In curious anticipation of the V & A’s forthcoming exhibition, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, which opens on June 15th – you won’t want to miss a fascinating talk by Hong Kong based documentary photographer, Jo Farrell, on the last bound feet women of China. The talk is at Asia House, just minutes from Oxford Street, and starts at 6.30pm, also on June 15th 2015. See below for details on how to book.
For the past nine years, Jo Farrell has been documenting some of the last remaining women with bound feet in China. Her evocative black and white photographs and interviews with 50 of these women have been published in a handsome volume ‘Living History: Bound Feet Women of China’ – and offer a rare glimpse into a passing world.
Whatever your views on the subject of women having their feet bound, there is a widespread presumption that the bound feet women of China came from backgrounds of privilege and wealth, and wore exquisite silk shoes. Perhaps time, and romanticised depictions on art house film have blurred the truth. In the reality, the opposite is true, and all the more remarkable that these women carried out harsh, manual labour, with the added burden of bound feed.
Jo says, ” I discovered that many of the surviving women came from peasant backgrounds and had lived extraordinary lives working in the fields,despite their bound feet. All the women I have photographed are now between 80 and 100 years old from rural areas in Shandong and Yunnan Provinces. My work is about capturing traditions and cultures that are dying out, and therefore I chose to use black and white film and print silver gelatin prints – in tribute to these resilient, formidable women, some of whom are no longer with us.”
It puts forcing our feet into cruel, vertiginous heels and stilettos into perspective – but then it isn’t just the women and men of China who have have long had an ambivalent relationship with twisted ideals of beauty and fashion. Who hasn’t put up with a long evening of foot torture, in order to hang out with the tough, sky high shoe mavens?
Jo will discuss her project with Pamela Kember, Head of Arts and Learning at Asia House in London from 6.30pm, 15th June and members of the public are welcome to attend. She will also address a private audience at the V & A on the same day in conjunction with the forthcoming exhibition ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’, opening 15th June, and will headline a luncheon at St George’s Hospital on the 18th. Copies of the book are available for purchase at £35 including postal charges on the publication’s dedicated online website and signed copies will be available for purchase at a special price of £25 after her talk at Asia House. Members of the public should contact the Asia House website to reserve a place: www.asiahouse.org/events (£8 general admission / £6 concession – walk-in attendance acceptable).
All images copyright Jo Farrell. All rights Reserved.