Shoe and Tell: A Celebration of Teenage Identity is a continuous project that aims to explore the shoe as an object of cultural and individual expression, and understand its role in the negotiation of identity. This research seeks to understand how in a society where there is so much emphasis on image teenagers negotiate their identity. Through interviews, workshops and photography with the 16 to 19 year old demographic, the research investigates how shoes communicate identity.
Shoes have prominence in popular culture as transformative objects, evidenced through their presence in fairy tales, and their portrayal as symbols of desire in fashion and advertising. This research takes a nuanced approach to shoes by examining the place they hold in the everyday lives of individuals.
As worn objects shoes have a more intimate relationship with the body than clothes. How shoes feel and look on the feet has distinct bearings on the wearer’s physicality and their subsequent engagement with the world around them. The importance that shoes have in enabling the interpretation of individual identity through everyday life is central to this research.
The research findings evidence that teenagers strive to be individual and that they need to feel different, comfortable, confident, and powerful. The research demonstrates how the ordinary and everyday object of shoes can reveal emotions and experiences. This process creates an opportunity for teenagers to communicate their feelings about themselves and the world around them, and to assert themselves as empowered and valued individuals.
Being Human Exhibition
23rd November 2017 – 25th November 2017
Nottingham Writers Studio.
Shoe and Tell was selected to be part of Being Human 2017, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, by the festival organisers, the School of Advanced Study, University of London, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the British Academy (BA).
Held at Nottingham Writers’ Studio, the exhibition took visitors on an exploration of teenage identity, presenting photographs of Nottingham’s teenagers and their shoes. Extracts from the teenagers’ personal shoe narratives gave clarity on the important role these everyday objects have in communicating the complexities of teenage identity.
The exhibition asked participants to reflect on what it really means to be a teenager today, while triggering personal reflections of their own teenage experiences.
Visitors were invited to write their own personal teenage shoe story and contribute to the Shoe and Tell Memory Tree located within the exhibition.
21st September 2021 – 14th October 2021
Exhibition in the Atrium, John Lennon Art and Design building, Liverpool John Moores University.
Through a series of photographs and supporting narratives Shoe and Tell examines the relationships between young people and their identities as they are communicated and expressed through the shoes that they choose to wear.
The Shoe and Tell project created by Dr Naomi Braithwaite in 2017, uses methods grounded in visual ethnography to document experiences of identity for individuals as they transition through transformatory life course stages including being a teenager, becoming a university student and a graduate.
The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the three phases of the project: Shoe and Tell: A Celebration of Teenage Identity, The Graduation Shoes Project and The Virtual Shoe Salon.
Curators: Dr Naomi Braithwaite, Dr Lee Wright, Dr Ruth Clifford
With thanks to: Carlos Santos Barea, Kevin McCormack, Martin Gee
Website Designed & curated by Wesley J Morgan 2021.