Carrie, the Burden

“The big elephant in the room is ‘Sex and the City,'” said a woman at the Rubin Museum of Art last Wednesday. She was speaking to the photographer Eric Boman, who is a close friend of the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.

Mr. Boman had delivered a talk about the still life portraits he’s made of Mr. Blahnik’s architectural footwear. In them, they are dressed up in everything from African ceremonial jewelry to a scale-less Spanish mackerel. The photographs have now been collected in a weighty volume destined, it’s safe to say, for the coffee tables of many fans of the HBO series which featured the famously Blahniks-addicted character Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker.

“Do you make any references to the show?” the woman inquired eagerly.

“Manolo thinks—which is very unfair—he thinks it’s vulgarized his name,” said Mr. Boman, who has a boyish, fine-featured face.

A listener in the audience gagged loudly.

“He says,”—here Mr. Boman traded his casual chatty tone for a comically grandiloquent one—”‘I’m sure that that Miss Parker is a perfectly nice woman,’ and, he says, ‘I have met her, as a matter of fact‘—I think she presented him with some award, you know, and she is a very nice woman, but he just thought that…”—Mr. Boman went into silent reflection for a moment—”It’s an aspect of his work that he doesn’t feel is his work?”

There were chuckles from the audience, which numbered 12. In this intimate setting, Mr. Boman spoke freely, as one might of a difficult, yet still utterly adored relative. “But it is, of course, what made him very successful and he should be very grateful. But he will not listen to any of that, and that’s the way he is. He’s the most stubborn….”

Mr. Boman met Mr. Blahnik in the early 1970’s, shortly after they both arrived in London. Mr. Boman is a native Swede and Mr. Blahnik is of Czech and Spanish parentage. After years of shaping their respective careers—Mr. Blahnik, Mr. Boman noted, held no formal training in shoe design before taking up the profession, and adding Paloma Picasso to their happy circle, Mr. Boman decamped for New York. He’s lived here, in Chelsea, for decades now.

“We’ve been friends for this long, I think, because there is an ocean between us,” Mr. Boman said.

A sentimental sigh rose from the audience.

“He’s a wonderful, loyal friend, a wonderful person, but he’s very, very…it’s a lot of stuff, and you can only deal with it in small doses. He has a very definite idea about how he thinks he wants to be seen—and not seen.”

Mr. Boman had earlier described how Mr. Blahnik flatly vetoed one of his shots because it featured lines of powdered sugar that suggested lines of cocaine. “And so he puts on this rather showy performance persona, which is sometimes very exhausting. He used to walk down the street with me in London and he would spit out insults at people as he saw them because he would think that was, like, funny. He liked to outrage people.”

That evening, just blocks away, Sarah Jessica Parker was treading the red carpet for the New York premiere of her new film, “Failure to Launch.” And on her feet—what do you suppose she wore?

—Nicholas Boston

Carrie, the Burden