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Living with cystic fibrosis can be a constant struggle, but the scars that come with it aren’t often visible.

CF affects various parts of the body, but mostly impacts the digestive system and lungs. As a result of persistent infection in those areas, the majority of people who have CF die, according to Cystic Fibrosis Canada. And, sadly, there is no cure.

That’s where Hamilton-based photographer Ian Pettigrew comes in. Diagnosed with CF in his late thirties, he later wrote a book titled Just Breathe, which documented various adults living with the disease in two different countries. But that also led to inspiration for his next project: Salty Girls.

One of the most common symptoms of CF is to have excessive amounts of sodium in the sweat, hence the “Salty” name. But the project’s real goal is to show how beautiful the people fighting CF actually are. Almost 60 women posed wearing their best bathing suits, outfits or just plain-old birthday suits.

“It’s giving people the chance to see the toll that CF can take on the body. The photographs are raw and true,” Pettigrew writes on his website.

As for the models themselves, the experience of being photographed proved liberating.

“To me, being one of the Salty Girls is a statement of confidence, one participant anonymously stated. “It’s harder to accept oneself as attractive when the perfection you see portrayed every day is nowhere near what your medically scarred body looks like. Salty Girls helps those of us who don’t look ‘normally’ attractive to embrace our bodies, scars and all, and feel good about ourselves.”

You can check some of Pettigrew’s work out below:

 

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