The New York Times Lens blog profiles the work of Shannon Jensen, who visited South Sudan’s Blue Nile region to photograph an underreported refugee crisis. After making standard documentary images that garnered little interest from international publications, she tried to find a different visual approach to telling the story.
While looking at her images on her laptop she stopped at an image of three refugees carrying their shoes. She had “a gut feeling” that the shoes could be an effective way to tell the story. As refugees arrived she had noticed the state of their shoes, the care they took in repairing them and how much the refugees seemed to treasure them.
I think they started off as protection for their feet, but even when the shoes were so worn down that they weren’t comfortable to walk in, and seemed unrepairable, people were loath to discard one of the few things they owned.
She began photographing shoes. Hundreds of them.
This body of work is also among those featured in Moving Walls 21 by the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project, which is open free-of-charge to the public from January 29 to October 3 in New York City.