Jasmine Colgan hasn’t always loved her vitiligo, a condition which causes white patches across her skin.
She first noticed light patches on her wrists when she was 21-years-old. Those patches began to spread, Jasmine headed to the dermatologist, and it was confirmed that she had vitiligo.
‘When I was studying my undergrad at the University of Colorado in Denver, my friend took a photograph of my hands,’ Jasmine says.
‘I couldn’t stop looking at the picture.
‘I remember taking a few hours a day to match my skin tones evenly. Around lunchtime my lips would have rubbed off.’
It was photography that helped her to learn to view the beauty of her skin.
One day, she scrubbed off her makeup and began to take self-portraits, using her skin as a form of art.
‘It became a relieving experience to express my emotions and capture them in a still life,’ she said.
‘As I shared my images, they showed my insecurities and somehow connected me with myself.’
Jasmine began using makeup to enhance her vitiligo, rather than hide it.
Keen to carry on that mission of self-love and acceptance, she created a new project, called Tough Skin, to capture people from around the world living with vitiligo.
‘The idea for the name of Tough Skin came from my late grandmother when I was diagnosed,’ Jasmine explains. ‘She told me, “you gotta have tough skin”, so I shortened the name for the project.
‘I have always been a documentation photographer, so I incorporated the idea of close shots with my skills.
‘I wanted to go to experience [people’s] culture of living with vitiligo, and I believe the only way to do that is to be in each person’s environment.
‘I love the whole idea. I’ve always wanted to travel, but this gives it a whole new meaning.’
Jasmine began travelling the world, documenting people with vitiligo as she went.
The experience has helped Jasmine to love her own skin even more.
‘We share an unspoken bond, it’s heart-warming,’ she says. ‘Just to be in the presence of someone with vitiligo.
‘A lot of the meetings have tears, but lately it has been mainly smiles.
‘A lot of hugs go on at meetings, which is my favourite because, I love hugs.
‘My favourite common thing that we all talk about is, where was your first spot, such an easy conversation starter and everyone has a different location, a different spot and a different experience.
‘So, when I arrange a meeting and a large group joins, it’s wonderful to hear the comparisons and contrasts of our similar yet so different skin.’
She hopes that the photo series will work towards reducing the nasty comments people with vitiligo so often receive, as well as encouraging those with the skin condition to see their skin as beautiful.
‘When I was coaching gymnastics, the young girls called me a cow and asked why I was different,’ Jasmine explains.
‘With teenage adults, I catch them staring and I’ll wave and smile just to show them that I’m friendly and not contagious, vitiligo is probably something they’ve never seen before.
‘I’ve noticed that if they continue to stare or awkwardly look away after I’ve waved and smiled it upsets me. Please ask questions, your eyes are more painful than the words.
‘Ignorant comments can hit you, left and right.’
She hopes to expand her project to include everyone with an outer difference, whether it’s albinism, cleft lip, cerebral palsy, or down’s syndrome.
And to those who look different, Jasmine has some words of strength.
‘Do not let the words hurt you, it is ok to stand up for yourself.
‘No matter the age of the person. Educate them on what they do not understand. Embrace your skin because you deserve to and you are beautiful.
‘We are all beautiful.’