The Oxford Shark

DURING FILMING of Silhouette Secrets in February 2014 we were unexpectedly let down by an interviewee in London. We found ourselves, camera crew in tow, with nothing to film on a beautiful winter morning. On a whim we got the old Russian motorcycle outfit out of the shed and headed out into Oxford to cut a silhouette of the shark.

Silhouette Snippets: Cutting the Oxford Shark (02:18)

The Oxford Shark (often known as the Headington Shark) has always been one of my favourite sights in Oxford. Something about it takes me back to my art-school days, when crazy things like this seemed normal and sane. That it has remained in place for so many years is extraordinary.

I edited this little snippet myself, which is why it’s not up to the standard of the rest of them! It was a great exercise in how to use a film-editing programme. There is so much to learn about films. I’m having a lot of fun learning, although I’m quite glad it won’t be me editing the rest of the film!

Ural view of the Oxford Shark
The Oxford Shark seen from the camera on the handlebars of the Ural

Film Progress (apart from the Oxford Shark)

We have now done a lot of filming for Silhouette Secrets, including nearly a dozen interviews. Locations include the Regency Town House in Hove, the London Sketch Club, the National Portrait Gallery and Llandudno Pier in North Wales.

It’s not certain that all these interviews will be used. In fact many won’t! Andi’s approach is to first gather a lot material, and then to sift through and decide what we wish to include. The hope is that the story we are trying to tell will become clear as we process. I had no idea films were made like this: the process seems far more like making a painting than writing a neat script.

Will the motorcycle appear in the film?

Quite possibly, yes. We are planning a Ural sidecar journey to Cheltenham to visit the first studio of nineteenth-century silhouettist, August Edouart.

August Edouart is a pivotal figure in the film. He is also a pivotal figure in the history of the silhouette. Cheltenham is the city where he cut his first portraits. As far as we can tell the shop he used as a studio, or one very like it, still stands. The plan is to take the Ural past the shop while making a running commentary on Edouart’s story, especially the story of how he learned to cut silhouettes. Mark, the cameraman, will be in the sidecar.

However, before that we head to the USA. In America we plan a packed 10-day shoot, visiting New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Houston. The crew will be Andi, Mark, my daughter Taz and myself. We are doing this on rather a shoe-string budget as the Indiegogo campaign didn’t quite produce the funds we hoped!

For those interested, the motorcycle outfit is a 750cc, 2002 Ural Dalesman

Man with trilby hat
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Brian Moffatt
8 years ago

An excellent subject; clean smooth outline, no spikey hair, bristles, ringlets, lace trim or a fancy feather hat.

It must have felt like a day off work for you Charles 🙂

I gives me hope for the World to know the shark is still there for so long.

Neil Sinclair
Neil Sinclair
8 years ago

One speed cutting silhouette artist, one pair of scissors and a Russian motorcycle in Oxford – can’t wait to see the film! great stuff

James Prince
James Prince
8 years ago

If the artist had asked for planning permission it would never have been given but once it was there the general public fought to allow it to remain
I’ve never bought into the proposition that the shark ‘represents the impotence of the CND campaigners’ but it’s great fun

Andrew Krajewski
Andrew Krajewski
8 years ago

Whenever I see the shark it always brings a smile to my face because it’s so daft and out of place. Once I’ve stopped grinning I start wondering. Why build it? How is it fixed? How come it’s been allowed to stay? How long wil lit last up there? And last and by no means least. How come nobody has thought to open a fish restaurant below?

8 years ago

They almost have! Just a little bit further down the London Road there is fish and chip shop that has taken inspiration from the shark and put a huge fibreglass one on display on the flat roof above their window. A lovely homage.

Maurice Kanareck
Maurice Kanareck
8 years ago

Strangely enough I was in Oxford last week, taking two young lads with a friend to the uniquely quirky Pitt Rivers Museum – a wonderful place … and on the way there, on the Oxford Tube bus, I pointed out the Headington Shark to them. How curious, then, to see that Charles had chosen it as one of his latest silhouettes … I am familiar with his portraits, but a shark … brilliant!

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