On Seeing: A Journal – #252

A right foot

In a recent Journal I discussed the photography of hands. It’s only fair to give an equal amount of time to the amazing, complex and oh-so-essential body parts that (when we’re lucky) connect us to the earth.

Feet, though they lack the opposable thumb that sets primates apart from other mammals (except for the wily raccoon), are structural miracles. The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. The 52 bones in two feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in the body. And yet most of us take them for granted until things go wrong – a blister or worse. When I began to photograph dancers, feet began “talking” to me.

It occurred to me, as I saw ballerinas tie their hard-working and much-abused feet into point shoes, that while beautiful faces and elegant hands get the most notice by audiences (and photographers), the amazing foot is rarely the subject of visual creativity.

My new-found fascination with, literally, the crucial pedestrian body part, continued and increased as I went on to study athletes, who depend on their feet no less than dancers. Members of each group work with me in my studio regularly, so I do hear about feet from time to time – and rarely neglect to make an image or two.

Ballerinas, to hear them tell it, are always having foot problems, given the unnatural on pointe positioning and constant weight-bearing efforts required for classic choreography.

I had written a Journal about ballet students and was not too surprised to see how much attention they paid to their feet. These images are from that entry, written 15 months ago:


One remarkable reminder when making photographs of ballerinas was the  great deal of time spent fixing, repairing, protecting, and suffering over their feet.

Here are some of my efforts bringing other feet to the fore:

And, feet with the bodies they support.

and, finally……

Even a newborn finds his feet fascinating. And for good reason.