Editor’s Note: Most assignments that come our way are driven by client objectives, with the subject, brand message, target audience and metrics for success defined in detailed design briefs. No matter how interesting, and sometimes lucrative, such projects can be, they are ultimately dictated by the client. At the end of the day, some of us like to unwind and reassert our creative freedom by dabbling in projects that captivate our interest and allow us to be as quirky and experimental as we like. Some of these self-generated projects are turned into published books and commercial products; others are only enjoyed by the artist and select friends. From time to time, we plan to feature some of these side projects, beginning with Terry Heffernan’s sole project.
Nationally renowned still life photographer Terry Heffernan has what one might consider a shoe fetish. More recently, his lust for famous soles has grown stronger.
Heffernan says it all began while touring the storage area at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, when he was shooting there on assignment. “On an old green metal filing cabinet, I saw a pair of well-worn black leather cleats with a yellow ID tag tied onto the lace,” he recalls. “I asked what that was about and was told the shoes belonged to Shoeless Joe Jackson, accused in the Black Sox Scandal of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series. Seeing the dirt still on the cleats actually raised the hair on my arms; it was a visceral reaction. I just had to shoot it.”
For Heffernan, soles are a window onto the human soul. “To me, shoes are an extension of the wearer’s personality. Over time they take on the shape of the person’s foot, the body form. They tell you something about the person’s taste and style, interests and activities, energy level, posture and how they walk, nervous habits, and how they see themselves. They are less self-conscious than clothes, so in many ways they are more revealing.”
In recent years, Heffernan has managed to photograph the shoes of more than 40 famous people, mostly artists and athletes, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Magic Johnson, and Dusty Baker. He feels he recently hit the jackpot when his friend musician Jimmy Dillon put him in touch with the International Kids Alliance Network, or IKAN, a Michigan charity that mentors kids. As a memento, IKAN has asked famous mentors to autograph and donate a pair of their shoes to inspire the kids. IKAN magnanimously allowed Heffernan to borrow and shoot the entire collection. But, of course, Heffernan is hungry for more famous soles. “It would be so cool to photograph the shoes of Mother Teresa, Ansel Adams, David Hockney, Neil Armstrong…or Dorothy’s ruby slippers,” he says wistfully. Eventually, Heffernan hopes to produce a published book of famous soles, but for his own pleasure, he created a prototype and had a single copy produced by a print on demand service. He happily shows it off to visitors to his studio and appeals to friends to let him know if they know any famous people who would let him shoot their shoes. We said we’d ask. If you can help, you can reach him through his website www.heffernanfilms.com.