“I HEARD STORIES about women whose husbands had never seen them without a bandanna or wig.”
Alopecia is an autoimmune condition that results in varying degrees of hair loss from any part of the body.
Photographer Anthony Griffin says, “It can result in social phobia, anxiety and depression, especially for women for whom a deep, personal relationship between hair and self-esteem has existed throughout history, philosophy and religion.”
Griffin began researching the condition when he decided to photograph women with alopecia for his final year project in college, An Uncommon Beauty.
He told TheJournal.ie that at first he thought it would be very difficult to find women with alopecia in the Dublin area who would be happy to be photographed, but social media helped him find people willing to come forward:
“It is literally knocking on doors – virtual doors with social media.Once people saw the first one or two images they were more comfortable coming forward.
“I started with two people and then I ended up with 14 and I actually wasn’t able to photograph everyone.
One woman even came from Merseyside in Liverpool to take part and I received messages from people all over the world from Canada to New Zealand.
“I’d book a studio for three hours per shoot and I’d spend the first hour not near a camera, just talking to the women.
For some of the women, it was the only time they took off their wig.
One of the women photographed said the project had a big effect on her life, saying she is now more self-confident and wears scarves a lot, rather than always wearing a wig.
“I had never gone without my bandana before and then you gave me the confidence”
The photographer added that some of the women he photographed even came along to his graduate show in Griffith College Dublin.
One woman who came asked me, ‘Will I take off my wig?’ I said it’s entirely up to you and she did. Then a second woman did.
Up to 2% of the population may be affected by alopecia – of which there is no cure.
Griffin added that, “You hear people say they ‘suffer’ with alopecia but it’s a condition, not an illness.”