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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Thirty One: Interpreting cultural festivals -- Mexico’s Day of the Dead > The Day of The Dead Crowds, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005
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The Day of The Dead Crowds, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005

The streets leading to the town’s main cemetery are crowded with celebrants from mid-day onwards. Graveside festivities continue into the evening hours with a candlelight vigil. Rather than describing the crowds by showing a chaotic mass of people walking down the street, I waited for a group of people to pass into the shadows next to a yellow church and photographed them as abstract silhouettes against that colorful backdrop. I shot numerous images of various people in this setting, until this particular group of people spontaneously arranged themselves within my frame to best express my idea. The man in the large brimmed hat dominates the scene and becomes the focal point, and there is also a range of sizes and genders present – some appearing in defining profile. I see them as the living, on their way to make contact with the dead, yet because of the degree of abstraction, they appear almost as if they were spirits themselves – only shapes, without form or detail. (I liked the electrical wires appearing within the otherwise pristine backdrop – such casual wires are ubiquitous in a Mexican landscape and add local character to the image.)

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Phil Douglis26-May-2006 18:38
The man in the hat could just as well be a spirit among the living -- it all depends upon the imaginations of those who look at this image, Lorraine. That's what abstraction does -- it allows the viewer to enter the image and supply their own answers. If I've been able to fire up your imagination, the picture succeeds as expression, at least in your case. Thanks for taking the time to study it, think about it, and learn from it. I love the challenges your own images bring to my imagination. I am glad to be able to return the favor.
Guest 26-May-2006 13:30
The man with the hat, to me looks like a spirit looking in your direction, whilst everybody else(living) is oblivious to him. Looked at this image for a long while and liked it very much..fired up my imagination.
Phil Douglis21-Nov-2005 05:24
I am glad you see this image as I did, V -- as I said, these abstracted people felt like spirits to me -- shapes without detail. Or as you put it, ghosts whose presence we feel, but faces we do not see.
Vanessa M 21-Nov-2005 04:09
My favorite kind of photo - a silhouette. Dia de los muertos, indeed. The outlines of these passing celebrants brings to mind the spirits of those who have passed. Like ghosts whose presence we feel, but whose faces we do not see. The formation of a peak or triangle by the celebrants makes this image all the more interesting.
PA 16-Nov-2005 14:01
I want to add that I noticed the simplicity of the church - the 3 windows seem also to match the silhouettes - no stained glass showing. In short, no additional distraction. The casual wires (minimal) add to the realistic aspect of the picture. It proves to us that these people are alive today.
Phil Douglis16-Nov-2005 04:34
You do an excellent job of summing up the purpose of abstraction, PA. I show less by backlighting the subjects, and thereby hope to say more. The big hat is Mexican, not Texan. The people are just milling about in the street, probably waiting for family and friends to meet them. As for how they were feeling, I leave that to your imagination.
PA 16-Nov-2005 04:18
There is a peaceful tone to this picture. The idea of silhouettes is a good one for the reasons you indicate above. My first impression was that there was an American (from Texas, maybe) with his big hat in the middle - as he seems bigger that the other people around. The lady and the man at his left have Mexican silhouettes - it is striking.
These people seem to be standing there, not just passing by. Are they eating something? They seem busy at something but it is difficult to figure out what exactly. The silhouettes do not show us how these people were feeling (sad or happy, relax or anxious, etc.). It is up to us to figure it out with our imagination...
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