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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Twenty Eight: Using symbols and metaphors to express meaning > Swan vibes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005
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Swan vibes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005

Swan vibes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005

Its not the swan itself that is the primary symbol here. Its the waves of concentric circles that ripple through the water around it that provides the metaphor. I see those ripples as symbolizing a form of communication. This swan is sending out vibes, letting the world know it is there and seeking a response in return. All of us have taken, or are in the process of taking, such a journey -- relating to others, tentatively sending out feelers, testing the waters of life. The swan is also metaphorical in itself. It is an elegant bird, rich in mythological connotations, and a graceful ornament to any body of water. Its posture at the moment I made the shot was perfect it seems to be looking directly at the circles that expand around it. It represents an explorer. The darkness in the upper left hand corner of the image works as another symbol. It suggests the world of the unknown the perfect place to launch a voyage of discovery. My vantage point was critical. I was shooting from a bridge over a Bruges canal, positioned almost directly above the swan. I made twenty or thirty images of this swan and its colleague. This was the one that was richest in symbolic terms.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20
1/400s f/4.0 at 21.9mm iso80 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
Phil Douglis15-Feb-2008 05:36
It is often a good idea, Cyndy, to first make an image for its aesthetic beauty. In so many cases, the very things that attract us to an aesthetically beautiful subject can also express symbolic meaning and metaphor. I saw the curve of the neck and the curving lines in the water and instinctively made this image for those reasons. As soon as I looked at the resulting picture, I saw an exploration in progress, a process beginning in darkness and ending in light. So yes -- many pictures do not reveal the meanings within them until we have a chance to reflect on the finished image. A good lesson learned.
Cyndy Largarticha15-Feb-2008 03:48
My first impression is one of pure appreciation for the artistic merit of this photograph. The lighting, textures, rythm of movement all speak to me. It is rich, graceful, eloquent. Add to that the metaphors and symbolism, and you have an image that communicates on many levels. Phil, I really really like this.
Phil Douglis19-Aug-2005 22:19
You do great honor to this image, Marisa. And you bring eloquent verbal skills to bear on an image expressing an essence of non-verbal communication. (How's that for a contradiction?) This image is in this gallery because it's expressiveness is based largely on symbolic meaning. You read these symbols well -- the ripples, the graceful attitude of the swan, the interplay of darkness and light, each play a part in defining meaning here. Thank you for illuminating this photograph for us, Marisa.
Guest 19-Aug-2005 20:35
I've visited this photo many times but I will leave you the comment today.
It's just breathtaking, Phil!! so... mystical.. that's the word! there's a kind of sacred feeling while looking at this picture, that I can't explain with words. For me is the beauty in the purest state of being. You made a reference to the ripples as a form of communication and I agree with you. For me, they are the language of the soul and the heart. Instead of words.. vibes. Sometimes, words are unable to express the feelings; but when you can connect with the others through something that is much more older that the speaking language.. when you can connect from the soul.. then, there's no need for words.
Here, the ripples reach out and touch the known and the unknown world -represented in the darkness of the left side. In that way, I have the feeling that the swan came from the darkness and is looking at and travelling into the light, in the right side, continuing his own journey...
Phil Douglis12-Jul-2005 19:36
Hi V --- thanks for being the first to comment on this one. Swans are marvelous subjects, particularly in how they relate to the water. Belgium's Dirk Vermeirre is PBases' best known and most prolific Swan photographer. He displays four galleries of them at:

You expressed the essence of my intentions, Vanessa -- my image is as much about the natural world itself as it is about the swan in question.
Guest 12-Jul-2005 19:14
Hmmm, I see a swan series in the making...

Even more beautiful than its predecessor. When I look at this image it proves to me how the actions of even the tiniest of beings can greatly impact their surroundings.
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