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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > The cost of war, Andersonville National Cemetery, Andersonville, Georgia, 2013
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The cost of war, Andersonville National Cemetery, Andersonville, Georgia, 2013

More than 15,000 Union prisoners of war are buried here, many of them dying of malnutrition and disease at the notorious Andersonville Confederate Prison Camp within a space of only 14 months during 1864 and 1865. This massive toll is grimly expressed here by the rows of grave markers spaced only inches apart. So many died so quickly that burial space was sharply limited. I place these strangely compacted rows of graves in the foreground of this image, and incongruously contrast them to the normal spacing of later burials placed in soft focus, and moving in a different direction, within the background. I organized this image in layers, beginning with the sharply focused grave markers in the foreground, and gradually fading them into softer focus as they recede. A lone tree separates the rows of older markers from the newer burials behind them. In the distant background, a red wall encloses the acres of stones, separating them from a stand of trees. This is a scene of death juxtaposed with life, a poignant reminder of the savage war that tore the United States apart 150 years ago.

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Phil Douglis06-Apr-2015 22:07
Thanks, Efraim, for your kind word on this image. While the word "awesome" is currently very much in vogue as an "all-purpose" adjective, particularly among the young, a closer look at that word comes reveals alternative meanings that come very close to my intentions for this image. "Awesome," in addition to meaning things such as "excellence" and "impressive," also can express feelings such as "daunting," "apprehension," and "fear." Certainly this scene, an image juxtaposing death with life, can aspire to those meanings as well.
Guest 06-Apr-2015 14:13
Phil Douglis22-Mar-2015 20:21
Great observation, Carol. These graves are actually arranged in rows, but my vantage point has created a meandering flow of markers that seem to move in many directions at once. The more I study this image, the more I come to value the focus on the first row of graves. This row stands in silent contrast to the gradually softening mass of graves in the background that seem to symbolize a forgotten past. I saw almost no visitors here -- these dead soldiers are essentially forgotten. The Civil War itself has become nothing more than a hazy memory to today's world.
Carol E Sandgren22-Mar-2015 17:44
The wandering lines of these graves indicates to me that they have run out of rows so they have to wind them around each other in a less structured arrangement. Yes, very sad indeed. I can't end this comment without commenting on your great composition here as well. Well done in my book!
Phil Douglis31-Oct-2013 22:21
Hi, Ryan. Tim speaks as Tim is. I know him well. He is a friend, and his images usually express hope. So it comes as no surprise that he can see regeneration here. You see War here as insatiable. As you say, there is always room for more bodies if we pack them tighter. You have a completely different way of seeing this image than Tim. And that is what is so wonderful about the art of expressive photography. The photographer makes an image that strikes a spark in the imagination of a viewer, and the viewer will take it from there, building his or her own version of the story.
Ryan31-Oct-2013 02:38
Very strong image, Phil. I don't disagree with Tim's interpretation, but my first impression was far darker. War will take as many as you give it, it will just inter them a little closer to each other so it can take all you give. There is always room for more, sadly.
Phil Douglis07-Apr-2013 21:24
An interesting thought, Tim. The juxtaposition of death and life, in the form of the lone small tree in the midst of the densely ordered graves, can certainly imply the presence of hope here.
Tim May07-Apr-2013 21:01
I admire the layers - leading to regeneration and dare I say hope...
Phil Douglis21-Mar-2013 19:36
"Uncivil," for sure. As you note, Iris, it was a horrific war that took the lives of more than 750,000 soldiers from North and South. Given the 31 million who lived in the US at that time, it comes out to a loss of almost three percent of the entire population. This number becomes even more significant when compared with today's population -- that 750,000 number would balloon to more than seven million deaths. Since hindsight is always 20/20, one wonders if they could not have found a less costly way to forever banish slavery from the United States.
Iris Maybloom (irislm)21-Mar-2013 01:13
Andersonville was an inhumane, horrific consequence of our uncivil war. This image is a poignant tribute to that inhumanity and powerful statement of the ravages of war.
Phil Douglis06-Mar-2013 22:56
Thanks, Chris. Sad indeed. One would think that there would be better ways to settle differences.
chriswhitehead0706-Mar-2013 20:21
148 years on and this is still so sad!! >>>V<<<
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