Gallery Interaction 5th March: Shadow Portraits 2


Roll up, roll up! This week’s interaction felt like a circus sideshow, with people crowding round to watch the action and participate. There’s nothing like a spotlight to attract attention: moths to a candle.
The process of creating the shadow portraits was the same as my interaction several weeks ago: a bright light throws the shadow of the portrait sitter on to paper: the resulting silhouette is drawn around with coloured pens.


There was a wonderful diversity of approaches to posing for the portrait on the part of the sitters. Many people decided to create group portraits, encompassing the whole family. Surprisingly, there were a number of people celebrating family birthdays, which meant that their portraits became a very personal record of that event.


The lovely couple below, took a romantic approach, kissing in front of the paper, creating shadows of tender togetherness, which were truly charming.


Others decided to take over the whole drawing process themselves, discovering in the process just how fast you have to work and how still you have to sit. However, nobody is ever completely still. The more restless the personality, the more the person moves, which means that you are constantly having to shift the line, creating multiple overlays – which of itself becomes part of the description of the person in the portrait.


As with the moving portraits in the exhibition, they way we move, the way we choose to pose – even when we are just sitting and looking – says so much about us. Capturing multiple, shifting silhouettes of someone is much more descriptive than we imagine. Everyone who participated began to realise how much of themselves was being revealed.


I was struck by how delighted the observers and participants were with the simplicity of the technique we used to create these images. Just shadows and a drawn line. No complex technology. What we were doing here is probably the same as our prehistoric ancestors did thousands of years ago with a piece of charcoal on a cave wall, in front of a fire. The exploration of the self is an eternal fascination.

In the course of the afternoon around 37 people had their portraits made. I would like to thank everyone who participated for making the interaction such an enjoyable and thought-provoking event, with a particular nod to Tracey, Richard, the Lynton Vakili family, Delilah, Louise, Ruby and Rosie.

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