messages from all over the world and they all thanked her for shedding light on this matter. She believes that more open the people are the less lonely and stigmatized they would feel.
She also gave a piece of advice in that she expressed the fact that it is upon us to take responsibility and set the example for future generations by accepting the things that make us unique.
Abi states that she quit looking into and taking opportunities as she thought that due to her skin, she would amount to nothing. But, over the years she has grown so much that such thoughts and beliefs eventually dissolved. She expressed the fact that she is much happier now and her confidence has grown much better.
Charlotte says that a vulnerability exists, however, instead of thinking of it in a negative manner it could be something powerful. She brought into light the fact that we hide our flaws by taking pictures at an angle that seems better, but such pictures directly relate to that matter and make one realize that there is nothing bad to hide at all.
Being low in confidence and having bad skin makes her feel as if everyone is staring at her, says Charlotte. She also adds that she spends most of her time thinking negatively about her self-image and she knows that it’s unhealthy and is willing to change her perspective.
Ezinne re-affirms that she is personally trying to re-train herself in understanding what beauty is.
Sarah accepts the fact that her skin has always affected her. Even though she is confident in other aspects of her life, she says that she becomes self-conscious if someone is judging or looking at her skin
Embarrassment stopped her from going out of the house and anxiety followed her every time people would see the “problems” in her face which prompted her to think of hiding her face from everyone, says Joice. Although it was a difficult process, she succeeded in not caring what others think of her face and Joice says that she feels empowered because at the end of the day its just skin. She believes that it shouldn’t dictate her life. She says that she has come to terms with knowing that she will never have perfect skin, although it has improved since she started taking better care of it.
Although it makes her feel ashamed at times, Izzy believes that obsessing over such thoughts have no purpose. As she got older, she has realized the fact that no skin is like the “ideal skin” she imagined because the skin isn’t naturally smooth nor untextured and even.
“You are always your worse critic,” says Alice. She is in fact annoyed at herself because she had spent a lot of her time thinking that people would judge personality based on her skin. Nevertheless, she says that she is close to a place where she understands and is okay with the fact that she would never have perfect skin.
Although she is naturally an extrovert, she has become an introvert in the recent past says Ezinne. She also says that as her acne progressed her self-esteem kept falling. She understands that she has become a lot more critical and sensitive about herself even than her skin.