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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Surfaces and Strategies – Shoot Mod3#11 – Body Parts – “Polly”

Polly (not her real name) is my friend. She bravely allowed me to photograph her self-harm scars for my body parts project.  Polly has been self-harming for years, and still does if things become overwhelming.  The pain of the self-harming allows her to deal with the issues she faces.

Polly also scratches herself without thinking about it – it is something that just happens subconsciously.  For these images, she also allowed me to put plasters on her face to cover up scratches.

Like the other images in my body part project, each image has been edited in the same way to give a consistent effect.  All images are subjected to a Lightroom preset called ‘Inky’ before I increase clarity and hence increase texture and definition in the resultant images.

Today, there is a great deal of stigma attached to self-harm.  Individuals are judged and this often stops them from asking for help.  At school, as a teacher, we are taught how to look out for the signs of self-harm. It is a delicate topic as there is still a lot of shame associated and surrounding self-harm.  Some people are horrified that another person can cut, burn, or scratch themselves. As a society, we do not understand the reasons behind it.

Polly and I have talked about her scars.  She is very open about how and why she self-harms.  This does not mean she is able to stop. Self-harm is often simply a physical response to emotional pain, and a way of dealing with distressing feelings or situations.

Through these images, Polly and I want to challenge the stigma around mental health disorders and self-harming.  Despite general assumptions, people usually don’t harm themselves for attention, it is a way to deal with and release overwhelming emotions.

I am so grateful to Polly for allowing me to photograph her scars.  I applaud her bravery and trust in me to take these photographs for my project. Thanks Polly!

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