By Rebecca Drew
INCREDIBLE pictures showcasing the beauty of those living with vitiligo have been released as part of one photographer’s very personal photo project.
The series of intimate shots capture people from all walks of life standing proudly with vitiligo. The close-up pictures show a man laughing, a young boy smiling and another man baring his arms, face and neck for the camera.
The breath-taking images were taken by photographer, Jasmine Colgan (27) from Denver, Colorado, USA as part of her project, entitled Tough Skin.
Jasmine first noticed light patches on her wrists when she was 21-years-old, soon after the patches began to spread and a dermatologist confirmed that she had vitiligo.
Initially, Jasmine was afraid of how she would look as her skin changed colour but decided to embrace it after realising her skin was art and actually uses makeup to enhance her vitiligo.
“When I was studying my undergrad at the University of Colorado in Denver, my friend took a photograph of my hands and showed me and I couldn’t look away from the picture,” she said.
“It was the first time that I was able to see art in my skin. I remember taking a few hours a day to match my skin tones evenly but around lunch time, my lips would have rubbed off.
“So, I took off my make up one day and I started to photograph myself with my camera. To create my own art and use my skin as my medium.
“It became a relieving experience to express my emotions and capture them in a still life. As I shared my images, they showed my insecurities and somehow connected me with myself.
“I still wear makeup, I actually use three shades to do my makeup to enhance my vitiligo now.
“The idea for the name of Tough Skin, came from my late grandmother when I was diagnosed. She told me, ‘you gotta have tough skin’ so I shortened the name for the project.
“I have always been a documentation photographer, so I incorporated the idea of close shots with my skills. As for traveling, I wanted to go to experience their culture of living with vitiligo, and I believe that the only way to do that is to be in each person’s environment.
“I love the whole idea. I’ve always wanted to travel, but this gives it a whole new meaning.
“I want to broaden the meaning of ‘Tough Skin’, to everyone who has an outer difference, for example, albinism, cleft lip, down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy. We are all beautiful.”
Jasmine has acrofacial vitiligo which tends to occur away from the centre of the body, her family and friends gave her strength and helped her remain positive when she was first diagnosed with the skin condition.
When out and about, Jasmine receives mixed reactions from the public but said there is an unspoken bond between her and other people living with vitiligo.
“We share an unspoken bond, it’s heart-warming. Just to be in the presence of someone with vitiligo,” she added.
“A lot of the meetings have tears, but lately it has been mainly smiles. A lot of hugs go on at meetings, which is my favourite because, I love hugs.
“My favourite common thing that we all talk about is, where was your first spot, such an easy conversation starter and everyone has a different location, a different spot and a different experience.
“So, when I arrange a meeting and a large group joins, it’s wonderful to hear the comparisons and contrasts of our similar yet so different skin.
“Honestly, the reactions from people who I haven’t seen in years are the hardest, they ask what happened to me or just don’t recognise me.
“When I was coaching gymnastics, the young girls called me a cow and asked why I was different.
“With teenage adults, I catch them staring and I’ll wave and smile just to show them that I’m friendly and not contagious, vitiligo is probably something they’ve never seen before.
“I’ve noticed that if they continue to stare or awkwardly look away after I’ve waved and smiled it upsets me. Please ask questions, your eyes are more painful than the words.
“Ignorant comments can hit you, left and right. Do not let the words hurt you, it is ok to stand up for yourself.
“No matter the age of the person. Educate them on what they do not understand. Embrace your skin because you deserve to and you are beautiful.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/the.spotted.zelephant