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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#8 – Behind the Mask – Ceri


Figure 1: Sutherst. Ceri. 2017

Ceri was the first volunteer I shot for the project.  I have known Ceri for some time but probably like other people, I was not aware that the face I saw every time we met was covered by a mask. Behind Ceri’s mask is physical pain and suffering.


Figure 2: The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust, 2017

Ceri has HS (hidradenitis suppurativa).  There is no cure for the disease. The condition “is a chronic skin disease, which appears as a boil-like abscess in the apocrine gland-bearing areas, such as the armpits, breasts, and groin. This recurrent inflammatory and often painful disease is often overlooked, as not much is known of the actual cause.” – (The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust, 2017)

The name Hidradenitis Suppurativa means “the inflammation of a sweat gland (Hidradenitis) containing or associated with pus (Suppurativa).” – (The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust, 2017)

HS causes pain for sufferers.  The hair follicles get blocked and inflamed. There are 3 recognised stages of the disease:-

“Stage 1 – single or a few isolated abscesses without scarring or sinus tracts.

Stage 2 – recurrent abscesses in more than one area and the beginning of the formation of sinus tracts.

Stage 3 – widespread abscesses with many interconnected sinus tracts under the skin. There may be severe scarring and continuous leaking.”

– (The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust, 2017)

The disease persists and there is no cure. Symptoms may be improved with treatment if it is diagnosed early enough. For Ceri, this treatment is Infliximab, which is administered by intravenous infusion, at 8-week intervals in hospital. The treatment relies on a vein being suitable to administer the treatment, and this is not always the case for Ceri meaning that her treatment can be delayed, causing an increase in symptoms.

The drug is a form of chemotherapy and allows relief from the disease for a short period of time.  Other treatments are not effective for Ceri.  She has had operations in the past to have glands removed, but the disease just attacks somewhere else.

Ceri is an incredibly brave and beautiful woman.  She works hard to help other people and often forgets that she needs attention too. Her mask contained many things that she hides behind, but the words “I have HS”, “ugly” and “disfigured” stood out for me. I do not see an ugly or disfigured person, but a strong and beautiful one.  I recently shot her for an art nude shoot and would not have realised that she had the condition had she not told me.  Her scars are covered with tattoos, which provide some relief from the condition.  The disease does not return to the tattooed areas. Ceri has worked so hard at being confident in her skin, and her enthusiasm for life is infectious.

This shoot was very emotional for both of us. I worked hard not to cry because the emotion and pain that Ceri showed me was overwhelming and very real. I don’t think that any of us can really appreciate how another really feels.  The images speak for themselves. Ceri puts on her happy face every day and hides the pain and suffering from us all. We talked about things after which helped both of us.

Both of us are hopeful that this project will not only raise awareness of the masks that we wear but also the different medical conditions that people have; medical conditions that we keep hidden from the world.  We deal with the pain and side effects without complaint. I feel so privileged to have been part of Ceri’s journey of expression of herself, and to have seen behind her mask.

To find out more information about HS please visit the HS Trust Website and please click DONATE if you would like to help fund research into HS and support for sufferers.

Figures 3 and 4: Sutherst. Ceri. 2017


The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust. (2017). The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2017].


Figure 2: The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust. (2017). The Hidradenitis Suppurativa Trust. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2017].

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