Shades of Pale


Photography by Elisabeth Van Aalderen

Elisabeth van Aalderen, a Harlem based photographer, has launched a photo project to celebrate the skin condition, vitiligo. The project documents women with vitiligo in the most beautiful way. This skin condition is characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment. Therefore her project is aptly named ‘Shades of Pale.’

“In the literal and biological sense, we are saying farewell to the melanin. However, in the broader sense, we are breaking free from our perception of beauty,” she explains. “The photo series shows the individuality of women with vitiligo and celebrates and reinterprets their skin as a beautifully painted canvas”.

About 60 million people around the globe have vitiligo; still, there are a lot of people that don't know what it is. Elisabeth wants to spread awareness. She also wants to tell the story of strong women that celebrate their beauty which, in this case, distinguishes them from others. She wants to portray women who embrace their skin: “I don’t want people to look at vitiligo as something ‘out of the box’. When it comes to beauty, I believe there is no box. All types of beauty need to be inclusive. Beauty can be whatever you want it to be.”

Elisabeth has lived with the skin condition for 8 years. This experience has inspired her to launch the project. “During my day-to-day job as a photographer, people asked me a lot of questions about my skin. This made me wonder: why not use these two experiences, photography and my skin condition? Photography has given me a platform to document and celebrate the vitiligo body. It is an ode to its beauty and uniqueness.”

Women from all over the world have been photographed by Elisabeth. For them, this experience wasn’t only a way of expressing themselves creatively. It has also been incredibly therapeutic. “90% of the woman hadn’t been in front of a camera. They really stepped out of their comfort zone. It feels very rewarding that the photoshoot contributed to their self-confidence. By portraying these women, I want to make a connection that is meaningful; not only to them but also to the viewer. For many women I have portrayed, it was a process of healing and acceptance. It is wonderful that there is such a big community on social media which has made me able to connect with all these beautiful individuals.”