“No One Had A Voice Until You Came Along”
Tough Skin is a multimedia project that engages social activity to raise awareness in visible outer differences. The project was inspired by my late grandmother's advice after I was diagnosed with vitiligo, she encouraged me 'You Gotta Have Tough Skin.' During my road to acceptance, I started to document my skin alteration through imagery and expressed my feelings in a journal to capture my emotions. Within a couple of years, I was finally able to be proud of who I am.
I felt alone and wondered if there were other people who looked like me.
Using social media applications, I connected with hundreds of people throughout this world. Most are embracing their beautiful and unique skin, while others seek advice. There is a community that has been created, completely different from the society's 'norm.' I use my project as a support group to encourage others to embrace their flaws.
There is a difference between communication through technology in comparison to the connection with people, there is something physical and something relatable that is shared in each incredible experience.
Before traveling to a new location, I organize with multiple people through social media and create a group gathering at a public location for everyone to join. The events are filled with hugs, smiles and photographs. We create a family in this particular area.
In the preparation process for Tough Skin, I create mala bracelets to give each person that is affiliated with the project. Portrayed as an exchange loop; there is a trade of exposure of the skin to raise awareness through the photographs. I provide a bracelet for love and support.
A documentation and interview process take place during the time that the photographs are taken, and alter digital photographs to create a digital negative. Printing onto transparency paper, I frame an image of what I am about to expose with light. Using Van Dyke Brown, I paint emulsion onto watercolor paper. After this is dry, I sandwich the digital negative with the sensitized paper, and expose it for an appropriate amount of time. After the exposure is complete, I run the image through a series of water baths to fix a brown print. The gradients in the photograph compliment the skin discoloration and create a sense of imperfection along with the flawed skin.
The project is meant to raise awareness through images and create a world of acceptance towards people who are different. We are all battling through something, maybe we need to be nicer or maybe we need to have thicker skin. Above all, we must remember, 'You Gotta Have Tough Skin.'