Photographers' Blog

Big shoes to fill

September 27, 2012

By Carlos Barria

Eight years ago, Chen Mingzhi quit his factory job and became a shoe designer. But it was slow going at first, so he passed the time honing his skill by making smaller and smaller shoes.

A couple of years later, a neighbor challenged him to do something outside his comfort zone — to create a giant shoe.

Chen accepted the challenge and started right away. “I wanted to prove that I could do it”, Chen said later.

At the time, his wife Li Liping was pretty much against the idea. She argued that with two children to support, the family couldn’t afford the 2,000 RMBi (about $320) it would cost just to meet a neighbor’s challenge.

But Chen didn’t listen to his wife and after two months of work he put the finishing touches on a 1.9-meter (more than 6 feet), 38kg (83 pounds) leather dress shoe for a non-existent right foot.

During our visit, we told Chen about the Guinness World Record for the biggest shoe, but he was unfamiliar with the Guinness World Record certifications. So we showed him some pictures of today’s record holder, a shoe by National Fonds Kinderhulp in Amsterdam. They created a shoe that measures 5.5 meters by 2.11 meters, (or roughly 18 feet by 7 feet). It’s 2.9 meters, or about 9.5 feet, high.

Chen marveled at the pictures and immediately threw out the idea of making another big shoe, to beat the one in Amsterdam. But his wife gave him a sharp look and said: “You can’ t do it right now. Money is a problem. We have to pay for our sons’ education, at least until they graduate.”

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