Arrest of an Artist
22.02.2015 by Charles Burns
While in America last year, filming for the documentary ‘Silhouette Secrets’, we visited Philadelphia to study a 200-year-old automatic silhouette-making machine. On the way my mind lapsed and I found myself driving on the wrong side of the road.
While in Philadelphia we had arranged to meet a friend of mine for a drink one evening, a local silhouette artist called Ted Stuessy. I had corresponded with Ted for some time, and liked the look of his work, but had never actually met him. I hadn’t realised, but learned to my surprise, that his day job is Chief of Police at the local New Jersey Police Department in Philadelphia. This was not at all what I expected. Stranger still, I discovered he had taught himself to cut silhouettes by studying the profile ‘mug shots’ routinely taken of arrested suspects. These photographs formed a ready library of subjects for him to practice on during breaks and have enabled him to refine his skill to a high degree.
Charles meets fellow silhouettist Ted Stuessy and cuts his silhouette, during filming of the “Arrest of an Artist” sequence
Silhouettes and handcuffs
This revelation caused the conversation to go in a bizarre direction and – I can’t quite recall why – we soon found ourselves speculating whether or not I would be able to cut a silhouette wearing a pair of handcuffs. Not the traditional cowboy-style cuffs, with a generous amount of chain, but the modern New-Jersey-Police kind which lock the wrists closely together and allow hardly any movement at all. I was convinced I could do this, but nobody else there believed me.
So Andi (the director) jokingly asked Ted if he would be kind enough to arrange for the arrest of an artist by NJPD the next day, so we could try it out. To our great surprise Ted answered “Sure, we could do that, what time is good for you?”
The result is this little 2-minute video, which I think you will enjoy:
I hope you agree I proved my point!
I’ve really no idea if there’s any future for a silhouette-cutting-while-handcuffed act in the world of corporate entertainment, but then again you never really know. Stranger things have happened.
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