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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Bringing a ghost to life, Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia, 2013
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13-FEB-2013

Bringing a ghost to life, Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia, 2013

This tomb of a young girl was haunting in its own right. For 150 years, the sculpture marking her resting place has been tortured by the elements. Industrial pollution has all but blackened her face, chest and arms, bringing the spectral whites of her eyes to the fore, and creating a ghostly presence. As a final touch, a visitor has placed the blossom of a red artificial flower in one of her hands. The image is incongruously jarring to both the eye and the mind. It virtually brings a ghost to life before us. When processing the picture, I had to decide between leaving essentially what was a greenish mossy-looking image in color because of the importance of that incongruous red flower, or converting the photo to black and white to make it far more symbolic and ghostly. However the primary incongruity of this image is rooted in the contrasting artificiality of the red flower. I decided to leave just this flower in color and convert the rest of the image to black and white, thereby making the photograph even more incongruous. I rarely use such decorative post-processing gimmicks in my imagery. I find them often self-conscious and precious. However this image called for such handling, because my processing technique becomes part of the message itself. (Film director Stephen Spielberg effectively used a similar technique in his black and white film “Shindler’s List,” when he retained only the pink color of an innocent child’s coat as she was being herded towards execution in a concentration camp.)

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Phil Douglis06-May-2018 19:05
I am pleased that you emphasized the power of those eyes in this image, Merri. As you say, I did not create this stunning effect. It is a combination of a long-dead sculptor's creativity, man-made pollution, and the toll of time and weather itself that creates the illusion you see before you. All I did here was to make it more visible by choosing black and white over color -- the greenish, mossy complexion of the statue's face certainly competed with those expressive eyes.
Merri 05-May-2018 22:57
Those eyes! They are even almost more arresting than the red flower (I got the Schindler's List reference even before I read the caption). How fascinating that time wore on the statue to create the pits in the stone eyes to enhance them and then you showcase it with B/W. The incongruity for me is how you were able to use some simple edits to create a 'ghost' picture of a very solid and concrete object. Which was, in turn, created so long ago to represent a little girl who passed before her time...
Phil Douglis31-Aug-2017 02:13
Thanks, mslowrey, for coming to this image. It's been four years since I made this photograph and I often think of this place and this tomb. I hope this image does justice to this subject -- I rarely use effects such as this in my images, but made an exception in this case. This photo calls to mind another mysterious image I made in a cemetery more than 30 years ago -- the tomb of Karl Marx in London's Highgate. I have posted it as the very first image of this Incongruity gallery athttp://www.pbase.com/pnd1/image/22388446. Statuary is the common bond between the image, as is the Gothic style.
Phil Douglis07-Apr-2013 21:08
As I noted, her eyes are dominant and spectral, which means ghostly. They as compelling as the shocking red of the rose and the incongruous disfigurement caused by the pollution.
Tim May07-Apr-2013 20:57
Her eyes are so ghostly - how appropriate.
Phil Douglis13-Mar-2013 21:43
Thanks, Rose, for linking this to my previous image of Marilyn Monroe's statue. I never noticed it, because I posted these images a month apart and completely forgot that Marilyn was on the previous page. There is indeed a linkage, and not only due to the white dresses. Both of these statues memorialize their subjects, but in entirely different ways.
sunlightpix13-Mar-2013 01:51
An arresting image in it's own right, but it's even more interesting because you placed next to your image of the Marilyn Monroe stature, another girl in a white dress. v
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