Woman who suffered 85% burns poses naked in powerful photo shoot

A woman who suffered 85% burns has posed naked for a powerful portrait – to make a point about what’s really important in life.

Carol Mayer, had just a 50% chance of survival after a house fire caused devastating injuries 20 years ago.

But Carol survived, and then she survived years of subsequent mental and physical trauma. And the revealing photo shoot is a celebration of this incredible resilience.

The stunning portrait ‘The Skin I’m In’ by British-born photographer Brian Cassey, has been shortlisted for the Portrait of Humanity 2020.

The list selected by the publisher of the British Journal of Photography, will see photos from around the world exhibited in space via a screen launched into the stratosphere.

Carol, now 53, used to be a beauty queen in her hometown of Cairns, Queensland, Australia, before a house fire in 2000.

Both Carol and her son Zac survived the blaze, but Carol was left with life changing injuries.

‘With burns it is physically and mentally hard for any human to go through,’ says Carol.

‘But if you’ve got that real fighting spirit, which is what I have, that’s what has got me through, sheer grit and determination.

‘I just wasn’t going to let it beat me and when Brian approached me, I just thought this is a fantastic opportunity to show somebody the raw side of me.’

Even going through what she has been through Carol said she still knows some people have it harder – she tries to keep a sense of perspective.

‘The biggest thing with burns is you can only get better; you can’t get worse,’ she explains. ‘Say you have a person with cancer, if the cancer comes back, or it’s terminal, you might have a certain time to live.

‘With burns, you know that you will improve, you’ve got to be very patient, you learn to accept that this is just how it is, and you get this art of being patient.’

Carol said the scariest thing about the portrait was not posing naked, but having to remove her headband.

‘When Brian first approached me, the first thing I thought about was taking my headband off.

‘I normally wear a headband because it makes me feel secure and I feel naked without it.

‘And for me that was the “oh wow” moment because it was a big step for me. I’ve already lost a lot of my femininity, parts of my fingers, parts of my ears, without my headband I thought this is what you call a raw image.

‘I was like can I keep my undies on? And he said yeah but we’ll take the picture like you’re totally naked. It was all very tastefully done, it was a bit of a giggle.

‘I thought afterwards this is going to be big, there is nothing of me to hide, what you see is what you get, I’m not hiding anything in this photo.’

Carol said she hopes her image will make people stop and think about what is important in humanity – and the things that connect us, whatever our circumstances.

‘What you are as a human is what you are, these are just scars, they are a hell of a lot of scars, but at the end of the day it’s what’s in your soul that keeps you moving,’ she says.

‘The more people that know about these photographs the better, as far as I’m concerned, they are too powerful not to put out there.

‘I felt I was really putting myself out there, but I thought this is for a good cause, this is for people to realise; number one, your life can be gone in a heartbeat, number two, you need a fighting spirit, and number three, it’s about accepting, moving forward and holding your head up high.

‘I wanted to show people you don’t have to be afraid to show the true human that you really are.

‘Some people hide themselves away when they have so much to give, and by doing this people can see, well this woman, look at what she’s been through, but she’s still making the best of what she has.

‘There’s a message in this portrait.’

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