Freelance editorial, lifestyle, commercial and documentary photographer | Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Noosa | Australia

IN THIS SKIN // Part II


In this Skin portrays subjects with prominent birthmarks from multiple locations around the world. This series celebrates these unique skin formations whilst exploring the effects this has had on their lives, psyches & health.


*For the full interviews and series of images please visit: http://vsco.co/natmccomas/journal


*For IN THIS SKIN // Part I please visit here.


*This project was funded by the VSCO Artist Initiative grant in 2014/15

Patience / Brisbane, Queensland. Australia.


“I love my birthmark’s spectrum of colour. When I’m warm it’s a kind of red-purple, like the colour of some plums and when I’m cold it’s a vivid, almost neon blue. I also like how it’s a kind of protective barrier protecting me against non-accepting and unthoughtful people.”

Anthony / Rylstone, New South Wales. Australia.


"I would describe myself as quite conservative with a passion for the simple things in life. I put on a really good front but I’m a pretty nervous person; my birthmark has nothing to do with it. Many people have asked me if it was a problem growing up with such an obvious mark. I have always answered the same. It wasn’t, as I only saw it if I saw my reflection. I can honestly say most of the time I am oblivious to it. It makes me ‘me’; it’s my own little way of being different."

Eleanor / St George, Utah. U.S.A.


"Some of our funniest encounters have been when a stranger will be asking about Ellie’s arm and we won’t even realise that is what they’re talking about. Once someone asked if she’d been painting and another time a panicked mother was trying to alert us to her purple arm by suggesting the sleeve of her dress must be too tight and cutting the circulation off. Another time a lady at the grocery store suggested a topical ointment for eczema because she had “a really bad rash.” Thankfully, other people have known us for years and don’t even see her birthmark anymore." - Leigh (Eleanor’s mother)

Yuri / Canberra, A.C.T. Australia.


"I find it interesting that the general perception of beauty is one defined with symmetry and features that do not stand out. To me, this just means that someone is able to blend in. I think what makes anyone interesting is what sets them apart from others, whether it be a characteristic of their personality or their appearance. I like taking risks and pushing boundaries, and having a unique appearance is a feature and reflection of my personality that I like to use to challenge others to either accept, or go elsewhere for company."

Milena & her twin sister Liza / Haarlem, North Holland. The Netherlands.


"When I was younger, a doctor in Serbia asked my father why he would let me walk around with a birthmark like this on my face, because “I could be very pretty”. He got mad because it was “a good choice for later”, and he thought my father was being selfish. It wasn’t always easy for me having a twin sister without a birthmark – I was bullied a lot when I was little and she was always one of the popular kids. Even though I’m not sure if my Port Wine Stain was the reason, it certainly felt like it."

Billy / Greensboro, North Carolina. U.S.A.


"My birthmark has caused glaucoma in my right eye. Fortunately, my left eye has compensated with a 20/10 reading. I'm not certain how deep my birthmark goes, but according to my childhood doctors there is extra blood flow on the right side of my brain, and there is mild speculation amongst my family and friends that this is the source of my creativity. I've always felt the urge to make things, to bring my interests to life. Who knows if it's true, but it's a somewhat beautiful notion that my ideas and thoughts are getting extra nourishment."

Lindsay / Opelika, Alabama. U.S.A


"I can remember looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw just because of my birthmark. I hated going to the pool because of the stares. I would try to hide my birthmark with clothing or pose a certain way in pictures so you couldn’t see it. Nowadays, my best side for the camera is my birthmark side. It’s exclusive. My birthmark makes me see life so differently. It humbles me. I’m just so appreciative to have what I do because there are others with much greater problems or disabilities that make them different. Mine is only skin-deep."

Angelina / Lancaster, Pennsylvania. U.S.A.


