Embracing Skin Disease: a Collaboration with Lily
Despite the media doing their best to convince us otherwise, the truth is that nobody has perfect skin - we all have the occasional pimple, dry patch, or other blemish to say the least. Some of us, however, have it a little (or much) worse than others, and because of this media-driven obsession with perfect skin, having skin problems can be a rough deal. Personally, I have struggled with pretty severe eczema for most of my life, which, aside from pain and discomfort, has also caused me insecurities and feelings of shame at times. My good friend Lily has had an even more intense history with her psoriasis, and we’ve discussed the topic a lot. Nowadays, we are both at a place where we have more or less accepted our skin and her patches of red. Which is why I was over the moon when Lily came to me with the idea for this photo shoot! In the spirit of acceptance and celebration, we have taken photos of her beautiful “star-sprinkled body”, which you can check-out below alongside some interview questions I asked Lily.
Can you tell me a bit more about your personal experience with skin disease?
“I was eight when I got diagnosed with a skin disorder. Doctors did not really know what it was and prescribed all different creams, lotions and pills they could think of. Some treatments stung, made my skin green or yellow or dried out to the extent where it would crack open and bleed. My parents took me to all dermatologists, clinics and alternative practitioners they could find, but nothing helped. Just as we all started to accept that the disease was probably chronic, the spots started to fade.
My skin was clear until I was fourteen. A combination of genes and stress caused my face and shoulders to break out. I tried to cover my acne with make-up, which accentuated the craters and dry patches. I became obsessed with my skin.
During a hiking tour in Norway, I started getting red dots all over my torso. Two weeks later I went to my dermatologist, who diagnosed me with psoriasis. I was prescribed intense UV-treatment, which burnt me on a daily basis. The treatments after that were based on trail and error for both me and my dermatologist. Since I was seeing my doctor so much anyway, every other skin issue I had became magnified and medicated. I felt like a vegetable, having to use four creams, two lotions and two sets of three pills to look like a ‘normal person’.
By now, I have found what medications work for me and laid most of the obsession surrounding my perfect skin complex off. I accept that I will always look slightly different and over time different this has lost its negative connotation.”
Why did you want to take these photos?
“Maud has done projects on scars and self-harm, which despite the gravity of the projects were so thoughtful and well executed. She transformed topics that still remain taboo in today’s society into something we can share; something to be encouraged to speak up about and raise awareness for. I contacted her with the hope that she could transform my perception of my body and skin. Two weeks before the shoot, I stopped taking my medication to be confronted with my worst fear: the uncontrolled state of my skin.”
How did you experience the shoot? What effect did the pictures have on you?
“Besides the expected fear when you take off your clothes in front of a camera, the shoot forced me back into my body, which I used to see as this damaged shell I live in. Maud directed me to sit in certain positions, but we mostly tried out different lights and camera angles. Our creative process was very improvised and relaxed, but seeing the unedited pictures for the first time almost brought tears to my eyes. Maud had reconstructed my shell in the realm of art. While looking through a rough selection, I got complimented on the texture of my skin, which allows me to see my disease as decoration. But more importantly, I realized that my skin does not influence my bubbly personality or skills. My family or friends do not care if I’m spotted. I am no longer afraid to accept that this is who I was, am and will be.”
“Since this shoot has empowered me to share, I hope that my story will encourage others with a skin disease to start the conversation and find peace with their struggle. Whether this condition is chronic or temporary, it does significantly impact your self-esteem. This influence should not be underestimated, though it is so common to have skin issues. You often feel like you are “abnormal”, but normal is an undefinable construct, so it is better to avoid it all together. Once you start sharing, your friends more than likely open up about their insecurities. By breaking down each other’s insecurities, we can raise each other up. I believe that if more people start practicing this, we can work towards a more open, accepting world.”
More of Lily?
It’s hard to attach a term to Lily’s diverse work, but according to her own Instagram, she is a Postmodern Wordsmithstress who writes, draws, collages, photographs and creates - preferably all at once. Check out her blog Contemporary Confuzzled Feminism with Ice Cubes (and specifically, HER post on her star-sprinkled body), and follow her on Instagram @r_a_d__ish for a regular dose of awesome collage work.