A few miles from my home, at the Andy Warhol Museum, there is a collection of Warhol’s shoe drawings that are whimsical and quirky despite their origin as ads for major shoe companies. In recent months, there was an exhibition of actual shoes, called Killer Heels, that are works of art themselves. They are extraordinary, and unattainable for most of us (not to mention impossible to walk in). By contrast, my shoes are the shoes of a regular woman. There is nothing extraordinary about me, and yet, I too aspire to adorn my feet in the most extraordinary way that my means and geographic location can supply.
Should you care about my shoes? Probably not, but the choices a woman makes about the things that she wears closest to her body can be revealing. The very accumulation of shoes illuminates a woman’s desire to have the right option available at all times and for all occasions. The high heel in particular provokes discussion of gender, power, sex, and status, yet they still perform the mundane task of protecting the foot from harm. Shoes are like punctuation. They are the end of the statement about ourselves that we make each day with our sartorial choices.
The [FOOT] O GRAMS are specimens of that arsenal of punctuation marks. The apparatus of image capture is a scanner. The shoes are placed on scanner glass and recorded (hopefully in a pleasing composition), but the primary concern is to illustrate their unique characteristics much in the same way that Anna Atkins faithfully recorded specimens of algae in 1843. In fact, the [FOOT] O GRAMS are printed in two nineteenth-century processes, gum bichromate, and the cyanotype process used by Atkins for her monograph British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843). The flatness of the picture plane that results from the very shallow depth of field, and the title of the series, refer directly to early 20th- century avant-garde photography by artists such as Man Ray (Rayographs) and Christian Schad (Shadographs), and the more generic term for the method, photogram, which in the digital age has become the scanogram.
Process provides the key to understanding: how the shoes are designed and made; how a woman makes choices about her shoes; and how the photographic process affects how we see these specific examples of women’s footwear.