top of page

the places i'd put myself back together

The places I’d put myself back together is a collection of photographs of Lava Ali, taken a year ago by Paige Stevens. When curating these images onto a page, it felt natural to include a conversation about the experience of undressing scars and embracing a lived-in body. 

Enjoy this intimate wander through Lava & Paige’s photos and reflections on Scoliosis, scars and transformation.

'Scoliosis disrupts the backbone that frames our bodies by curving the spine in a backwards C or S shape - most commonly in teenage girls. A spinal fusion then uses metal rods to reframe this core structure. It has often led me to feeling confined in a rigid space but overtime I have adapted to my new form.’ - Lava Ali

'One year after the photographs were taken, Lava and I sat down to reflect on the retrospectively titled ‘the places i’d put myself back together’. With so many (life) changes in between then and now, the conversation offers a chance to look back on a deeply personal project with fresh pairs of eyes, minds, and bodies. As housemates-turned-longdistancefriends, we discuss the intimacy of the photographs, and talk about why we wanted to initiate the project, Lava’s (both pre-op and post-op) scoliosis journey, and the impact of representation.' 

Paige:

When I revisited these photos, I was thinking about how for a long time you wanted these pictures to be taken. It was kind of your project that you let me into. It was an idea you’d shared with many other people, and with each of them you’d come up with different loose concepts for how it could look. The one thing that remained a constant was your body and your scars. Why did you want to be photographed?

 

Lava:

I guess the main thing was representation. I think a lot of people hear about scoliosis, but it doesn't really get represented in mainstream media or like through nice, aesthetic photos on Instagram. Largely it’s an invisible condition, obviously the person that goes through it knows what they’re dealing with and the impact it has on their body - but I feel like what everyone else thinks ‘oh, so you’ve had some metal put in your back’. Other people seeing the scars may help people to understand more about scoliosis - like how big the operation actually was. 

 

Paige:

Even as your friend it was mad for me to map your scars in that way. I remember as we were taking the photos you kind of walked me through the procedure. Some of your scars are in places you interact with every day, but the biggest one [on your back] isn’t… 

 

Lava:

Yeah. I normally have to bend awkwardly in the mirror to get a peek. 

 

Paige:

I remember you saying the photos allowed you to see your scars in a whole new way. How has your relationship with your scars developed over time?

 

Lava:

I had my operation when I was 13 and at a time when my hair was really long and I just refused to cut it. I didn’t want anyone to see any of the scars, and my hair was a super good hiding place. I used to sit every night and put Bio Oil on to make them fade - if I didn’t do that, the scars would be a lot more visible. But I think now … I’ve gotten to a point where, well, obviously my hair is a lot shorter. And I guess I phased out the idea of wanting to hide them. I wanted everyone to see what happened and it's part of my body. So why not highlight it? 

 

Paige:

Do you feel like there was a prompt for that change, or do you feel like it was something that came naturally with growing up and reevaluating or, like, re-navigating your body? 

 

Lava:

Definitely a combination. When I went to uni I met new people, and started re-telling the story for the first time. At school, everyone already knew. I just gradually started becoming more comfortable in my own skin, and following people on Instagram who have scoliosis and seeing their journeys. 

 

Paige:

That’s so interesting! The idea that in retelling the story, you found a reframing of the narrative you had held onto with your scars. When I was writing prompts for this conversation, I wanted to ask how you felt about the photos finding its way to different audiences outside of our friends on Instagram. I think the process of taking them was such an intimate and lovely experience - with us just trial-and-erroring…

 

Lava:

It was so nice. So chilled. We woke up so early because we needed the light and were playing about and trying new things. There’s definitely a difference between that experience and other people seeing your body in that way. I guess at the start it was just between me and you. And then once we uploaded it, I got a lot of messages saying “oh, I didn’t realise you had a scoliosis” or like, “well done”. Even now, sometimes when I get new followers on Instagram or I meet new people, they say, oh, I've seen the photos of your scars. 

 

Paige:

And how do you feel about that?

 

Lava:

I think it’s really cool. I used to hate the idea of people seeing, but now I feel like… well, it’s stuck with me for life. So I gotta make the most of it.

 

Paige:

I love that, Lava. Okay, sorry this is a super generic way to wrap things up but do you have anything to add? I suppose what I’m asking is if you have any thoughts after having a conversation about it all in this way?

 

Lava:

Yeah - a few things to say. So it’s actually the 10 year anniversary [of my operation] in October. 

 

Paige:

Oh, mad. 

 

Lava:

Yeah I know! And I’ve recently started following a group of girls on Instagram that have a yoga page. They all have spinal fusions like me, and it’s really nice to see them do specific exercises. To help strengthen your back… 

 

Paige:

and acknowledge your body and its difference…

 

Lava:

Definitely. I think the more time goes on, I've realised that I do just have this forever. Obviously sometimes I’m angry about it. Sometimes it gets me down. But for the most part I feel at peace with it. What I really lacked was knowing other people that have it, ‘cause as much as I can complain to you guys or whoever about… feeling the cold in my spine, or the aches…it’s different to sharing experiences with other people going through the same thing. I’m enjoying expanding my network, and having these conversations. And it’s nice to be in that place.

Paige:

And how, or why, are scars important? Yours and in general, I suppose. 

 

Lava:  

For me, scars are a marker of the journey a body has been through. I would’ve done anything to conceal mine but then I just started seeing them as a sign of how much my body has healed rather than it only labelling my condition. Scars give the viewer a peek into the larger experience of transformation. 

Photography by: Paige Stevens (she/her)

Images featuring: Lava Ali (she/her)

Publication curated by Sibling Collaborative LTD

Page design: Mia Quimpo Gourlay (she/her)

Facilitated by: Madalena Miles (she/her)

bottom of page