The Salty girls: finding beauty in cystic fibrosis

There are many things in life that I am interested in or passionate about, and two of my big interests right now are body politics and of course Cystic Fibrosis. So when I came across this amazing project called the Salty girls via Instagram I knew I had to share it on my blog.

Photographer Ian Ross Pettigrew started the salty girls project to raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and to celebrate the strength and beauty of women with condition- highlighting the trauma they and their bodies have been through as a result of CF but also showing the world that these women should be proud of their bodies and their scars- their courage in the face of adversity makes them all the more beautiful.

Pettigrew says of the project: “(it’s) an evolution from the “JUST BREATHE: Adults with Cystic Fibrosis” project.

Just breathe; adults with cystic fibrosis project

Salty Girls started off as a running joke, but has turned into a worldwide phenomenon. While I was doing the portrait project, I ended up photographing a disproportionate number of girls to guys (i’m still wondering what the real reason is for this). Most of the women involved were roughly between the ages of 20-40, typical for an adult with CF I guess. Then someone actually said one day, “This project is just turning out to be a bunch of hot chicks with CF”.

Thus the idea of a second project dedicated to showing how beautiful those fighting CF truly are. I also saw a girl in the news who was a model, posing in her bikini with a colostomy bag as she has Crohn’s Disease, and shortly after that the Canadian model with the skin disease vitiligo being interviewed by Tyra Banks.

Winnie Harlow who has vitiligo

I just thought well, it’s time for a model with CF! I know what these women go through on a daily basis; everyday it’s a struggle living with CF. And, to the uninformed, it is the invisible fatal disease.

Cue the “Salty Girls”. Now with almost 60 women – and more to come – this will be a revolutionary, game-changing book. These women are inspirational and fearless, and we want to show hope for those younger Cfers.”

Here’s what one salty girl said about the project and her relationship to her body:

“”It took a huge amount of courage for me to be able to expose my body for Salty Girls. When I look at my body, all I see are my scars: from meconium ileus, transplant, chest tubes, g tubes, picc lines, to self-harm scars. I pick out every single thing I find wrong with my body, and compare it with other women’s bodies. This led to countless of body image issues. At its worst, it would trigger depression. I grew up being made fun of the scar that is on my stomach. That scar is from the first of many surgeries when I was just under a year old. I was born really sick due to my CF with meconium ileus, and in my case, it was difficult to treat. This led to multiple surgeries & an colostomy bag. I spent my first year at the hospital, fighting for life. Over the years, I have become insecure of my body to a fault. My stomach scar is the only scar that truly affects the way I view myself, and I think it is largely because I have faced insults while being marked with something that I have grown up with. And today, I take a stance… I will learn to appreciate, love, and nurture my body the way it should be. My body may be scarred due to all of the physical trauma I have had to endure with Cystic Fibrosis, BUT, it will never define ‘ME’ as a person. It will define my experiences and how it has shaped my perspective on MYSELF, and EVERYONE that is struggling. My scars tell a story of a triumph after every obstacle. My scars tell me that no matter the BS I’ve had to deal with in my life – I still manage to keep the fire in my spirit BURNING. That is enough to keep me going.”

You can check out more about Ian Pettigrew’s photography, the salty girls project and the just breath project in the links below:

salty girls

salty girls facebook 

Ian Ross Pettigrew photography website

Just breathe

Ianpett on instagram

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