"I have sat down and asked her if she is sad that she has this birthmark or if she is worried about it in any way. Her outlook on it is this: "I think I am so lucky because my polka dots will keep all the bad people away. If they aren't nice people I wouldn't want to be friends with them anyways". She believes it is magic. I absolutely love the way she looks at it and I am so very proud that she doesn't feel the need to hide it. As of right now, she doesn't want to find out if there is anything that can be done to change her birthmark because she doesn't want to change a part of herself. We have stopped trying to figure it all out. We no longer do searches on the internet to see if someone found out how to remove the extra veins or diminish them somehow. She loves who she is. She truly is a very lucky girl." Valeria (Angelina's mother)

Enler / Cave Creek, Arizona. U.S.A.


"Enler is full of energy from the second he wakes up. He loves superheroes and dinosaurs and is constantly coming up with scenarios where he can be one of them. He is a smart, strong-willed kid and his birthmark is beautiful. He has gotten very used to talking about it and seems proud of it. Enler loves for us to tell him stories at night. Most times I’ll tell him that the male protagonist is a handsome boy with a lovely birthmark on his face, to which he says (with the sweetest voice and big eyes) ‘Just like me?’ It’s adorable." - Jewel (Enler’s mother)

Nikki / Pennsylvania. Philadelphia.


"My birthmark is a Port Wine Stain Hemangioma. It covers half of my left arm and back, from my shoulder blade to the tips of my fingers. It's my thermometer, my hyper-colour skin, my beauty mark. It is rosy-pink in colour most of the time and turns purple when I am cold. If I have a fever, the pink hues turn darker. Unfortunately for me, this meant I could not fake being sick easily when I was little. Wherever I may be, I try to turn any questions I get about my birthmark into a teaching opportunity. After all, knowledge is power."

Marcy / Staten Island, New York. U.S.A.


"When I was born, my paternal grandparents called my maternal grandmother and told her that my parents’ union had been cursed and I was born deformed. It made for an interesting family dynamic! Growing up, I was either teased about my birthmark or my flaming red hair, and would disappear into books where no one was hurtful toward me, there were happy endings for the main character, and the villains got their just deserts. The best part of turning fifty is that I’ve realised I like me. I don’t give a rat’s ass if anyone else does – I am the only one that counts!"

Sophia / Brisbane, Queensland. Australia.


"Sophia has Bi-Lateral Sturge-Weber, which is a neurological syndrome, that to her means brain involvement that causes mental delays, epilepsy, glaucoma and a birthmark over three quarters of her face...

We were told she would never walk or talk but she has been able to master Mum, Dad, Bub and Nan on occasion. She is starting to balance in a sitting position and is becoming aware of the world around her. She laughs and giggles at things that are humorous to her and that is amazing in our eyes. She really is so easy to love and her condition has made our lives and outlook most positive..." Mandy (Sophia's mother).


Sandra / Dublin. Ireland.


"Back in the 1980’s I don’t think there was much information about these types of marks so my mom got told all kinds of explanations, like, she must have carried something in her pocket when she was pregnant to cause my birthmark... If I encounter someone with a birthmark now, there is this silent recognition, as if we know something no one else knows and I can tell immediately if the other person is comfortable with it or not. I recognise the body language as I often behave the same. "

Hallie / Sheffield. England.


"Hallie’s birthmark covers three quarters of her face, part of her head, neck, right arm, left leg and parts of her back and bottom. It is also on her bottom lip and inside her mouth and I believe on her tongue as it often dramatically changes colour and is quite enlarged. Leptomeningeal angioma is the proper name for the birthmark on her brain and this can cause seizures.

I try my hardest to take one day at a time and celebrate just how much Hallie can do and how vibrant her spirit is and adventurous her attitude towards life is at such a young age. I know many children and adults with SWS who suffer greatly with the condition so I know just how lucky Hallie is to be only mildly affected." Rachel (Hallie's mother).

Danny / Los Angeles, California. U.S.A.


Being born gay, Latino and with a large Port Wine Stain birthmark did a lot to my self-esteem growing up. At many points in my life I felt I was being punished by nature for some unknown reason. Why were most people born normal and not me? In college I started to understand that I made my life whatever I wanted it to be. I learned that every group of people struggles in some way. People have advantages and disadvantages and it's great to be aware of them, but you move on and try to be a better you." 

