There was a time when Peter DeVito, a 20 year old photographer in New York, could not share a photo of himself online without Photoshopping it first. Now, he's quickly gaining tens of thousands of followers for the way his work celebrates unretouched skin — redness, bumps, whiteheads, and all.
Over the past few months, DeVito, a student studying illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology, created a series of close-up images of himself and others' acne.
"I was really inspired because a lot of people on social media started posting things about body positivity and self-acceptance, but I felt like there was an absence of people with acne," he tells ELLE.com.
The series features words or sayings temporarily tattooed over the subject, like "acne is normal," "retouch" crossed out, or "drink water," a piece of unsolicited he often hears.
#AcneIsNormal - In 2017, I took barely any pictures of myself because I hated the way my skin looked. In 2018, I'm going to take as many as possible because even with my acne, I still look better than most of y'all headass bitches *this is probably the last acne word portrait I'm doing of myself, but I'm going to pursue different projects that have to do with acne*
One of his self-portraits featuring Kendrick Lamar's famous lyrics from "Humble": "I'm so fucking sick and tired of the Photoshop." This particular photo spread rapidly on Instagram, getting reposted on countless accounts — including model Cara Delevingne's. "It was crazy to see somebody who gets a lot of her pictures retouched all the time agree with what I was saying," he reacted.
DeVito, who says he's been affected by acne since 8th grade, originally started with portraits of himself. "I felt relieved. I don't know why this huge weight was on my shoulder," he says of the first time he published his unretouched skin on Instagram.
The photographer then moved on to shooting portraits of other people with acne. "The whole point of me posting is to help empower other people," DeVito explained, "I love seeing other people post their unretouched pictures and they tag me."
The comments on his images are filled with gratitude. User @ee.iibb wrote, "These photos keep me sane and help me love myself on days when I am perfectly imperfect."
Meanwhile, @yuan_aza commented, "I've been suffering from acne for more than 20 years. This pic makes me feel better about myself. Thank you for sharing."
"I have been fighting with my skin for years...if only I would have seen images like this years ago to make me feel a lot better of myself," @neringass said.
DeVito plans to continue taking photos that normalise acne and hopes to bring more and more people on board. He said,"I'm hoping that people will just start to learn to accept themselves more and not compare themselves to what other people look like."