New York Times Magazine Gives the City's Shoe Shiners a Voice

In a great interactive article on New York Times Magazine titled Foot Soldiers, detailed and colorful photographs of the hands of some of the hardest workers in the City — shoe shiners — are combined with an audio story highlighting successes and hardships of each.

Local photographer Christopher Griffith captured the hands to raise awareness about shoe shining as an occupation, and to help expose the overlooked shiners trying to make a living just like the rest of us.

Nearly two centuries after Daguerre immortalized that Parisian bootblack, Christopher Griffith photographed the hands of 52 Manhattan shoe shiners. The images are difficult to place. Flesh bound in cloth: They suggest fashion photography or classical statuary or even religious imagery, shroud-wrapped bodies in deathly repose. Inspired by one of the Irving Penn photographs of Miles Davis’s hand — leathery skin, natural light — Griffith said he tried to use “the texture of the skin, the crevices and the lines” to convey a sense of physical and personal history.

Check out the interactive article to hear the stories and see more photos of the shoe shiner hands.

Brindsi Liberty

Brindsi Liberty

Contributing Writer

Brindsi is a student of Professional Writing and Media Management, and an avid adventurer. When she is not out menacing the world and experiencing new places and cultures, she can be found attached to her computer watching too many YouTube videos

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