I was interested to find out if the things we carry around tells us about the lives we lead and almost becomes a portrait of the individual. I dared people in the Hornsey Library to empty the contents of their pockets and bags in front of my camera.
Interestingly, parents who came in with their children were encouraged by them to empty their bags. Molly was one of these. Her mother dutifully emptied her bag and they walked away. Five minutes later they were back and Molly emptied her pocket s pulling out handfuls of highly coloured elastic bands in animal shapes to the amazement of her mother.
Helen a friend of mine turned up with a huge bag in which there was a wonderful blue bag, containing her ‘iPad’, a book and two custard tarts (in a box not shown here) so I took pictures of the contents of the two bags.People arranged their own contents. Two friends: one who is very tidy threw his contents across the set whilst his wife who says she isn’t tidy carefully placed her contents side by side!
Paulina was going out for the night and so carried very little, whilst Guilia, (whose daughter said she was very strong), carried her daughter’s as well as her own.
The objects tell you quite a lot about the individuals who carry them around. Look out for the old pound note, which is carefully folded.
Footfall was a project which I carried out as a result of being asked to record the footfall for my Crouch End Open Studios event in May 2014.
I asked everyone who came to the venue I was sharing with artist Ahmed Farooqui to take off their shoes and write something about them. I started photographing them individually but then decided that it was better to photograph the families and groups of friends who came together. This gave me a more accurate of the community profile of our visitors.
My Photographic set was lit by one light supported by one large reflector, which the visitors were asked to hold and move to get the best lighting effect. I also asked them to arrange their footwear on the set in an arrangement that they were satisfied with.
I found that people became very enthusiastic and were very happy to write about their shoes, their relationships with their shoes or themselves and their journey to our venue.
In the end I photographed over 150 pairs of shoes individually or in groups.
Gabie, Lucy & Seb — Sister, black shoes for fieldwork in Sudan. Sister-in-law, brown boots for hanging out. Brother, blue sneakers for attempting to look trendy.
Jessie, Daniella & Wesley — These are my 'practical mummy' shoes - bought in a the children's department in a sale - they are super comfy! The red trainers are my three and a half year old son Jesse's and the socks are my little nine month old Wesley's.
Kira, Ella & Shell — Three and a half years ago, Kira and Ella met on a bench as new students on the same course. Not knowing anyone, they were happy to meet each other and have been greatest friends ever since. One and a half years later Shell became one of Ella's favourite things.
Mary & Alan — I thought it would rain but I am utterly fed up with enclosing my feet. Birkenstock are good in the rain, keeping you above the wet. I haven't worn these for twenty years or so, but it looked so wet so I suffered the torment of putting them on.
Fara, Tonia & Mina — These are my most comfortable shoes. They make me feel stylish and carefree. I bought these shoes with my childhood friend, with whom I'm no longer in touch. They remind me of the good times we spent together. They were given to me by my aunt. Flat shoes often give me blisters, but these don't.
Alan & Ahmed — They do the job! Hard wearing, comfortable, waterproof and at a bargin price in Lidl. What more is there in footwear?
Priya & Felix — Some well loved and well worn boots that took a huge hit at the Queen's Jubilee Parade where it rained solidly for 4 hours. A lustrous pair of sheepskin desert boots. Passed to me by my good friend, housemate and brother-in-spirit, Barnaby Bowles-Bray. Sadly their days are numbered, wether worn, ripped and torn.
Jim — My 2012 Gamesmaker trainers – well worn and proud.
Shoe String Stories
I like many of us have a fascination with shoes and although I don't have a large collection I have several which I treasure for particular reasons.
Shoe String Stories is a project which I am doing to find out stories about other peoples' favourite shoes. I setup in a public place and invite members of the public to bring in shoes which they would like to be photographed, the only proviso is that they have a story attached to their shoes.
So far I have photographs and stories from over 90 people and some of those have brought in more than one pair. Giselle has brought in 9 pairs and through them I have built up the story of her life. Perhaps the start of another project?
I have photographed the shoes on their own without their owners as I realised that once we take off our shoes we leave behind the traces of ourselves in the toe marks or indentations. So each pair of shoes takes on a different character of their own depending on who wears them.
Each of the shoes here are displayed with a line or statement from the stories. I am planning a book which will contain the whole unaltered story which goes with each shoe.
They make me feel like Dorothy – perhaps if I tap my heels together they will take me home.
Red Midas shoes, circa 1986. Bought in Harrods, I have had years of wear and hopefully many more.
Pied a Terre, 1992. Fenice, Clifton Bristol. Lovely Philip used to come to my house to show me all his new styles.
These kitten heels are glamourous. Symbolising everything I'm hoping my life can still be.
We used to roll around our stalls together.
He was kept waiting for a sitting and started on her gardening boots to fill in the time.
We parade dressed from head to toes in green leaves...
My tango shoes are very hard to dance in.
This project started because I was clearing out a room and kept coming across objects, which reminded me of a person or an event. I would sit down and daydream. I had to make choices which would I keep and why. I didn’t realise it would be so hard!
I began to ask my friends what were their most treasured items and why. “My dogs? I don’t know.” “What small object would you grab if there was a fire then?” “It’s hard I will have to think.” Some people found it very hard, but others, often children, knew instantly.
Most of the chosen items were inherited and had belonged to loved relatives or something in which they found great pleasure. However children counted their favourite things as something which, gave them comfort or security or was a current fad.
I invited people to bring their objects to be photographed. We discussed how they should be photographed and lit. We then placed them on a simple graded grey background and used a single light and reflectors.
My Sailor sits on a shelf in my office watching over me. I have a few more ventriloquists' dummies but he is my favourite. He's a bit moth-eaten but he still works. I don't know where he originally came from but I think he must have been made for a seaside performance. Gaynor
It used to hang in my grandparents' sitting room in Germany. I always thought it was very kitsch when I was young. I have never liked artificial flowers. But since I have inherited it, I like it very much. It has been hanging in my living room for decades, in remembrance. Gisela
This paper chain of boys and girls was created by my mother and was hung in the kitchen in Cornwall. She was an interior designer and made fabric using highly contrasting shapes based on natural forms. These must have influenced my own work as a woodcut artist. Martin
My father Alexander followed his father into the family painting and decorating business after the war in the late 1940s. These brushes were used for producing graining effects, a technique he learnt at the local technical college. My Auntie Helen remembers him practising on his mother's doors – my mother obviously didn't encourage this in his own house until he had perfected the skill. Eventually he did decorate all the doors and surrounds in our house in the 'wood effect'. I love the addition to the collection of the paper form a 1949 book he used to wrap the brush in. Maureen
This is a photo of my mother dressed as a pirate for a ballet performance. I found the lovely old photo frame in a junk shop which just so happened to be close to where she grew up. The two go well together and I love having this picture of my mother aged eight. Lara
This little red horse my father gave to his mother after a ski trip to Norway or Sweden. I love horses and when she passed away I was asked if there was anything I would like and it was an obvious choice to have the little red horse as it reminded me of them both. Lara