Bound Feet Exposed in Black-and-White Photo Project

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tags: photography, Bound Feet, Jo Farrell



Photo - Jo Farrell

In 2005, Jo Farrell took a two-hour bus ride to a village in China’s central Shandong province. There, she met an old woman called Zhang Yun Ying who allowed Ms. Farrell to take pictures of her “lotus feet.”

Since then, the Hong Kong-based photographer has gone back to Ms. Zhang’s village every year. “[We] celebrated her 80th birthday four years ago,” Ms. Farrell said. “I always look forward to going back.”

Lotus feet, more commonly known as bound feet, are a legacy of China’s imperial past. A symbol of beauty, social status and wealth, the tradition began in the Song Dynasty and lasted for more than a thousand years. It requires breaking the bones of the toes and arches of young girls’ feet, then wrapping them tightly to inhibit growth so that they squeeze into an ideal shoe size of three inches. Today considered barbaric, the practice was officially banned in 1911, when the Nationalists overthrew the Qing Dynasty.

Now, Ms. Farrell is on a mission to document China’s remaining women with bound feet, most of whom are in their 80s and 90s. She doesn’t know how many are left. Up to now she has documented “dozens” of them, mostly in Shandong but also Yunnan, using black-and-white film processed in her own darkroom.





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