In a world of highly-edited images of supposed perfection, these bizarre shoes highlight the extremes to which people (women in particular) are encouraged to go to satisfy strange ideals, but perhaps also show creative capabilities and untapped potentials (for better or worse).

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Leanie van der Vyver (images by Lyall Coburn) is a designer in South Africa who wanted to tell a story about the odd and demanding world of high fashion (literally, in this case) and body image, and chose to use her thesis project (dubbed Scary Beautiful to do it.

From the thesis: “Just being human is not good enough anymore nor has it ever been. What is very clear is that people are not satisfied with what they were naturally born with. Neither the prehistoric cave dweller nor modern man has ever considered the human body aesthetically satisfactory. It is human nature to want to be more than what we are, and from the beginning of time we have gone to extreme measures to express on the outside how we desire to be perceived.”

Her message speaks to ancient and terrible traditions like foot binding, but also present and future possibilities in the form of photographic manipulation, cybernetic additions and other artificial enhancements. “On the surface, we are physically turning into ideal dream versions of ourselves. Being born a certain way is no longer a life sentence. We can choose exactly who we want to be. What are the possibilities of this new God-like control we have over our bodies?”