A photographer has created an “ode to the beauty and uniqueness” of vitiligo after developing the skin condition herself eight years ago.
Elisabeth Van Aalderen, from the Netherlands, was inspired to create the series when a girl complemented the pale patches on her skin, describing them as a “unique tattoo”.
“About 60 million people around the globe have vitiligo, still there are a lot of people who don’t know what it is,” Van Aalderen tells HuffPost UK. “I want to spread awareness.”
Vitiligo is a longterm, non-contagious skin condition characterised by pale white patches. It’s caused by a lack of melanin – the pigment in skin – and sometimes runs in families.
“I also want to tell the story of strong women that celebrate their beauty which, in this case, distinguishes them from others,” says Van Aalderen. “I want to portray women who embrace their skin”
To create the series, titled Shades of Pale, Van Aalderen contacted women through social media from all over the world, “in all kinds of shapes and colours”.
The experience of shooting the women was emotional, she says, for both her and the models – particularly because 90% of the women hadn’t been in front of the camera before.
“It has been incredibly therapeutic,” she says. “For many women I have portrayed, it was a process of healing and acceptance. It feels very rewarding that the photoshoot contributed to their self-confidence.”
Van Aalderen hopes the photos will normalise vitiligo, so people don’t see it as “something ‘out of the box’”.
“When it comes to beauty, I believe there is no box,” she says. “All types of beauty need to be inclusive. Beauty can be whatever you want it to be.”
Check out more photos from the series below or see more of Elisabeth Van Aalderen’s work online here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.