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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Seventeen: Memories in Metal and Stone: How monuments, sculpture, and tombs express ideas. > German Bunker, Pointe du Hoc, France, 2004
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German Bunker, Pointe du Hoc, France, 2004

German Bunker, Pointe du Hoc, France, 2004

60 years ago, in one of the most heroic acts of World War II, a group of several hundred US Rangers scaled 100 foot high cliffs under heavy fire to silence German artillery shelling American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. From this bunker, German spotters directed that artillery fire. Today’s visitors to the famous D-Day landing beaches of Normandy can tour the heights of Pointe du Hoc and view what remains of that bloody day. In this image, I tried to sum up how we recall that battle. I placed my camera virtually on top of the coils of barbed wire sealing off the back of the bunker. The barbed wire becomes a symbol for war itself, and fills half of my frame. I waited behind that wire for about five minutes, hoping that someone would come by and look inside the front window. A mother and her young daughter arrived and stood in silence off to one side of the window, staring solemnly into the room where soldiers once killed and were killed. I make my point with scale incongruity. These people appear much smaller than the bunker that envelops them. The war that once raged in this spot, and its consequences, still looms large in our collective memory.

Canon PowerShot G5
1/160s f/4.0 at 7.2mm full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
Phil Douglis27-Oct-2004 21:14
I can see that this image has entered your consciousness and made you think. That is what it did for Marek, Bruce, and Jen a well. And that is why I made this image, Zebra. Each of you looks into this bunker through our own prism. Each of you bring your own experiences to bear on his image and responds accordingly. I made this picture to stimulate thinking about the nature and meaning of war. Marek sees a dream of helplessness. Bruce asks what we've learned, and Jen is torn between fear and escape. You see wars as a permanent evil, a killer of children. And my job was to put all of you into this bunker and come to your own conclusions. That's what expressive photograph is all about.
Guest 27-Oct-2004 20:00
Marek said this is "a mental dream picture",but I think it is a very very realistic picture.Peace is temporary and wars is continuous.Hunger,diseases,destitution...For me,they are all wars,all kill babys and women,and all happen in this world every day and every night.For dying people, "the peace time of mother and child" is a small picture farther and farther.Yes,in this photo,the picture is moving away me.
When the boy look at this word through the window,I am almost able to see a bullet aimed at him...
Phil Douglis21-Oct-2004 23:00
What a deeply felt response to this image, Jen! As you know, the purpose of a photograph is to stimulate thought, and while I was expressing my feelings about war, it is fascinating to know that for you it was all about fear. This interpretation is certainly a valid one. As you well know, people mirror who they are when they read a photographs, and the shades of meaning we draw from an image are influenced by our own feelings and experiences as human beings. If this image can stimulate our thoughts and perhaps get us to recognize the basis of our own anxieties and fears, it will be doing its job.
Jennifer Zhou18-Oct-2004 11:12
For me, this picture is expressing fear, which many of us has this kind of feelings sometimes.

We are looking out from that window of our hearts(it become smaller when we encounter difficulties in lives), we can see through it the beautiful sky, blue sea, and people we love and love us. But still we just can't step out and embrace them, there is the wire blocking the way and we are so afraid what we see from that litter window is just an illusion~ We are in a dilemma to send ourselves free or to safely stay..

Phil Douglis26-Sep-2004 02:12
And that's the point, isn't it? Without that grim barbed wire, there is no picture here.
bruce berrien25-Sep-2004 20:24
The barbed wire does provide valuable context. The woman and child appear to be lost in thought, sad, even mournful. A powerful reminder of a horrible event that happened not that long ago. Have we evolved, have we learned? Hmmm....
Phil Douglis21-Sep-2004 17:26
Thank you, Marek, for these remarkable observations. You have responded as I hoped you would. This image is intended to stir thoughts on the nature of war, life, and death. The more you looked into this bunker, the more shades of meaning came to you. You raise a few issues here that I had not considered until now. Expressive images should evoke thought in the viewer and your comment tells me that this image has done its job here. Thanks.
m21-Sep-2004 09:57
Yes, that's it, as the sea represents life, with humanity in the middle.
m21-Sep-2004 09:55
Last thought. The entrance protruding into the bottom of the 'picture' and the child looking in, offer the final chilling message: Death is inviting us in as we are looking through her eyes.
m21-Sep-2004 09:50
Put another way, this is a new take on visual effect of turning an opening/'window on the world' into a picture with a frame. However, we are immediately prevented from reaching the image by the menacing barbed wire. Perhaps this is what the German soldiers experienced: their wives and children on a peaceful field -- a mental dream picture, cruelly out of reach. Multiply this by the aspect of time: from the horror of war we are catching a glimpse of a peaceful, reflective future. Two parallel sets of ghosts oblivious of each other. It's all happened before and will happen again. We know this, but are helpless to prevent it.
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