Ferrin / Baton Rouge, Lousiana. U.S.A.


"My birthmark is called a hairy nevus. It is dark pigmented and extends from my right cheek to my nose. I call it my beauty-mark! I'm very confident and always have been but I have had good days and bad days just like everyone else. There were times when staring bothered me but once I became completely comfortable in my own skin, it didn't anymore. My birthmark is only a small part of what makes me unique from other individuals. People accept it because I accept it."

Cashmere & her three sisters whom are all adopted from China / South Carolina. U.S.A. 


"Cashmere was abandoned near a police station. The cultural superstition about a facial birthmark in China is that someone in the newborn's family did something so evil and vile, that the "vileness" entered the next newborn's heart and showed up on the face. The simple act of looking into the eyes of a person with an obvious facial birthmark, creates a "bridge" that the vileness can "use" to connect with the person looking at the child. Even when we picked her up in China, we noticed that locals would note that she had a facial birthmark, and they'd turn their head away or leave the room, to create distance between themselves and the evil they were convinced was in her soul." Wanda (Cashmere's mother)

Marisa / Hollywood, California. U.S.A. 

Sha has Klippel-Trénaunay-Weber syndrome covering 75% of her body and calls it "My Purple."

 

"I've never been self conscious of my birthmarks. I've never hated them, never wished they were gone, or wanted them removed. There's too much purple on my body to try to cover it up for anyone else's sake. Everyone has a right to wear that cute dress, or rock a pair of high waisted shorts. I'm all for body positive. If you see me and you see my Port Wine, cool. I can see your scar and freckles too. If society can finally accept those who want to cover themselves in tattoos, why can't people stop looking at a natural tattoo that covers me?"

Jonna / Helsinki. Finland.


"My son is four and he doesn't really notice my birthmark. I told him 'there is an Australian lady coming to photograph mommy's hand'. And he asked ‘Why? Is it because it is so lovely and sparkling and brings joy?” In his eyes it is normal to have a red-handed mother. Once he heard another kid asking me ‘what is it there on her hand?' And he tried to see what she meant. But he couldn´t see it. For him it was an absurd question."

Sara / Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. U.S.A.


"The first time I realised my birthmark made me stand out was when I discovered my foster child identification card. It said, under identifying features, “Birthmark, left arm." At the time I recall being thankful that, if I ever went missing, I had such a unique feature to be identified with and that “No one would want to kidnap me, I would be too easy to identify!

Much like how people look up at the clouds and use their imagination to create shapes; I did this with my birthmarks as a kid and I still do it now. Close to my wrist I see a little fishy or a turkey leg! There is one that looks like a person to me; I call it my angel among the clouds. Recently, I discovered if I turn my arm to the side it looks like a dog. My largest splotch has always looked like a snowman to me."

Dean / Salisbury, England.


"I have just produced a film with cinema legend, Martin Scorsese and have three new films on the go. Being remembered in the film industry is one of the hardest parts of “making it.” Upon handing over my first film all copied onto DVD, a producer noticed my hand and this was the moment, the moment when it hit me full speed. I am everything everyone tries so desperately to be; I am unique! Since then I have embraced my birthmark as much as possible, wearing t-shirts as much as possible, getting my top off on beaches, hell I even went to an outdoor water park this year in Spain. People look, people stare a little, oh well, I will be forever part of their memory now. They say every single person you see in a dream, is someone you've seen in life, be it TV or wandering the streets. Would be pretty cool if I stood out that much, that I've appeared in people’s dreams."

Patience / Brisbane, Queensland. Australia.


"I don’t think my birthmark has shaped my life. My parents didn’t raise me in any way differently, so I have always felt like everyone else (except for the fact that no one else feels the same as me). I suppose it’s given me a kind of confidence I otherwise wouldn’t have, or a belief in my nearest and dearest that they do love me unconditionally, but I always return to the thought that I would have felt this way anyway. Looking at it like that... maybe it’s shaped those around me more than it has me."