Friday, August 06, 2010


Dog bite facial scar

"Children show scars like medals.
Lovers use them as secrets to reveal.
A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. "

Leonard Cohen

Personally the idea of physical perfection has always seemed like a terribly dull thing. I find scars and the stories behind them absolutely fascinating. A physical road map of occurrences, some accidental, some intentional. From faint silvery lines to a raised welt, some smooth, some puckered.

I have a number of scars but one in particular made me self consciousness and was a source of anxiety. A result of a childhood accident, my face was sliced open resulting in what i now refer to as half a Chelsea smile. As a teenager i would spend time covering it carefully with makeup and hoping that nobody would notice. As i grew older the red stitch marks faded to silvery threads and i grew to like the cross stitch effect and how it changed the shape of my mouth.

Hamer woman scarred from being butted by a goat.

Photographer Amanda Grandfield's fascination with scars began a few years ago. Whilst on the way to a party wearing heels, she tripped and the incident led to two badly cut knees. After arriving home later that evening, she took a nude self portrait with her knees drawn up to display the wounds. It was this photograph that lead her to delve deeper into the connection between the physicality of scars and the mental state or landscape behind them.

“Besides having an aesthetic interest in scars and photographing them in close-ups, I discovered that people were eager to share the stories behind their scars,” said Grandfield. “Many of them had no interest in plastic surgery and viewed the physical incident as a life changing event—like an emotional and psychological boundary that’s crossed on skin.”

Scarification or the application of scars in a controlled manner has been common for centuries. There are many reasons for scarification and the most common are religious, social or aesthetic.

In most of the western world scars are accidental. Grandfield wanted to explore how different cultures use scarification as a way to enhance social status or beauty. She won a Fulbright Grant in 2004 that enabled her to travel to Ethiopia. It was in a Hamer village in the South Omo region where she learnt about how the people view their scars.

“Instead of sensationalizing the traditions of ritual scarring among the Hamer people, it will focus on the people who have created these magnificent marks. This project will serve as a cultural documentation of this tribal practice.Combined with what I’ve done in the United States, I’ll be able to delineate the parallels and divergences of how scars function in two cultures and between individuals.”

To see more of Grandfield's work:


Radge said...

I freshen my haircuts purely to show off mine, a source of pride for no good reason.

Green of Eye, Sharp of Claw said...

@Radge: Now I'm curious as to what story yours would tell...

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