Shoes and Eyeglasses (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, May 27, 2017.

  1. This may seem like a strange pair.

    For me, there are two things that tie them together. First, shoes enable the body, while glasses enable the mind. But, second — and mainly — because both of these things, when seen in a picture, overwhelmingly evoke the presence/absence of a person (maybe because of the first reason?), often more powerfully than a picture of that person him or herself. Of all the in-common items (i.e. not including idiosyncratic possessions unique to that individual) associated with a person, these two are what do that for me. Why is that?

    "They are the symbols of the traveler." ... "To remove one's shoes is the first sign of intimacy." ... but/or "The shoes at the bedside show that that person is no longer well enough to walk: they are a sign of death." — The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols

    The sensitivity of the foot to touch, its vaguely phallic shape and the hollow receptacle of the shoe fostered the shoe's erotic connotations. Shoes are common objects of sexual fetishism. — The Book of Symbols: Reflections of Archetypal Images


    [aside from all the positive things they do for us] They have long been popular idioms in German that refer to charlatans as "eyeglass salesmen" (and which substitute "eyeglasses" for the English "bill of goods"). In any language, as far as idioms are concerned, spectacles often assure not a keen but a predetermined view of life: e.g. "looking at the world through rose-colored glasses." — Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons & the Meanings Behind Them


    Here is one particular example of shoes, at work in a picture. This is from Geoffrey Batchen's What of Shoes? Van Gogh and Art History. He's looking at Van Gogh's Shoes, (1886):

    Shoes, Heidegger proposes, are among those types of things that are useful; indeed the form of a shoe, "firm yet flexible," is determined by a human maker in terms of its projected use as a piece of equipment to clothe the feet. In this sense, he suggests, a shoe occupies a "peculiar position intermediate between thing and work;" "it is half art work and yet something else."

    ... Heidegger then goes on to describe in remarkably sensorial language the life experienced by the owner of these shoes:

    From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field. This equipment is pervaded by uncomplaining anxiety as to the certainty of bread, the wordless joy of having once more withstood want, the trembling before the impending childbed and shivering at the surrounding menace of death. This equipment belongs to the earth, and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman.​

    ... For Heidegger ... the art of an art work lies in its capacity to transcend its own thingness, to make "public something other than itself."​

    (Batchen wonders if Heidegger noticed that it's not clear that the two shoes are a pair — they look a lot like two left shoes — and wonders why he makes their wearer a woman.)

    By coincidence, when driving into town yesterday, I saw a single brown shoe standing (not lying) in one of the traffic lanes, looking lost and defiant and doomed. Think how different that shoe is from one of a pair neatly sitting in your deceased mother's closet.

    What attracts you to photograph shoes and/or eyeglasses?
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    i can't say i've ever paid any (special) attention to specs or shoes or sought, intentionally, to photograph them. i'm not sure if the following even qualifies as an eyeglass photo or even if the glasses contribute to the image.


  3. Yep! They (or half of "them") are there and I like it. It's quirky, they draw my attention, and quirky attention makes these discussions come alive. Good one! Thanks, Norman.
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    IMG_1478.JPG i remember taking this snap and thinking afterwards that the glasses made the girl's eyes look like those of a fly (or some such creature)
  5. They completely obliterate my awareness of the girl's face: the sunglasses are all I look at. But they're mirrors, not glass. Also, I've been thinking about glasses and shoes without their people. (Norman, I see you ... )
  6. Phil, those two pictures are really interesting side by side. For me, the shoe, and shoes in general, call up the filling-in body that wore them. It gets a body that's not there; whereas the hand imprint doesn't do that for me. In fact, to me, the hand print says "gone" and I don't get the poignancy that I get from the shoe.

    They really do. That's an other tangent into conformity. But then the body, during wear, conforms/deforms the shoe to itself. And, because the foot is so sensitive, too sensitive, we need the protection. Etc. etc. ...

    (I'm also reminded of shod horses, where the iron shoe is nailed to the foot. And a grotesque description of foot-binding in one of my symbols books.)
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
  7. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    that's true but the next best thing is lacing them up before the walk that makes you go argh as you take them off.

