Interviews & Conversations Women I've Shot

SA Leather Shoot
With Fiona Horsley

I met Fiona in 2017 when she came to my studio for her portrait photoshoot after winning the title of Ms Bootblack South Africa. Ive added a selection of her portraits here and I asked her to do a short interview as I know so little about bootblacking and the South African leather scene.

Can you share what bootblacking is and what it means to you?

Bootblacking for me is a different way to connect with a person sitting in the chair. It’s getting a really good shine, it’s satisfying my fetish for boots and the smell of leather. It can be a fun and become a sexual experience because working on leather and boots while the person is still wearing their gear, especially when eye contact is made and we are enjoying the experience together.

Being a bootblack is a way to be of service to and preserving the history of the  Leather community by looking after their leather. I see Bootblacks to be more than that, we are hardworking and selfless.

When you bootblack you have a step by step process of how to get the best result. When we work with the boots or leather garments, there is a reason why we use certain products. A bootblack identifies the types of leather and treatment thereof, using horse hair brushes and other buffing materials to get the best results. We can do repairs depending of our level of experience and expertise. Bootblacking is skill and dare I say an art form.

What has your role as a Bootblack been?

My SA Bootblack 2017 status was important because it meant our community was growing. Being the first Bootblack means that I have had a lot of responsibility, not only to teach any person who is interested in this set of skills but for them to have a need to be of service. I felt that this was meant to be and a calling. It was and still is a chance for me to move the South African Leather community forward and represent SA Leather internationally. I have had trips to California and Denver where I represented SA Leather South Africa for visibility and to get us on the map. There was also an upcoming event planned for Ohio but it was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

You speak a lot about SA Leather, can you share a bit more about this?

SA Leather is an organization for like-minded people who have interest to explore and experience the leather, kink, fetish and BDSM world. We practice safe, sane and consensual ways to express our desires at all times. We are a group that welcomes all people, sexual orientations and identities. We also do not tolerate any discrimination of any kind.

The international leather community is massive and has been in existence since the 1950’s. They have a lot more access to leather bars, leather clubs and a huge contest system. The South African Leather, kink, fetish and BDSM community is still very underground and through Fetlife play parties it flourishes. I would like to change our situation and make us united once again.

What is it like being a part of the Leather community in South Africa?

To be honest the South African Leather community has declined dramatically over the past 3 years. I can tell that when we had a small group of dedicated members, we had lots of social gatherings and workshop opportunities. We did feel like a family, had a sense of community and support.

Education in the Leather community is important and necessary because with this we can only grow bigger. I’ve held several bootblack workshops which served as an introduction to bootblacking for our community both locally and internationally. Our workshops are an excellent way to educate each other and skill sharing is always welcomed.