Still-life photographs that consider women’s and men’s shoes as sculptural objects of high cultural significance form the backbone of a new book from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Shoes: Pleasure & Pain recounts the history of footwear—utilitarian, stylish, ridiculous and everything in between—from ancient Egypt to the present, through photographs that highlight the designs that make shoes remarkable (and, as with some pairs, nearly unwearable). Helen Persson, who curated an exhibition of the same name that is currently showing at the V&A through January 31, 2016, edited the 176-page book, which includes 170 images that highlight 200 shoe designs from across multiple continents and several centuries.
“Shoes are one of the most telling aspects of dress. Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can help project an image of who we want to be,” Persson said in a statement about the book and exhibition.