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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Fifteen: Making travel portraits that define personality and character. > Café, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008
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Café, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008

Café, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008

This Tunisian man smokes a hookah in a café in the Tunis medina. The portrait accentuates his solitary pleasure, which is underscored by the repeating pattern of the surrounding chairs and the wallpaper behind him. The red hat adds a final touch to define character. I also made a black and white portrait of this man ( ). It is intimate and reflective, while this color portrait offers a vividly exotic touch of realism.

Leica V-Lux 1
1/5s f/3.2 at 21.4mm iso400 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
Phil Douglis28-Aug-2009 18:08
Thanks, Claudia, for these beautifully written comments. You greatly enhance the pleasures of studying this image. You equate the hookah to the pacifier, and you call special attention to the appearance of the hollows of the cheeks as this man draws on the pipe. Small things that make a big difference-- smoking for him is a ritual that helps define who he is. And that is also the task of portraiture -- to define the nature of the subject.
BleuEvanescence28-Aug-2009 04:02
Plus...his face tells a story of this habit that started
a lifetime ago. The cheeks caved in speak volume, a gymnastic that is now
as natural as just breathing.
BleuEvanescence28-Aug-2009 03:57
I agree, this man must definitely enjoy this, but, i am also wondering, deep down.
Like a cat that licks always the same spot out of loneliness, could this also be a way to escape reality with sighs in his heart? Like a pacifier can do to a child who needs comfort? (i know this is not narcotics and i am not even suggesting). That is what this images also says to me because of his expression, of the way he holds the pipe, because of the way he won't let go and because of the look in his eye, it does definitely reminds me of a pacifier for a child...who needs it. Strong portraiture... What else can we expect from You ;).
Phil Douglis06-Mar-2009 21:12
Thanks, Cyndy -- you are right about the difficulty of seeing those small things that make a big difference when doing street photography. I was initially drawn to the character of the man himself, and the novelty of the hookah. I photographed him for several minutes and made many images, and as I looked at the resulting photographs, new details became evident. Yes, I did find this man and his pipe "on the fly," but this image was the result of a deliberate process, rather than a single grab shot.
Cyndy Largarticha06-Mar-2009 18:50
Yes, the repeating patterns gently lead the eye around the photo. And that little splash of red in his hat is a nice touch, too. So hard to see these aspects when you're doing street photography which is often on the fly. Nice job, Phil.
Phil Douglis03-Dec-2008 06:15
This is indeed a multi-layered image, Jenene -- the eye moves through a foreground of repeating curved chairs to the curving man, then to the curved shapes of still more chairs in the middleground, and finally to the stylized curves in the tiled wall in the background. The blue clothing of the pipe smoker is also echoed by a person in blue in the background. The entire scene embraces the subject, and along with his costume, gives the image its sense of place.
JSWaters03-Dec-2008 05:11
I love how the repeating curves appear in layers in the image, adding depth and providing a rythmic path for the eye to follow within the image.
Phil Douglis28-Nov-2008 23:23
Thanks for noticing, Carol -- the curves are very important, because the tie the entire image together. The man's back is curved, and so are the chair frames, as well as the curling decoration within the chair frames.
Carol E Sandgren28-Nov-2008 22:31
I like how the curve of the man's back echoes the curvature of the chair backs. Beautifully composed.
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