This photography exhibition about birthmarks is body positivity goals

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  • Photographer Brock Elbank has photographed 30 adults and children with the rare birthmark disorder Congenital Melanocytic Naevus for his new exhibition, How Do You C Me Now?

    From Jameela Jamil’s #I_Weigh campaign, to model Maya Spencer-Berkeley raising awareness of the rare skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, the number of body positivity influencers is happily on the rise.

    On Wednesday 13th March, world-renowned photographer Brock Elbank is bringing How Do You C Me Now?, his series of portraits of 30 women, men and children who have the rare and untreatable birthmark disorder called Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN) to the gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf.

    How Do You C Me Now?, which has been organised by the CMN support group Caring Matters Now, will run for two weeks in London, before it goes on a worldwide tour. One of the subjects of the portraits, Yulianna Yussef, now inspires a huge audience through her Instagram. With her 95,000 followers, Yulianna shares her daily life as someone with CMN, using the hashtag #bareyourbirthmark.

    View this post on Instagram

    Well, I want to be honest with you and tell you a little bit more about how I actually physically live my life with birthmarks. My posts showcase how confident I am about my birthmarks, self acceptance and how I've learned to live with my giant Nevus. Here is “behind the scene” of the fancy posts.. . ☀️I should start from the hairs, this is a very BIG and annoying topic for anyone who has many birthmarks and specially a giant one..Sooo my back is actually fluffy 🤦🏽‍♀🐯 I can't do anything about that, and even more annoyingly, the hairs on the birthmarks all over my body are thicker and more dense than around the normal skin. We cant wax or shave them , or use removal creams ( because it could turn to melanoma ) and all I have heard from doctor is that I should cut them.. wait a second..CUT them?! Now you can imagine me 🌵.. it makes me sick .. Also there were lots of different situations when I really hated this "fluffy stuff". For example you might try to prepare your boyfriend that you have something unusual on your back .. but how do you explain that you are like a cute fluffy animal on touch?! 🤦🏽‍♀ let alone the many awkward questions you get whilst at school or on the streets… . ☀️ “Does it hurt?”- you asking .. It’s itching is so f***ing bad that it just drives you crazy! Sometimes I literally want to scratch my skin off🙇🏽‍♀ waking up at night because I can't control myself, scratching it which causes the birthmark to swells and forces me to get up and put cold compress on it. Sometimes I really feel like a 🐒. Just imagine some business meeting, of course I'm nervous, if I'm nervous it's itching a hundreds time more and my strength of will not to stretch myself 😩🔨 uuff… I am an adult now, I can control myself but children no, some scratch themselves till they draw blood at night. There is no solution besides growing up and learning how to control yourself. It's a part of our "difference" and we should learn to live with this. ☀️The last one for today is #Melanoma. 👇🏽👇🏽👇🏽 #read below

    A post shared by Yulianna Yussef (@yulianna.yussef) on

    Yulianna was previously bullied because of her birthmarks, and uses her Instagram as a way to inspire body positivity, as well as dispel any myths or untruths about the condition.

    She told Marie Claire, ‘I couldn’t even find the right words to describe how happy and grateful I am to Caring Matters Now for this exhibition… [the exhibition] is so important to everyone who has the CMN: it shows you how beautiful you are, how confident you could be and how strong and powerful each one of us is.’

    Photographer Brock Elbank, whose previous exhibitions have featured people with vitiligo and people with freckles, counts diversity as a key component of his work. He added that How Do You C Me Now? is ‘about raising positive awareness for CMN, the charity and the people with the condition and their families as well as educating the general public that to date haven’t seen the condition.’

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    The first of six teaser out-take shots from my next exhibition commissioned by the UK Charity @caringmattersnow Our first incredible subject the beautiful @yulianna.yussef who flew in from Ukraine a year ago to take part in the 30 Portrait Series. Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN) is a birthmark that can cover up to 80% of the body. I was asked to shoot 30 subjects for an exhibition to raise Body-Positive Awareness and educate people that haven’t heard of the condition before. Subjects from N & S America, Australia, China and Europe have kindly taken part. The show ‘How Do You C Me Now?’ will have it’s Private Launch Night on the 13th March at @oxotowerwharf London and will open to the general public from the 14th March. I’m very proud of the subjects and their families that have taken part in this journey. More to follow… #Mrelbank #Beauty #Portrait #CMN #Skin #London #OXOGallery @hasselblad @profotoglobal

    A post shared by Brock Elbank (@mrelbank) on

    As well as causing birthmarks, CMN can also lead to neurological complications in children, as well as increasing the risk of malignant melanoma for some people. Caring Matters Now was established by current CEO Jodi Whitehouse, who was an 17-year-old patient at Great Ormond Street Hospital with extensive CMN when she established the charity in 1998.

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