Nina Leen: Feet Focus


I’ve posted a fair bit on Life photographer Nina Leen – about 1234 times.

In her day, Leen was better known as a photographer of animals. Perhaps it’s her ability to capture the small, unusual, honest details which make what should be slightly humdrum shots of feet so very special. Some of these pictures are posed, some are not. None of them look stiff or forced.

Only one of them makes me want to stash a comb in my socks or, at the very least, start to wear socks.

It’s getting cold out there, kids.







Licentiate Column 15/11/12: Ugly vs. Ugg-ly

Look guys, bridal Uggs! I think the most diplomatic way to describe these things would be to say that they’re really… something.

Finally, the moment is upon us. Ugg boots are no longer a thing. The death knell rang for me not when news came of the Australian shoe company’s 31% drop in sales, but when my youngest sister came home from college for the weekend and forgot to bring her much-punished booties back with her. They were nothing but an afterthought, relegated to the post-secondary school detritus of dirty clothes, old economics notes and blurry, printed out pictures of friends from that fifth year trip to New York.

To that I say ‘good’. And then, I say ‘good riddance’. Uggs are not for Irish people. They are not built for our weather, as rain and slush will soak and degrade natural fibres, not is it good for our little legs. Skinny jeans tucked into calf-length moon boots? This is a look that suits no-one (even Kate Moss couldn’t pull it off convincingly).

What is unusual is that, in Australia, the Ugg is not a fashion item. They’re worn as slippers and by surfers who need to warm up after a vigorous wrestle with the waves. According to the Ugg Wikipedia page (only the most reputable sources for this column), the Ugg is considered ‘daggy’ and part of the ‘bogan’ culture. I read it, nodded sagely, them immediately looked both words up – they both approximate to ‘unfashionable and scruffy’. If the Australians, who are famed for their earthiness and lack of pretension, think that the Ugg is vulgar then it really must be vulgar. Uggs are ugg-ly. To paraphrase Regina George, they’re fugg-ly.

While one ugly shoe whimpers and dies, other ugly shoes are going from strength to unfortunate strength. Jeffrey Campbell Litas, which look nothing short of what a horse might wear to a Berlin sex club, continue to be bafflingly popular with the young ‘uns. At least they are ugly in the name of fashion and not ugly in the name of bland, inoffensive comfort. They are interestingly ugly, possibly even majestically ugly. Litas are sculptural. Uggs are the visual equivalent of accidentally stepping in a large blob of mashed potato, all squashed and starchy.

It’s rather interesting, this leaning towards the ugly shoes. As recently as ten years ago, the prevailing trend was for spike or kitten heels with pointed toes, fripperies designed to be sexy – they were womens shoes made almost exclusively for men. For those who disagree, please try cramming your foot into a pointed shoe. Your feet don’t resemble triangles for a good reason.

It’s an ordeal that reminds one of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, who have no toes and force themselves into such contraptions instead of comfy, orthopedic shoes to throw unsuspecting children off the scent.

While the ugly shoe is visually offensive, I am forever thankful that the option exists to wear them. Shoes are designed to be more than aesthetically appealing (or unappealing). Because of shoes, we can walk safely, exercise without destroying our arches, gain a height advantage in tricky situations and choose whether we want to be sexy or ugly on any particular day. That’s a concrete achievement for something that only goes on your feet.

The Reading List: Wishlist

It’s my birthday in a month or so and I’m going to take a Noel Edmonds approach to it.   No, I don’t want bad-taste jumpers (I’ve got enough of them) – I’m going to put what I want out there in the universe and see if it comes back to me.

1.  Health and happiness


Madame Yevonde: Colour, Fantasy and Myth

Rosamond Bernier:  Some of My Lives (pic via Stylesight)

Writing for the Fashion Business (pic via Fashion Folio)

Elegance:  The Seeberger Brothers and the birth of Fashion Photography (pic via Viona Wang)

And non-fashion… The Live of the Kings and Queens of England (ed. Antonia Fraser) Frida Kahlo: Paintings (Hayden Herrara) and Barbie: Her life & Times and The New Theater of Fashion (Billy Boy).

That should tide me over.

3.  And maybe these shoes from Zara.

4.  And fun with friends

4b. World peace.

Licentiate Column 21/07/11: Shopping is an endurance test.

The human body is capable of remarkable feats.  Every organ is a cog in a finely tuned machine that is designed to be in not-quite-perpetual motion.  Skin is conveniently waterproof. The liver kindly takes on the task of filtering out all the nasty things that we foolishly ingest, accidentally or on purpose.  The cranium can take more than it’s fair share of hard knocks.
Besides being remarkable in it’s ordinariness, the human body can push itself further when under great stress.  World record holders can pull trucks with their hair, adrenal mothers can lift car wrecks with small children trapped inside and the human body can continue to exist on a drastically reduced, simplified diet – especially if shopping is involved.
You see something in a magazine.  You love it.  You want it.  You need it.  Of course, no one really needs a pair of Louboutins or an Alexander McQueen clutch bag.  We just convince ourselves that we do.  That studded snakeskin, box shaped, miniscule container that fits only keys, money and a lipstick will transform your life dramatically.  You will instantly become more confident, assertive and poised.  Your hidden potential will be realised and you will be recognised for the fabulous person that you are.  That must be why it’s so expensive.
I had a similar moment a few weeks ago.  It was a pair of Nicholas Kirkwood for Erdem catwalk shoes.  They had five inch heels.  They were festooned with hightly impractial, ropelike silk floral ribbons that could be twined around the ankles like pointe ballet slippers.  They were also 50% off – and still very, very expensive.
It’s vulgar to talk about money, I know, but I like to think it’s slightly less so when you have none. I’m poor as all hell and not ashamed of it.
A diet of beans tastes slightly sweeter when you know that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlights of a FedEx van containing a little something special just for you.  The feeling of accomplishment is deceptively real.  You, who are the kind of person who never buys designer, you who has no money, has achieved the superhuman feat of buying something expensive without incurring the wrath of the credit card debt deities.
In this way, the struggle to buy what you love has a greater significance than if you had the money already folded snugly in your pocket.  It’s two fingers up to the fashion establishment, who keep prices high so that only the rich can be seen with their goods.
It’s a slightly counter-productive up yours, because in buying their goods, you’re still pumping cash into the veins of the company. You’re defying the company, but still buying into it.
Then again, this might be the delirious raving of a person who has eaten more kidney beans in three weeks than most people would care to eat in three years.
I say, if you want something, work for it. Earn it so you can buy it.  Even if you end up smelling of beans, your feet will be coming up roses.