April Mitchell first got vitiligo when she was eight months old and grew up in the spotlight as a featured character in her mom’s – author Lori Mitchell – book, Different Just Like Me. So when she stumbled across photographer Brock Elbank’s vitiligo series, she jumped at the opportunity to participate.
Celebrating the human form with a focus on vitiligo, Elbank’s portrait series features people with vitiligo of all genders, ages and ethnicities. His previous series, Freckles, attracted 6,500 applicants from around the world and people from every continent traveled to London for the 175-portrait series.
Following her trip to London, April shared the details of her shoot with us.
LD: How did you find out about the project and what made you decide to participate?
AM: I had actually been following Brock since he did his series on freckles. One day I saw a photo on my Instagram feed of someone that I follow with vitiligo, and I realized that it was one of his photographs. I actually already had a trip to London planned before he started this series, so it just seemed to work out perfectly. I figured that I might as well email him, and if he doesn’t respond then at least I tried, and if he does respond, then I get to be a part of this amazing shoot!
LD: What was the shoot like? Can you walk us through what happened?
AM: We spent the first hour or so just chatting and drinking coffee. He even showed me some of the unfinished photos that he took of Amitai a few days before I got there. As soon as I was warmed up, we move over to his studio area and he walked me through the types of photos that he wanted to get. He was very professional, and already knew all of the shots he wanted to get, so he was able to tell me exactly where he wanted me to stand/ sit/ look. There were a couple points where I had to hold a funny position on the floor with my legs sticking straight up, or hold my arms out in weird positions to get the perfect shot, but it brought a few extra laughs to the shoot. After we were done he made sure I knew my way back into town and even treated me to a delicious pizza down the road.
LD: Were you nervous at all?
AM: I was a little nervous at first, but I think that’s normal for anyone. We talked on the phone about a month before my trip to go over the details, so I feel like that helped to ease the nerves a bit. And as soon as I arrived at his house, he was waiting there with a nice hot coffee, and a heater to warm me up while we talked and shared stories. I thought that sitting in just a bandeau bra, and underwear in a photographer’s home studio would be super awkward, but he made me feel comfortable. He would share stories during the shoot, and say things every once and a while to make me laugh or smile just so that I didn’t look nervous in all of the photos.
LD: When did you get to see the finished photos and what was your reaction?
AM: I turned on my phone after landing at LAX from London, and the first things to come through were the photos. I didn’t really get emotional while I was there, but as soon as I opened the photos that he sent I started to tear up a little bit. It was amazing how he was able to capture the real me, just as I really see myself in the mirror every day.
LD: What would you say to other people who are thinking about participating?
AM: I would say to definitely do it! If you can find a way to get to London, whether you have the money or can find a way to raise it, this is a once in a lifetime experience. This series is so important because it’s bringing awareness to vitiligo and helping people feel more comfortable. Seeing yourself – or others – in absolutely no makeup, embracing their true selves – that’s such a powerful thing. I’m still feeling very empowered by this shoot months later.
Scroll through the gallery to see Brock Elbank’s photos of April and follow Brock on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/mrelbank/.
Interested in participating? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an automated email reply with the details and how to apply. The series is shot in South East London and participants are responsible for travel. Anyone with vitiligo is encouraged to apply and any age, gender and ethnicity are welcome.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.