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San Francisco photographer showcases women standing tall against domestic violence

By Sara Hayden | 17 Jun 2014


Many years ago, Amy Martin-Friedman cowered in the corner behind her dogs. She braced herself for a blow from her ex-husband.

“(I was) wondering, ‘How have I become this? What happened to me?’” Martin-Friedman recalls. “I had this out-of-body experience, looking at myself in the corner, wondering who I was. I looked in the mirror and knew this was not the way my mom would want me to live my life.”

Shortly after, on their anniversary, she declared she was leaving him, and did so in 1999.

A photographer and fashionista, Martin-Friedman has used her art since 2009 to raise about $300,000 for women’s shelters seeking to break the cycle of domestic or spousal violence. The result is “A Day in My Shoes,” a series of photos featuring more than 600 women posing in their favorite footwear, accompanied by their stories of hardship and how they overcame it.

On average, 24 Americans experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner every minute, according to a 2012 CDC fact sheet. That’s more than 12 million people a year — more than the combined populations of Toronto and Washington D.C. Many more cases go unreported, but Martin-Friedman has heard some of them.

Some women she’s encountered from the Cayman Islands have been starved by their husbands or set on fire and left to burn. Others from Cambodia and Laos were victims of human trafficking. Women in Los Angeles have had their teeth punched in.

“Nothing ever doesn’t surprise me. That never is easy for the heart to hear. All the stories — they all count,” Martin-Friedman said. She’s made it her mission to help other women get back on their feet.

Martin-Friedman travels across the country and to the Cayman Islands to capture “A Day in My Shoes” portraits, but her home base is now San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, Eric, and their sons, Aidan and Harry. For more information, visit the project’s Facebook page or www.martinfriedmanphotography.com.