Shoes, gorgeous, fabulous shoes, are the focus of a photographic exhibition on show at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
A Day In My Shoes is a fundraiser for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and is part of a project dreamed up by photographer Amy Martin-Friedman to raise money to help support victims of violence and sexual assault.
The project includes five victims of domestic violence – each sponsored to tell their story anonymously – as well as a further 43 women and children, from ages four to 85, who all have an inspiring story to tell. Each participant has been photographed by Amy in their favourite pair of shoes, be they a fabulous pair of red-soled Louboutins, a sky-high pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos, or a humble pair of Clarks.
The setting for each photograph was chosen by each of the participants to best reflect their story of confidence, empowerment, courage or achievement, and spans from West Bay to East End. Each image has been carefully constructed by Amy to ensure each participant remains anonymous, with only their lower body and fabulous shoes on show. The idea is that their story is told, without fear of retribution.
Displayed alongside each of the photographs is their story, whether it is about a struggle in life, domestic violence, work, success, triumph, loss of a loved one or simply life and how to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The photographs were all shot in late March, when Amy travelled from her hometown of San Francisco, USA, to Cayman for a three-day shoot.
“I had 38 shoots with 48 women and children,” Amy says. “I had two amazing partners – Lyn Boone and Janette Goodman – who did all the operational work; setting up appointments and getting me from point A to point B in a matter of just three days. That’s a lot of shoots in a very small amount of time – with the sun as a major condition.”
Indeed, the sun proved to be one of the most challenging aspects for Amy during her time in Cayman.
“I was in the heat from sun up to sun down,” she says. “Along with jet lag, lack of sleep and the heat it was quite intense. Having said that, it was fine by the second day of shooting, I just needed to get my sea legs, so to speak, but in regards to the sun.”
Amy conceived the idea for A Day in My Shoes in 2008 when she decided she wanted to use her creative skills to help women in the community. A freelance photographer, she has more than 20 years experience in still and real life photography and has photographed the best life has to offer, to the worst. She decided to combine her two passions – shoes and photography.
“They are my favourite accessory, my moment to share a little of who I am with just one little touch of my outfit,” she says. “They really do tell so much about a woman, they are empowering. A new pair of shoes always puts some pep in my step.”
She rolled out a project getting women to pose in their favourite pairs of shoes and later started to conceive a way in which the project could raise funds for charities. A victim of domestic violence herself, it seemed only natural for Amy to focus her efforts on raising funds to help others who had also suffered from violence in the home. A Day in My Shoes was born.
“There’s isn’t a lot of attention about domestic violence,” Amy says. “It’s an ugly topic and often no one does something like this to talk about what is happening maybe in the home, next door, to a best friend, or their own self. I had to do something to help those that often feel so alone.”
Over the years the project has raised money for various shelters across the USA and has garnered a following, with many celebrities including American dancer Carrie Ann Inaba, reality star Taylor Armstrong and dancing pro Edyta Sliwinska becoming involved.
During a shoot in Baltimore, Amy met Lyn Boone, a supporter of the CICC, and the two of them decided to bring the project to the Cayman Islands.
While working on the project, Amy has been privy to many inspiring and often heart-wrenching stories. She says one of the most touching shoots during her time in Cayman was for a woman that she never had the opportunity to meet.
“I wanted to honour this fabulous and full-of-life woman with a great portrait even though she had passed from a tragic accident the Friday I landed,” she says. “I chased the perfect sunset for her, with her shoes lying on the sand with roses surrounding them.”
Following the shoot in Cayman, Amy headed back to San Francisco, where she ploughed through 14 gigs of digital film, choosing the perfect shot to perfectly illustrate each participant’s story.
“I was so excited to shoot in Cayman. I felt like this would be great work for me and it proved to be just that. I have received really great feedback from my US clients who have said this is some of my best work yet.”
It is estimated that proceeds from the shoot and sale of a coffee table book – available at the show opening – will raise more than $8,000 for the CICC. However, Janette Goodman, CICC volunteer says the event is more than just raising funds.
“More importantly, we have raised awareness of the centre and the great work this staff does to contribute to the community, which must go, largely uncelebrated.”
“I fell in love with the women of Cayman,” Amy says. “The trust and faith they had in me was wonderful and welcoming. Allowing me to hear their stories and have me capture their essence through a photograph was a brilliant challenge and reward for me.”
She adds: “Great things happen when caring, emotional, strong-willed, giving women are involved. The Cayman Islands experience was all that this project embodies. For the first time in a long time, I found women not doing this for the vanity aspect of my work, but for the real feel for wanting to help women who often can’t help themselves. I will always remember these moments and look forward to creating more the next time we do this project next year.”
The CICC is a charitable organisation that provides safe, temporary shelter and support services for abused women and their children, as well as community education programmes regarding domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Last year, the CICC provided safe shelter for 120 women and children, a 30 per cent increase over previous years, and responded to 155 calls regarding domestic abuse and sexual assault. The location of the CICC is kept secret so that women and children who are assisted can know that they are safe.
A Day in My Shoes
The exhibition opens Friday, 12 October, 5.30pm to 8.30pm. A contribution of $75 includes hors d’oeuvres, wine, as well as entry into a draw for a chance to win some fabulous jewellery. All proceeds support the CICC. Tickets are available for sale at CaymanBoxOffice.com and at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, concierge. The exhibition runs throughout the month of October.