San Francisco-based photographer Amy Martin-Friedman is returning to Cayman in April to partner with the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre for her fundraising project, A Day In My Shoes.
Friedman, who last held the project in Cayman in 2012, initially launched it to benefit the Asian Women’s Shelter of San Francisco. She went on to expand the project to support other organizations that help victims of domestic violence, breast cancer survivors, and at-risk girls, and recently a number of animal welfare charities.
The project involves Friedman typically photographing around 25 women in their favorite shoes in a location that best tells their story of confidence, empowerment, courage or achievement. Five of the participating women are residents of local domestic violence shelters, while the remaining women pay a sitting fee.
Each woman remains anonymous as only their lower body and fabulous shoes, be they a pair of Clarks or Jimmy Choos, are photographed. The anonymity of the project is an important aspect, allowing the participating women to tell their story without fear. The photos are then displayed in an exhibition, along with a coffee-table book, where each woman has the opportunity to speak her story through written passages that accompany the photographs, whether a story about a struggle in life, domestic violence, work, success, triumph, loss of a loved one or simply life and how to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Last year, the project raised more than $10,000 for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, which provides safe shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. This year, organizers are hoping to raise even more, while also raising awareness about domestic abuse.
“The project raised incredible awareness for the center in 2012,” Janette Goodman, Crisis Centre board member and event organizer, said. “This project is all about women helping women in a fun and sort of sexy way. In 2012 there was a lot of laughter and a few tears, but the relationships which developed between many of the models has been the best and most unexpected outcome.”
She added, “I met so many amazing women, heard some incredible stories of strength, and we helped women in the process. We would love to continue to spread the word that the center is here to assist. We want to raise awareness in the schools to help teach children that violence is never the answer. We want to reach men in particular and learn more about how we can help them stop before they raise a hand in anger.”
An idea is born
A Day In My Shoes has been held in various cities across the U.S., and over the years the project has garnered a following, with many celebrities including Carrie Ann Inaba, Taylor Armstrong and Edyta Sliwinska becoming involved.
The idea for the project was dreamed up by Friedman in 2008 when she decided she wanted to use her creative skills to help women in her community. With Valentine’s Day nearing, she decided to combine her two passions – shoes and photography.
“Each year I hated always wondering if I would have a Valentine, and one year I decided to be my own,” she says. “I decided to buy myself a fabulous new pair of shoes, strut down Fifth Avenue and love who I am. They are my favorite accessory, my moment to share a little of who I am with just one little touch of my outfit. They really do tell so much about a woman, they are empowering. A new pair of shoes always puts some pep in my step.
“I then started thinking about other single women and decided to get them to pose for a portrait in their favorite pair of shoes, as a way for them to be their own Valentine and to show them how they too could conceivably walk down Fifth Avenue with pep in their step.”
Friedman then started to conceive a way in which she could roll out the project further to help raise funds for charities. A victim of domestic violence herself, it seemed only natural to her to focus her efforts on raising funds to help others. Through artful photography she could tell their stories anonymously, with just lower bodies and, of course, the beautiful shoes, captured in the shot. A Day In My Shoes was born.
A freelance photographer, Friedman has more than 20 years’ experience in still and real life photography. She has photographed the best life has to offer, as well as the worst, including the bombings of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York.
“There isn’t a lot of attention about domestic violence. It’s an ugly topic and often no one does something like this to talk about what is happening maybe in the home, next door, to a best friend, or to their own self,” Friedman explained. “I had to do something to help those that often feel so alone.”
She added: “I’m so thankful for the time I spent photographing women from Cayman for the first round of A Day In My Shoes. The love and trust that each of these women places in me and my work is the reason I do this project. I want each participant to feel at ease and confident that when she tells her story, she can do it with no fear.
“I can’t wait to return to Grand Cayman in April. I find such inspiration on your beautiful island as my backdrop for these amazing photographs, and furthermore, the women and their hearts are what makes me want to continue my work to help victims of domestic violence.
“My youngest son once asked me, why do you do this work, mommy, because it makes me sad sometimes? and I replied because I have to. I have to give women a voice that often feel like they can’t share their story.”
This year, the Crisis Centre is working with business partners to sponsor four women from the center to be photographed.
“It was a very positive experience for all of the ladies, and we want to continue to help women heal and move forward,” Goodman said. “This is an excellent way for a business partner to get involved, truly empowering a woman to tell her story and help her realize that it is the past, and begin to design her future. Overall we would like to have 40 women participate, about the same number as our first venture.”
She added: “It is important to continue to speak out against domestic abuse and sexual violence – it is not about sex, it is about fear and violence. It is time to remove that fear from women and their children’s lives. We need to get involved, to be part of the solution, to bring these issues out of the dark and help remove them from the community once and for all. A Day in My Shoes – Grand Cayman, Take 2 is a way to bring focus to the issues facing our island community, to raise not only funds, but hope.”
Photo shoots with Friedman, priced at $675, will be held April 3-5 and include a mounted canvas print. All funds go to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. For more details on the project, or to get involved, email [email protected]