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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Seventeen: Memories in Metal and Stone: How monuments, sculpture, and tombs express ideas. > Thatluang Stupa, Vientiane, Laos, 2005
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Thatluang Stupa, Vientiane, Laos, 2005

Stupas enshrine Buddhist relics - this one, the most spectacular in Vientiane, holds Buddha's bosom bone. This shrine also commemorates the glories of the 16th Century Kingdom of LanXang. A statue of King Sethathiraj, who moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in 1560, sits with sword in hand before the great golden stupa. To express the essence of this monument, I juxtaposed the statue of the king against only part of the stupa itself, essentially a rhythmic pattern of five spires and five shadows moving horizontally across the image. This pattern is echoed by the rhythms of nine stylized lotus leaves on the crown of stupa. If I had shown the entire structure, including its towering central spire and its huge base, the king would become a minor detail. In choosing to abstract the structure by zooming in on the king with my telephoto lens, I abstract the building and emphasize instead the somewhat incongruous body language the king uses in balancing his sword upon his knees.

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Phil Douglis26-Mar-2005 05:30
Thanks for the link, Charles. It's true -- ancient Angkor once ruled much of what is now Laos. But it greatly predated this particular king and his soldiers!
Charles Lasnier25-Mar-2005 07:08
The shadows do echo the shape of the king's hat- perhaps the king's soldiers, waiting behind the pillars for his order to defend the relic. Here they are again!
Phil Douglis04-Mar-2005 03:18
Good eye, Lara. I never noticed the incongruity of angle you point out. It does help bring the sitting statue to life, doesn't it?
Lara S03-Mar-2005 17:01
I love the fact that the shadows are pointing the opposite way than his hat. This image would not have been this strong if they were missing. they kind of make him alive somehow.
monique jansen27-Feb-2005 10:36
contrast between the figurine in brown/black and the golden stupa, contrast also between the gold and the shadows.
Phil Douglis27-Feb-2005 07:13
I am well aware of the flattening effect of my tele, and always try to create perspective that uses that effect well. Here's another example of how to make flattening work to your advantage
Guest 27-Feb-2005 01:08
The shadows really add a lot for me. Using a telephoto tends to flatten everything. The shadows return a sense of dept to the photo
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