A local shutterbug’s sneaker photos unexpectedly bring the world a little closer
Amanda Lopez wears Vans skate shoes, but doesn’t know how to board. Her friends tried to teach her once, but Lopez was just terrible at it. After the failed lesson, she sat down at the skate park, pulled out her camera and photographed the skaters. Her shoes—classic checkered slip-on Vans—popped up in the foreground. Afterward, when Lopez developed the shots, she liked what she saw.
Six years, a dozen pairs of kicks and a few countries later—including a jaunt to Cuba—Lopez’s musings are now compiled as True Story: The Vans Shoe Series, showing this month at Artifacts downtown. The photographs, taken in locales throughout the Americas—Yucatán pyramids, Laundromats, Tijuana streets—each possess a constant: her sneakers. Sometimes crispy, contrasty black and white, sometimes dingy and stained—perhaps even stinky?—her petite Vans are in each shot, making this big world feel a lot more connected.
“Being a photographer, the pictures I take are representations of how I see things,” Lopez explained, chatting with SN&R after a day’s work photographing military officials at Travis Air Force Base. “I think I wanted to be more a part of the process, maybe, but without showing my face. Maybe just a little piece of me, which are the shoes.”
And, yes, while they are just shoes, her Vans do have personality. In the aforementioned Tijuana sidewalk photo, only the tips peek into the frame—shy, unimposing, but imparting a playful spark during the otherwise sluggish, lumbering morning hours. Photographs of skaters show more of Lopez: legs crossed, jean cuffs rolled, relaxed, chillin', skaters boarding in the milieu. Another shot of the Statue of Liberty shows more skin, Vans pointing to the sky, Lady Liberty a little out of focus, the juxtaposition of feet and statue evoking a warped sense of height and depth.
As a series—taking in each photo side by side—Lopez’s Vans make divergent locales and ideologies universal. Whether it’s her untroubled legs sprawled out in the cheap seats at a baseball game or in Cuba’s Plaza De La Revolución parking lot, Lopez’s sneakers bring divergent cultures, communism and baseball together (at last).
And, as Lopez continues to travel, she’ll continue to work on the project—and sport Vans.
In the meantime, though, she’s got other endeavors, including working with musicians (such as Theek of Righteous Movement, on this week’s cover). Recently, she shot turntablist DJ Rock Bottom and rapper Tais in McKinley Park. Lopez began shooting musicians at live shows, which she said was fun, but found herself gravitating toward artists offstage. “I’m more interested not necessarily in people performing at the shows, but pictures before or after the shows,” she explained.
And it’s not just her Vans that are old-school. She still prefers to shoot on film—which begs the question: Why Vans and not, say, Chucks or Airwalks?
“They’re just super comfortable,” Lopez laughed of her prized kicks.
“They’re easy. You don’t have to lace them.
“They’re black and white and kind of go with a lot of stuff.”