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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Seventy Seven: Communication on the go > Boxed, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, 2010
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Boxed, Pacific Beach, San Diego, California, 2010

It is the spare geometric context that makes this image of a person talking on a cell phone work as expression. I compose the image as a series of boxes and surfaces, enclosing the subject’s head and hand as a symptom of disembodiment. On one hand, she is reaching out to talk with someone out of the box. Yet she herself stands within a series of enclosures – a brown wall separates her from the foreground, a yellow wall surrounds the opening in which she stands, and within that wall, a doorway packages her head in a black void. This image could represent a society that steadily drifts away from face-to-face interpersonal communication, in favor of detached, disembodied cellular contact.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
1/250s f/5.6 at 200.0mm iso400 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis27-Oct-2010 20:05
Thanks, Paolo, for commenting on the colors here. This image would not pull the eye to it as readily in black and white. Yellow is a primary color, and I love using it to create meaning. This image is all about the tension created by the isolating force of the scale incongruity and the symbolism of the box shape. That tension plays against the vitality of the yellow color.
Paolo Peggi (aka Bracciodiferro)27-Oct-2010 19:36
Interesting in colors and details...Vote!
Phil Douglis24-Oct-2010 19:38
The box, and even the square shape of the image, can come to symbolize the tyranny of cellular communication. We can allow ourselves to be continually subject to the interests of others, instead of our own.
JSWaters24-Oct-2010 18:30
You've effectively boxed her in and presented her as the face of our culture today - in constant communication of the electronic kind.
Iris Maybloom (irislm)04-Oct-2010 21:17
This reminds me of the person who goes outside and stands alone to smoke a cigarette, a victim of his/her addiction. The new cigarette has become our iPhones, Blackberries, Pods and Pads and we are seemingly just as boxed in and socially disconnected by this new addiction as by the old one, as witnessed by this woman.
Phil Douglis04-Oct-2010 20:51
I agree with your view, Carol. Cellular technology has changed society -- many people have become slaves to the machine, letting it control their behavior instead of the other way around, when we used land lines only. The composition of this image suggests this very point.
Carol E Sandgren04-Oct-2010 18:13
I also can relate to the Tetris look of this composition, Phil. Life IS a puzzle after all. The tiny head on the phone inside at the very bottom of the black window box seems rather lost. I do think that cellphones do, in a way, box us in when we are using them, forcing us to pay only the closest attention to the conversation with the caller on the other end rather than to what and whom is around you. All of the cellphone images in fact seem to communicate this to me. In an age of connecting so easily, to me, the cellphone is an easy way to disconnect from the present surroundings, and to, well, STAY in the present. We as a culture seem to be addicted to disconnecting, therefore. this is only my humble opinion of course...

I like this whole gallery as each image presents this idea to me in particular. As you may have figured out, I am not a fan of cellphones!
Phil Douglis24-Sep-2010 20:20
Thanks for enlightening us about the Tetris Effect, Rose. I don't know much about puzzles, but I can see now why you find the composition of this image to be a Tetris-like design.
sunlightpix24-Sep-2010 20:09
It's called the Tetris Effect
First described in 1996, people find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the buildings on a street.
It's named after the famous puzzle game, Tetris.
Check out the last section about the effect of Tetris on the brain.
Tetris was created in 1984, official website is
Phil Douglis24-Sep-2010 17:09
The light bulb over her head is encased in a huge fixture, so her idea is obviously secret. As for the block shapes reminding you of "Tetris," I can't say that I know what a Tetris is. Please enlighten us, Rose. (Pun intended.)
sunlightpix24-Sep-2010 00:18
All those block shapes remind me of Tetris. I also like the light above her head, symbolizing an idea.
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