Tough Skin

by Jazz Colgan

CO

Tough skin is a project that was created to help heal a daily struggle of pain. Tough Skin strives for self-exposure to encourage acceptance and a sense of relief from the judgements of others.

Imagine living in a uniform skin tone for most of your life. When your appearance shifts through vitiligo, you find out that everything is different: the way that you suddenly look at yourself, and the visible differences that set you apart from others.

After being diagnosed with vitiligo, I exiled myself. I felt as if I was alone and a prisoner in my own body. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder. The body attacks the cells that produce skin color resulting in lighter pigmentthroughout the skin’s surface, often in the shape of spots. This skin disorder affects roughly 3% of people in the United States and the cause is unknown. Little funding goes into research for vitiligo, so there is no cure. Solutions to cover and treatments that may or may not help bring back individual’s skin color include make-up, topical steroid creams, and UVAB laser light treatment. These treatments are unnatural modifications, and discourage appreciation that we are our same beautiful selves in a new skin.

My goal with Tough Skin is to help others feel a sense of rejuvenation and peace within themselves. Social media has been the gateway to connections with other individuals with vitiligo around the world. After introductions, I’ve traveled to meet people with vitiligo and celebrate their unique beauty. Through conversations, we exchange stories of day to day living with vitiligo. Meetings are emotional and filled with relief. I give a mala bracelet to each person I meet who shares their story. Together we grow the circle of love and create a World of Spots within Tough Skin. As our meeting ends, we take a “selfie” together to highlight a meaningful moment in our lives. I photograph the areas of their body with vitiligo from different angles and perspective as if I were in their shoes.

When I edit the photographs, I collage the pictures into an abstract human form to protect each person’s identity but allow the viewer to look long enough to really see the person.