A mending story: Star Shoe Repairs


‘Steve didn’t have his best camera with him when we visited Star Shoe Repairs, but his eye was as sharp as ever and the resulting photographs do a beautiful job of evoking a rich working space. In particular they seem to respond neatly to the way this place invites one to pay close attention to details and, above all, to look at things differently: a large pair of scissors secured to back of the side of the worktop by an improvised leather holster; the wire brush drill-bit resting on a shelf; racks of keys and metal cutting blades pinned to a wooden panels; a stripy window display of handmade leather belts; a women’s shoe secured in a home-made heel-clamp.

There is so much to look at in this place that it is hard to remember all the details; the photographs show things I had noticed and forgotten, but also things I’d not seen at all. I had spotted the wooden display rack for ‘Wren’s super-wax shoe polish’, with its gold-lettered strap-line: ‘Keeps Shoes Supple’, for example, which resonates with a sense of old-fashioned quality and craftsmanship that permeates everything in Star.

But I’d not appreciated the quality of its setting against the pink paintwork, alongside a lonely single shoe, a roll of cotton, and assorted leather bits and bobs, on a high shelf in the corner of the workshop. The photograph conjures up a miniaturised landscape; the wooden sign resembling some mid-twentieth-century wayside advert set in jumbled ground and bathed in the evening glow of a permanently setting fluorescent-light-bulb-sun.

Such aesthetic games are of course an effect of the frame imposed by the camera’s operator. But the invitation to play with a sense of scale and perspective comes also from the multi-sensory and visually fecund quality of such workplaces, with their abundance of juxtapositions and associations of shapes, textures, colours and objects.’
– James Ryan

One of twenty photo essays featured in the book Visible mending: Everyday repairs in the South West ︎︎ published by Uniformbooks.

© S Spring 2024