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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Shop window, Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California, 2007
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Shop window, Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California, 2007

By contrasting a bald mannequin to a photograph of a blonde model with a full mane, the window decorator of this store is using incongruous juxtaposition to stop passers-by in their tracks. It certainly drew the attention of a group of pbase photographers on the prowl for startling images. I was able to add still another incongruity that makes the image go beyond the shocking juxtaposition to imply greater meaning. The window is broken, and I shot the image through the shattered glass to tell still another story. The photograph in the background represents what once was, the bald mannequin suggests the present reality, and the layer of broken glass in the foreground speaks of broken dreams and lost hopes.

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Phil Douglis21-Jan-2010 15:57
The vanity here is another example of human values at work, Zandra.
Guest 01-Jan-2010 23:33
This is a lesson about vanity. Beauty, it being real as for the girl in the background, or it being fake as for the mannequin in the foreground, is skin deep and easily cracked if it does not come from the inside...
Phil Douglis14-Oct-2007 03:09
Welcome back once again to this image, Carol. I cherish your own latest version of this subject, shot the same day as this one, at . You remove its baldness altogether through use of frame and vantage point and position the eye so that it peers over the shattered glass. In my image, there is a strong emotional conflict between the blonde woman in the photograph and the bald mannequin, a conflict intensified by the broken glass, and symbolizing the past, present and future.
Carol E Sandgren13-Oct-2007 23:19
It is interesting how that photographed face's expression is one which could be interpreted in a variety of emotions... at first I see a frustrated look on her face as she seems to gaze upon the bald aloof looking mannequin head. Perhaps she can envision herself as bald and doesn't like the idea much. I can relate!
Phil Douglis03-Jul-2007 16:55
What better icon for a head shop than a head? Fried, at that. Your own abstracted image of this scene, as I mentioned in my comment, removes the mouth on the head, symbolically referring to the silencing of student protesters in Berkeley that will forever be associated with this community.
Tim May02-Jul-2007 22:36
I, too, shot this image. ( ) And, since we are adding context through our comments - I would like to add that this "fried" head is in the window of what I would classify as a "head" shop on telegraph avenue. The owner invited us in to take pictures but told us we could photograph the pipes.
Phil Douglis02-Jul-2007 20:26
Welcome to gallery two, Daniel. You are correct -- abstraction does invite the viewer to involve his or her own imagination in our images. But so does incongruity. But it does so in a different way. Instead of removing information as abstraction does, and leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer to fill in the details and find significance in them, incongruity challenges the imagination by creating both intellectually and emotionally stimulating juxtapositions of elements at odds with their contexts. I don't see incongruities as being either good or bad. If an image is incongruous, it triggers the imagination, intellect, and emotions of the viewer. If it is not, than something else must trigger those things if the image is to express its ideas effectively. It is possible to have an expressive photographs without incongruous elements. Abstraction can work without being incongruous. Abstraction can also create incongruites. And human values come through more effectively when images are abstract and incongruous, but they can still speak in even purely descriptive terms. Ideally, we try to work all of three of these principles into our imagery, at least to some degree. But if we can't, the image can still express its ideas to at least some degree. And that is where the differences lies -- it comes down to a matter of degree.
Guest 02-Jul-2007 20:07
I have finally graduated to gallery #2, and I'm loving this photo. I am correct in assuming while abstraction offers the viewer to open up his/her imagination, incongruency's purpose is to create links through contrast in order to stimulate the viewer's thoughts? Also, what separates good incongruities from bad incongruities?
Phil Douglis24-Jun-2007 18:47
I was waiting for someone to bring up the effect of chemo here. I agree. Life is fragile, as fragile as the broken glass in this image. So yes, this image could well be about the delicate balance of life itself.
monique jansen24-Jun-2007 10:03
It feels as if the model in the photograph is looking at her future self, after a course of chemotherapy. The fragility of life itself.
Phil Douglis20-Jun-2007 06:33
We shot this picture in Berkeley side by side and we produce similar images that tell similar stories. Yours is tighter, with more use of reflection, which makes your subjects more disoriented. Mine includes more of the mannequin's neck and the blonde's shoulder, and does not utilize reflection as part of the image. I saw broken dreams and lost hopes, while you see self-destruction. Our views are certainly compatible. Thanks, Rosemarie, for this comment.
sunlightpix20-Jun-2007 01:27
I shot this window too; I saw emptiness and self-destruction in the pursuit of the ultimate in female beauty.
Phil Douglis19-Jun-2007 23:18
Thanks, Carol. And I love your image. It is more a work of photographic art, while mine is more a bit of travel journalism, but both express similar points. It is interesting how I saw broken dreams and lost hopes, while you saw the broken promise of perfection. Each concept comes through in the telling.
Carol E Sandgren19-Jun-2007 21:49
I love the incongruity here! I shot this same mannequin head a few months ago but saw a broken promise of perfection as a statement in her.
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