These shoes were made for talking: documenting identity through the lens of footwear

Braithwaite, N. ORCID: 0000-0001-6424-8919, 2021. These shoes were made for talking: documenting identity through the lens of footwear. International Journal of the Image, 12 (2), pp. 45-64. ISSN 2154-8560

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This article discusses the development of a research project Shoe and Tell which is grounded in the principles of visual ethnography. The project was conceived to capture and document the experience of identity for British based teenagers. The teenage years are a significant transitionary period through the human lifecycle, a key time for identity experimentation and formation. In an increasing digital world, perpetuated by social media, this generation have become known for being image conscious, anxious and lonely. This places undue pressure on their sense of self and identity negotiation, and has created assumptions of them being a narcissistic, self-focused demographic. In response to these societal challenges the intention of Shoe and Tell was to bring an insider perspective to teenage identity by documenting, through visual ethnography, the images, real life narratives and experiences of identity from the perspectives of teenagers. While identity has often been examined through the relationship between clothing and individuals this research takes a different, innovative approach by exploring the subject through the lens of footwear. As a worn and ubiquitous object, the shoe has an embodied relationship with its wearer asserting its meaningfulness as a visible expression of self-identity. This article discusses the development of a methodological approach to examine teenage identity. Photography as a form of ethnographic research is used to document and stimulate the narration of experiences and feelings surrounding a young person’s sense of self-identity as discussed through the shoes they are wearing. How individuals present themselves and discuss their experience of identity is captured through footwear. What emerges from this study is the value of this innovative visual methodological approach to documenting and understanding identity as it is experienced through a specific transitional life stage.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Journal of the Image
Creators: Braithwaite, N.
Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
Date: 30 December 2021
Volume: 12
Number: 2
ISSN: 2154-8560
Divisions: Schools > School of Art and Design
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 29 Sep 2021 14:45
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2022 09:20

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