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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Twenty Six : Using reflections to transform reality > Striving, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005
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Striving, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005

One of the more fascinating art galleries we visited in Santa Fe was one featuring the work of South African artists. As photographer, my challenge was to honor the artists’ own vision, yet also express my own feelings about it. I was drawn to these silver figures climbing colored cubes, topped with silver vases. To me they symbolize the act of striving – making great efforts to achieve something seemingly beyond their reach, yet still perhaps possible. The glittering reflections spilling from the arms of the figures make them metaphors for energy and strength. Light also reflects off a vase on top of the yellow cube, drawing the eye down to the shadows that suggest stylized sun rays. Without reflections, this image would not speak to us. With them, it becomes a dual expression of both the artists vision as well as my own.

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Phil Douglis19-Jul-2006 21:54
Thanks, Han, for your poetic summation of this image. I am always delighted when my images stimulate your creative talents.
Guest 19-Jul-2006 13:56
go ahead, striving high
be puppet master of darkness and light
what is not energy? what lags bebind?
Phil Douglis29-Jun-2006 20:09
I like the fact that you not only study this image, Emi, but you also carefully absorb the comments left by others, including Celia. You will see her valuable comments throughout this cyberbook. She is my "resident photo analyst" and you can learn much from her views. And thanks also for pointing out that monster lurking in the background. It is not a reflection, however. It is a shadow. But it still can symbolize the unknown, which always plays a pivotal role in terms of meaning.
Guest 29-Jun-2006 12:34
I am with Cecilia too, especially lately when I have been so busy in putting up the pictures from last year on the pbase.

Excuse me that I might drift a little away from the discussion of reflection here, but this topic leads to a bigger one which Ceci mentioned.

When we travelled to Paris last year, of course, we took some pictures of famous status and sculptures. And when we started putting out pictures on pbase, we tend to not putting too many of the pictures of some artistic work on. First, I thought those pictures was just a repeatation of others' art, they are just for memories to remind us that we have been there to see them. However, when I started turning some pictures into monos, then I started noticing we can turn others' art into ours through photography. We can pick the angle of taking that sculpture, we can use different techiques to soften the feeling of the sculpture, and in Phil's case, he used reflection while I use the monochromes in mine. I must say that I am not using it successfully, yet at least I noticed there is something I can do with other ppl's artwork through taking pictures.

Back to this picture of Phil, I can see you guys that Phil used these inflections and light to create an uplifting mood. However, on the other size of the coin, I also see the reflection like a big monster or power behind you. It gives me a message that "no matter how hard you work to achieving something, there is nothing you can do with the unknown power behind you, which control everything beyond your vision."

I guess that is what Phil always says - reflections are illusions which stimulate your imagination.

Phil Douglis17-Feb-2006 22:59
It's amazing, Ramma, how context affects perception. I am glad that Celia said what she said, because it increased your enjoyment of this image manyfold.
Ramma 05-Feb-2006 16:28
Initially this image did nothing for me. Did not make me think. But after reading Cecilia's comment, it added a new dimension to this image. Her comment bought so much light to my knowledge.And when i thought further of the reflection, I looked at it as the divinity in the form of a Soul being reflected.
Phil Douglis17-Aug-2005 00:27
Thanks, Tim, for gaining an understanding here into how to photograph the art of others and somehow make it your own, without feeling guilty or uncomfortable. In most cases, it is not the nature of the art itself I am photographing that matters -- it is how I choose to photograph it, and what I try to express by doing that, that is more important to me. I don't know if this artist made these sculpted hanging figures to express the act of striving or not. But I found that by building this image around the reflected light bouncing off of their grasping arms and hands, I could imply the energy involved in such striving. Thanks for recognizing the difference here between the artists intentions and my intentions. I have tried here, as I notes in my caption, to create a dual expression, featuring both this artist's work and my own point of view on it.
Tim May16-Aug-2005 23:42
I know that a value of your galleries is the lessons they impart - which I try to learn from and absorb into my way of seeing. Yet, most often I respond to the beauty and feeling, the expression, you are showing. So many of your images make my soul skip - but this one is a lesson for me. I am often uncomfortable photographing other peoples expressions. Yet this image shows me how to make others art your own. I now know it can be done.
Phil Douglis05-Aug-2005 20:00
Thank you, Celia, for commenting on this image. I like the way you put it -- that the light running through these striving bodies ia, indeed, the "light at the end of their tunnel." Or as I express it here, the "light at the end of their struggle." The light reflecting off those arms is not only an expression of mood and emotional hope. It is also a metaphor for the energy we must bring to a struggle. All too often, we think only of reflection as a mirror image. But light reflecting off of our subjects can be just as expressive. I tried to demonstrate that here. What a wonderful way you have of defining the value of an image, Celia. Thanks, as always, for bringing that skill to my galleries.
Cecilia Lim05-Aug-2005 18:57
You have definitely done great justice to the artist's sculptures here! You've taken full advantage of the reflecting light to not only reinforce the artist's expression of energy, struggle and achievement, but you also give the scuptures another dimension - the emotion of hope!

Light has always been associated with the concept of life, hope & all things good. We have expressions like "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel" where light becomes the symbol for hope where there is darkness & despair. It is the symbol of ultimate enlightenment, and attaining that brings feelings of joy and achievement. And it is precisely these feelings that you've brought to the artist's work here. The figures are in the shadow, in a state of darkness. But they are already within reach of "enlightenment" because there is light above them that is bouncing off the tops their arms. These reflections are infact the light at the end of their tunnel. And because we see light within their grasp, we know there is hope and a chance for their success. And, it even appears that these figures are perservering on, fuelled by the hope - which we see as light - that is running through their bodies!

Phil, you are so right - without this reflecting light, this image would not speak to us. But you recognized the power of using these reflections to bring more meaning and emotional depth to the artist's work. You've used the light to create an uplifting mood and inject emotions of hope. It is wonderful to see how you've honoured the artist by taking his work to another level, and at the same time made this expression your own! I am in awe! This is truly a beautiful piece of expressive imagery Phil! Great work!
Phil Douglis23-Jul-2005 04:49
Thanks, Sonia, for pointing out the positive forces at work here -- the implied magnetic forces, the symbolic quest for goodness, and of course the role that the glittering reflections play in symbolizing energy and strength. This image is a fortuitous combination of three different visions -- the sculptor's creations, the shop's placement and lighting decisions, and my own photographic choices.
Guest 23-Jul-2005 04:03
Phil, I love what you said about the reflection symbolizes energy and strength, I surely see it here. The magnetic field like golden rays seem to attract the metal figure and the act of climbing towards the light source also symbolize that human is attracted to the good / goodness.
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