Teresa Garratty: Find out about the UK’s only hand shadowgrapher!

Posted on November 27, 2017

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I get to meet a lot of different people in my line of work and this year I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a guy named Drew Colby.

Drew has a very unique talent. He can tell stories using his hands!

Coming from a site where people talk with their hands all the time that sounds pretty lame BUT Drew doesn’t use sign language to tell his stories he uses something else.

Would you like a clue?

We’ve all got one…

Yep. Drew Colby uses shadows to tell stories. He is Britain’s one and only hand shadowgrapher!

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard the term before, after all, we only have one in the whole of Britain. They’re an endangered species!

Shadowgraphy is the art of performing a show using images created by hand shadows. It sounds like it must be quite limited but I can assure you the possibilities are endless!

I’ve seen Drew create an insane variety of people, animals, landscapes etc. and he’s never short of new formations to try. It’s a physical and visual medium, which makes it very accessible for deaf people!

Over the course of filming Drew’s rehearsals, I watched him devise an hour long narrative journey with absolutely no dialogue. In that sense, it’s not exactly “story telling” but instead “story showing”! That’s not to say it couldn’t be. Drew can use his hands to make a very convincing man, complete with moving lips…and hat (of course!)

But it is his personal choice to leave dialogue aside and focus on what’s important, the shadows! There are a few pieces of music and the occasional sound effect but they don’t convey any extra plot information. Everything you need is right there to feast your eyes on.

This approach towards his shows makes them incredibly “deaf friendly” and may even pave the way for deaf performers to incorporate the art form into their own work. That of course means more Shadowgraphers in Britain (sorry Drew) BUT it also means more opportunities for deaf creatives and that can only be a good thing!

I think I’m particularly drawn to this art form not only as a deaf person but also as a film maker. It runs along a very similar vein to Pure Cinema, which places the focus on what is seen, not heard.

If you ever get the chance to see one of Drew’s performances, then I highly recommend you pop along.

If you’re lucky, you might even get to have a go in one of the post show workshops. It’s tricky stuff, but you’ll learn some of the basics of shadowgraphy.

I’m still practising my wolf…it’s not quite as graceful as Drew’s…

If you’d like to know more about Drew and his latest performance check out this quick video showcase or head over to his website.

Read more of Teresa’s posts (with cartoons!) by clicking here.

Teresa is a freelance film maker, photographer and full time cynic. At school, she was voted “Most likely to end up in a lunatic asylum”, a fate which has thus far been avoided. Her pet hates are telephones, intercoms and all living things. Follow her on Twitter as @TGarratty

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