Shoe Tree

Shoe Tree

Shoe trees exist all across Canada. Off the top of my head I can list five, just around Niagara. I took this image in St. Catharines, Ontario. The stories behind each shoe tree are as varied as their locations.

I posted this image on my socials and was surprised at the strength of feeling generated.


Some people adamantly said this tree was the one at such and so place, and would not be swayed. I was the one that took the shot and know exactly where I was stood. Plus, I have the GPS coordinates from the camera. One person argued that this shoe tree was the one on their road. It wasn’t. I know the one they thought it was, it’s one of the five mentioned above. This is not that tree.

A few, outraged at the damage done by nails used to secure the shoes, were convinced the tree would die. Others said it would not. These two camps were fun to watch as they argued merrily and quoted conflicting ‘science’ at each other. They finally reached an uneasy truce, agreeing that hanging shoes over branches was an acceptable compromise. Having set the world to rights they made banners and marched on City Hall. Not really, of course. I watched in disbelief as this bizarre interchange unfolded.

There’s more

A debate struck up between those that thought shoe trees marked places of tragedy, and those that believed they were just fun ways to decorate the landscape. These cheerfully told each other to go and do some research. Of course, nobody from either camp quoted a source.

Still more argued that shoe trees were a tragic waste of resources; those shoes should have been given to goodwill stores or the homeless, but all were worthless now with holes driven through them.

And one group just wanted trees to be left alone.

Literally none of the comments were about the actual photo.


What I see when I look at this tree differs from what you or others may see. My eye is pleased by the composition. The colours leap out, adding vibrancy and warmth to the otherwise wintery scene. I wanted to add a splash of colour and this tree is a wonderful focal point. I find it pleasing to the eye.

All this emotion pouring forth, generating such animation among people highlights again the power of photography. A simple image can speak a thousand words. Which of those thousand words a beholder chooses to listen to, depends heavily on what they believe and how they think. People will interpret a simple photograph in alignment with their own biases, persuading themselves that it is some kind of proof of their viewpoint. That’s humans for you. They can be very silly.

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