Students Step Into Other Shoes


Deadline: January 12. Posters displayed around the school to promote the Saddle Shoe Project.

Deadline: January 12. Posters displayed around the school to promote the Saddle Shoe Project.
Deadline: January 12. Posters displayed around the school to promote the Saddle Shoe Project.

Donna Carlisle, the Hockaday Parents’ Association Benefit Chair, conceptualized a school-wide project when re-reading Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” “You don’t really know a person until you walk around in their skin. I think that is an interesting way to think about Hockaday,” Carlisle said. “You see the uniform, but you don’t really know the girl.”

Over the summer, Carlisle pitched the idea of a school-wide project to HPA Liaison Holly Hook and HPA President Ariana Held replace the annual class projects that are auctioned off during the annual Benefit.

Her idea, inspired by the work of New York photographer Henry Leutwyler, is to have parents and students submit photographs that capture the image of a student from the skirt down to her saddle shoes. But these photos have specific guidelines. While the picture should depict the legs of a girl in uniform, one foot represents Hockaday with the saddle shoe and the other foot represents the girl’s individual interests. And as the background, all the photos should be taken against the brick wall surrounding the Foucault’s pendulum in the Lyda Hill Science Building.

“These aren’t just photographs. They really are portraits of each girl and like any portrait, are being taken to tell an individual story. One foot will be dressed in the uniform shoe, representing this school, the place where they are discovering themselves each day and the place they all have in common,” Carlisle said. “The other foot dressed in a way that expresses their individuality, who they are or aspire to be. Perhaps the girls will choose a pointe shoe, a flip flop, a field hockey cleat, a highly adorned or just bare foot.”

All submitted photographs will be featured in a one-time exhibition during the Benefit on March 12, and then will be for sale in the silent auction. Carlisle’s goal is to have a multitude of portraits to represent each grade.

“I hope that it spreads to all classes, so that there are people in each class that really get excited about it. I don’t think we will be 100 percent happy if it is not representative of each grade,” Hook said.

With these sales, the HPA aims to raise money for the Ela Hockaday Fund for Faculty Excellence, which provides professional development for faculty and staff to continue education and travel as a way to bring new experiences into the classroom.

Logistically, Carlisle hopes to receive photographs representing every student in Lower and Middle School, whereas Upper School involvement will be more difficult due to the larger number of students and class scheduling.

Senior photography student Molly Waring received an email from Senior Class Parent Representative Beth Fitzpatrick asking if she would take the photographs for the senior class. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to just take a bunch of photos, to get practice in,” Waring said. Waring coordinated with fellow senior photography student Nina La Barba.

“I like the project because it really does show the activities that everyone does and what they are like outside of their studies,” La Barba said. “I think it’s really unique because we all have different hobbies.”

Waring and La Barba scheduled several time slots when seniors can come and pose for the photographs. The first sessions took place in late November and early December. Senior Nathalie Naor posed for a photo representing her love of music.

“Nathalie actually let us take a photo of her with headphones wrapped around her foot which is really cool because she is really into music,” La Barba said.

Waring and La Barba have planned to take a variety of photographs that capture the artistic interests, cultural traditions and athletic pursuits of the senior class.

“I think that a couple of [the AP Art students] are planning on painting their feet and we might have someone do henna on their foot. I think [senior] Grace Warner said she would do skis,” La Barba said.

The students hope the entire school will participate.

“Getting Upper School involved would be a really important part of the project in order to see all the different ages,” Carlisle said. “Not to mention that [Upper School] saddle shoes – beaten and battered – they have personality of their own.”

Leutwyler’s work, which inspired Carlisle, focused on the backstage life on the New York City Ballet. His most recognized photographs captured a ballerina with one point shoe on and the other foot bare. In a similar fashion, the HPA hopes to tell the individual stories of students.

“The powerful message portrayed in each of the project’s photographs is that while the uniform saddle shoe unites our girls, tying them all to this exceptional place, Hockaday also supports and nurtures each Hockadaisy’s individuality, as represented by the other foot,” Held said.

When asked what she would include in her portrait as a Hockaday alumna, Held would have incorporated her old, beat up saddle shoes. “I might add a few accessories as well – a charm necklace with my children’s names on it, my wedding ring, my Hockaday ring, a necklace I received on my Bat Mitzvah and a watch I received when I graduated from law school, as these mementos represent parts of who I am today.”

The goal is to include as many different types of portraits in order to encapsulate the variety of interests and personalities of the student body.

“I hope is that when all the pictures are up, we learn something about Hockaday – the diversity here, the ambition of each girl, who each girl thinks she is and what it looks like when they all come together,” Carlisle said. “I hope this project will drive self-expression and limitless creativity and I look forward to discovering something about each girl. There is such potential to create something truly beautiful with each portrait and something incredible collectively.”

Although this project is specific to this year’s benefit, there are possibilities for it to influence future class and school projects.

“I love the idea of an all-school project,” Hook said. “We will wait and see how well this takes off to see what we can use as a launching point from this point onward.”

The deadline for submission is Jan. 12. To see some of the project’s photographs visit