  8. ... and with very pointy toes!

    Still thinking about your two pictures ... It seems to me that shoes are always particular, so I get a feeling of "a" person whereas prints or tracks are generic. Still thinking ... (also want to look up Lord of the Flies and Piggy's eyeglasses when I get a minute ...)
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    they make some of us insecure. both of these women are equally attractive. spot the one wearing specs

  10. Doris Salcedo did an evocative installation using shoes to remember victims of violence in Colombia. Here is a description of the project:

    Niches cut into the plaster wall contain shoes as relics or attributes of lost people, donated by the families of those who have disappeared. Shoes are particularly personal items as they carry the imprint of our body more than any other item of clothing. She then sealed the niches with a membrane of cow bladder, which she literally sutured into the plaster of the wall as if picturing the literal process of internalized bodily memory. Barely visible through the animal skin membrane, the shoes are a haunting evocation of their absent owners and inevitably recall the grizzly souvenirs of Nazi death camps.​

    You can see a picture of some of the embedded shoes here. In contrast to photographs that find damaged or lost shoes where they have fallen, in Salcedo's installation, the shoes are safe and protected while it is their owners who have been the victims of violence.
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
  11. Julie, this is a mausoleum, where the shoes are meant to remind the viewers of their owners. We obviously connect more to physical possessions than tombstones or plaques, at least in this occasion. Also, the arrangement of the shoes is like a bar code in the wall.

    Now, a different thought. What do you feel, when you see a single shoe lying at a place that is impossible to reach, like the bottom of a crevice. For me, it instantly humanizes the place and brings on a feeling of insecurity and danger. I almost put myself in that shoe.

  12. That's exactly how I feel.

    And single shoes are different from pairs, and pairs in splayed or violated configurations (i.e. not neatly side-by-side).

    The only ones that don't really do much for me are the pairs thrown over powerlines that were a trend a while ago (maybe still?). Those seem kind of silly.
  13. Its their 16x20 peter and chip.jpg similar eyeglasses that got me to shoot this photo of my brother and a buddy of mine.
    Norma Desmond likes this.
  14. I was thinking of shoes and glasses separated from their people when I started the thread, but since so many of you are going to glasses and shoes-with-their-people (thank you!), I'll go with the flow (though I do hope you looked at Phil's shoe picture, which I think is an excellent example of what I was thinking of at the start).

    Looking at this picture by Robert H. Schutz of shoes-on-their-people, I'm struck by the fact that I know immediately who these two people are. I would guess that any American over a certain age will also know who they are. Do you?

    In this Alexander Rodchenko portrait of his mother, the glasses-on-the-person are the nitty-gritty of the picture, IMO. There seems to be a war going on between them and the face.

    Glasses will make you into an intellectual, as you will see in this William Wegman portrait.

    One from Eggleston, and one from Friedlander, and one from Henri Cartier Bresson just so I can name drop.

    Edward Weston has a still-life Birthday card that he made for Charis that includes glasses (his) and a shoe (hers) but I can't find a large version of it on the web.

    Back to Wegman, here is a great shoe picture. Might take a minute for you to figure it out.

    And, finally, from Harold Edgerton, a very aggressive shoe.
  15. Supriyo, in wandering through the U.S. Holocaust Museum's library of photographs, I found an image that, in my opinion, has extraordinary impact and power. It speaks obviously to the Nazis' planned extermination of the Jewish people, but it also prompted me to wonder about the persons who wore these shoes - where they lived, what they did, etc. I am attaching a copy of the image, FYI. RetrieveAsset.aspx.jpg
  16. The following image is the result of contrivance; its subject - two pairs of my wife's shoes. To me, its main value is evoking memories of my son's wedding. To anyone else, I suspect it simply displays 21st century human foot coverings. 17923482-orig copy.jpg
  17. Phil, did you leave the bar with both shoes? Quirky, effective image
  18. Whew!
  19. Memorial Day Commemoration—Boots of Fallen Veterans—City Hall/Civic Center Plaza, SF

    michaellinder likes this.

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