My current research project, Shoe and Tell, explores the shoe as an object of cultural and individual expression. The research seeks to understand how in a society where there is so much emphasis on image, teenagers negotiate identity. Through interviews, workshops and photography with 16 to 19 year olds, the research focuses on how shoes communicate identity.
Shoes are prominent in popular culture as transformative objects, evidenced through their place in fairy tales and as symbols of desire in fashion and advertising. This research takes a more nuanced approach to shoes by exploring their role in the everyday life of teenagers. As worn objects they have an intimate relationship with the body and a distinct bearing on how the wearer feels and engages with the world around them, thus making them ideal mediums for communicating identity and experience. Through my research I have found that teenagers strive to be individual and that among the many feelings voiced, the need to be different, comfortable, confident, and powerful is key. The research demonstrates how an ordinary object like shoes can reveal emotions and experiences. This process has created an opportunity for teenagers to communicate their feelings about themselves and the world around them, and to assert themselves as empowered and valued individuals.