“A DAY IN MY SHOES” photography project is the intersection of my passions with purpose in life. I wanted to create artistic images that give voice to a cause, capture the many textures of life and support shelters for victims of domestic violence in different cities. The project’s first exhibit debuted in San Francisco, California in May 2009 with proceeds benefiting Asian Women’s Shelter. The exhibit featured 25 women from a wide variety of backgrounds wearing footwear personally meaningful to each sponsor and participant. The first Los Angeles exhibit debuted February 2010 and benefited Safe Passage Home. The third installation continued with A Day In My Shoes-LA Part Deux, debuted October 16th, 2010 at Rebecca Molayem Gallery in West Hollywood and benefitted AVIVA young women’s shelter.
All women posing for the shots are photographed anonymously since five of the models are victims of domestic violence residing in the chosen shelters. Protecting their identity becomes the privilege for every participating sponsor. There is also freedom of expression in anonymity. It is a powerful shelter for every woman from every walk of life to tell her story that is held secret. The sponsoring participants may not have personal experience with domestic violence, but each life has a tale of overcoming hardship, and the will and inspiration that brought about the success. Photos are accompanied by a brief story of personal struggles, courage, and passion. The purpose of the words is to let the hidden story be told, move on, be supported, and support others without fear.
As a photographer, my exciting challenge is to tell both sides of a life story, the beauty and the pain, the hope and the fear, intertwined with the ever changing and mysterious frivolity yet sublime strength of a woman, in one single still photograph. And the path begins with my first camera at age eight. Capturing a moment with all its detail, as I saw it and retold it to last for all eternity is magic. At sixteen, shooting a grouping of dilapidated metal barrels held a mirror to how I see the world. There is beauty in structural lines worthy of grand architecture, and contrast holding up to an abyss in the discarded remnants of our lives. From this moment on, the camera became the permanent fixture along my path, recording my story through education, travel, fashion, architecture, motherhood, witnessing history, and my other passion, movement and dance.
My father was in the military service, and we were stationed in Spain for five years. The experience shaped my love for living in other cultures. At eighteen, I joined the Air National Guard for my college GI bill. The allure of travel, and experiencing a different culture with all its visual stories had a hand in that decision. A DAY IN MY SHOES is a multi-city project, because the common thread may be the same, but the backdrop of another city and its rich textures, color the story in a different language.
After college, having studied Japanese language and international business, I moved to Tokyo for two years where I worked and developed my inquisitive eye for fashion. As
an average size American woman found myself very limited in choices since the cut and size reflected women of Japan. A comparative visual story in every article of fashion waited to unfold. I realized a great designer considers fashion a unique art form; one that is dormant until it is worn by different women. The piece comes alive as the woman moves and lives her story wearing it.
This powerful statement is reflected in choosing shoes as the fashion focus for my philanthropic project. Every woman seems to feel strong and beautiful in her chosen shoes. She walks with more determination in where ever those shoes are meant to lead her. The deceiving obsession is in the architecture and function of the piece, as much as it is in its aesthetic. It supports the body along its way to anything every woman wants to be. For some, it is the driving force in the power suit; the coquettish elegance in a social butterfly’s step; the hushed tiptoe of a mother holding her sleeping child; and the blasting thunder of a dancer’s beat.
I worked in fashion retail for over a decade. The work provided rewarding artistic experiences while doing business in New York, Chicago and Oklahoma City. I was in Oklahoma City at the time of the tragic bombing. During my time with the Air National Guard, I was inspired to photograph military personnel in times of war and peace; a photojournalist retells story of powerful times. My shots from Oklahoma City show the pain and horror the city felt while the heroes restored a sense of order to the chaos. This genre of photography is what needs to be tapped when composing shots for the individual story of each woman. The location, the movement and the light have to accent the underlying pain and hope in that one frame.
I am fascinated by architecture as it is a silent storyteller. Architecture tells the history, artistry and all the aspects of the culture and people of its city, in complete silence. Discovering Europe with my infant son, while pregnant with my second revealed the feminine curvature of the magnificent buildings; perhaps more telling of my soft, maternal side than the imposing structures representing a long history of power. This is in sharp contrast to the masculine angles and lines I see in New York. When I shoot A DAY IN MY SHOES, the architectural lines of fine shoes take center stage. With some shots the surroundings provide the accentuating or even iconic references pertaining to her life in that city.
My husband and I agreed full time freelance photography would be the best of both worlds for a working mother. It affords me ample time with our children while giving my passion a space to grow. In this role, shooting portraits are a way to connect to individual stories and what they wish to convey. I take delight in finding expressions in my clients and capturing them at a moment of honesty. When a client calls for a shoot, they tell me what there is to be said in this photo, and I compose my shot anywhere between then and the time the flight lands in their city. It is an opportunity to translate the purpose and function of the story into visual elements. The stories participants provide for the A DAY IN MY SHOES result in my choice of visuals.
The elements of dance are a recurring theme in the shots. They are sometimes subtle, like a hint of a ballet stance in the most unlikely of surroundings, or sometimes the very
clear statement of a swan on the lake. I am always looking to register motion in my stills. Movement is life, it is progress, and it is inspiration. It is what carries us through our journeys as individuals and as societies.
I spend my summers in a small town in northeast Oregon. I volunteer to teach dance at the local community center to students ages 5-90. This past summer I had a class of sober-house women experiencing the beautiful expression of dance in sobriety. The ability to understand the motion in music and express yourself without numbness of alcohol and drugs builds confidence and purpose. The graceful elements of dance define every culture as clearly as its language.
My story lives in the photos of A DAY IN MY SHOES. It is in the background, in the fashion, in the light and the shadow, and it is in listening to her story. The model allows me to translate her words into the language of a visual; and for me that is a treasured gift.