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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Three: Expressing human values > Condiment vendor, Kostroma, Russia, 2003
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Condiment vendor, Kostroma, Russia, 2003

Condiment vendor, Kostroma, Russia, 2003

Kostroma's lively open air market reflects Russia's economic transition from a Communistic to Capitalistic society. I relate this cascade of condiments -- a far cry from the bare shelves of yesteryear -- to the somewhat neutral response of this vendor. Her matter-of-fact indifference seems a good fit for the abundance that surrounds her -- human values that help me tell the story I'm trying to tell.

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Phil Douglis12-Oct-2007 04:18
Thanks, Natalia, for your comment. It is always reassuring to get positive feedback on an image from someone who is intimately familiar with the place were I made it. We only spent a day in Kostroma, but I enjoyed the town, people, and history. You might also be interested in seeing another image I made there. It's at
Guest 12-Oct-2007 01:22
Phil, I'd like to throw my .02 if I may. Kostroma is where I was born. The look of the girl tell me so much. I can almost see her childhood, school years and current life in the way she gazes and in her pose. One thing is certain - she's not excited about her current life. Thanks for the moments of reflecting on my home-town, Phil.
Phil Douglis13-Jul-2005 22:39
This is a fresh interpretation, Rod -- and greatly appreciated. I never noticed the significance of all of those little green price tags before. I took them for granted. You have a great eye for detail. You are right -- everything except the seller herself is for sale here and the tags repeat it over and over again. Yet she remains indifferent -- everything here will sell itself. All she has to do is take the money and make the change. The key human value here has always been indifference. And it remains so.
Guest 13-Jul-2005 16:12
I have a different view of this photo. The first thing I see when I look around the frame is price tags. Green price tags on everything: every bottle, every can, even on the wood frame of the building. It conveys to me "everything's for sale" Except the girl. She is not for sale (no price tag hahaha) thus she looks indifferent to what is going on. All of the rest that is for sale is nice, shiny, and orderly, as if to get attention by saying "buy me, don't I look desireable?" :)
Phil Douglis06-Jan-2005 00:45
I love the way you interpret my images, Mikel. Here I thought she was already so used to the fruits of capitalism that she seems indifferent to the profusion of products that now surround her. And yet you interpret it as perhaps confusion over a society that is changing too fast, and perhaps not for the better. And after looking at your own thought provoking images of shuttered stores in Spain, I can see why you can also see my image in this this way.
Xabier Mikel Laburu Van Woudenberg05-Jan-2005 16:53
Combining the situations that you describe of the change from comunism to capitalism I see here more then a indiferent person, perhaps a confused person. In this world of her's she is surrounded with consumer goods but it is like if everything arround is falling down shrattering to pieces and she is looking at it worried trying to find a response further away then what her eyes can get... perhaps the word wold be desorientation when things change so fastly, when what was yestarday is not the same as today also the values change as the society does, but no one knows quite well what is comming up but meanwhell she has her shop but will she still have it in a few years?
Guest 03-Dec-2004 21:26
For her, it is a job, not her life. She looks away, to a better future. Great framing.
Phil Douglis20-Nov-2004 21:58
Great question, Nut. Viewers will usually see pictures as part of a context. I would never have posted this picture without that context, because the words I posted with this picture tell us about the history which is critical to understanding the meaning of it. Read my caption again, Nut. It tells you all you need to know in order to understand this picture.

To present or post a picture "out of context" is to leave it entirey up to the viewer to figure out the meaning by herself or himself. And that's OK for some expressive images that work entirely in the viewers imagination. But I never do that with travel photographs such as these. In fact, most of the pictures we see have captions or titles with them, or are published in a book or magazine, as part of an accompanying article or story. Here on pbase, most pictures have at least titles which offer a little bit of context.

You are right -- without such context for a picture, a viewer will not understand exactly what the photographer is trying to express. It will be up to them to come up with their own story, right?

Thank you for another intelligent and perceptive question, Nut. You are helping me teach!
nut 20-Nov-2004 21:38
If we put some history behind an express photograph without any description about that, so
maybe some viewer doesn't understand what you are try to express. So what can you do for
this case?
Phil Douglis20-Nov-2004 20:47
The incongruity here, Nut, only comes to us if we know the recent history of Russia. For many years, such products as these were impossible to find there. People had a hard time buying anything, and had to stand in long lines to buy even basic foods, let alone fancy sauces and flavorings like these. Today, Russia has full shelves. It is a new world. As I say in my explanation, the neutral attitude of this woman says that full shelves like this are taken for granted today in Russia.
nut 20-Nov-2004 20:36
Why I feel like this photo is an incongruous photo.
Phil Douglis04-Nov-2004 03:09
I made this prior to studying color theory with Nevada Weir at the Santa Fe Workshops last fall. I guess I was using color on pure instinct. Now, however, I can tell you why you found my use of color interesting. Red, Yellow and Blue are the three primary colors, and in this image, I have dominated the image with reds and yellows, and then drawn the eye to the focal point --the lady all in blue! I placed her off to one side, as far as I could from the massed shelves of red and yellow and orange. Just as I now search for expressive light, and make whatever images I can within it, I now find myself searching for scenes laden with primary colors, and do whatever I can to contrast one against the others.
Guest 04-Nov-2004 02:59
I noticed an interesting use of color in this picture. Most of the image is heavy with bright reds, oranges and yellows. But the woman is set off from all of this by her bright blue shirt and dark blue apron. At first, my eye jumped to the reds and yellows, but then the focus shifted to the only significant blue areas (the woman). I don't know if this was accidental or intentional, but it makes a striking photo. Thumbs-up again, Phil.
yippee200013-Jul-2004 21:50
Aptly put Phil! A great image!
Piotr Siejka10-Jun-2004 18:59
Another winner!
Phil Douglis12-Oct-2003 00:02
It is always fun, Ray, to move back and forth between travel photography and photojournalism while visiting new lands and cultures. Actually, I consider myself to be a "travel photojournalist" -- if there is such a thing! A photojournalist is a reporter with a camera. Reporters tell stories, and interpret places, people, and events. This particular picture reports on economic conditions in a Russian provincial town in the early 21st Century. An indifferent vendor, awash amidst the cornucopia of luxury foods and condiments she offers to her customers, seemingly takes such prosperity for granted. And that's the point I tried to make with this spatial relationship. Good eye, Ray.
Guest 11-Oct-2003 04:40
Marvelous photojournalism, Phil. The spatial positioning of the indifferent woman against the clutter of her goods is excellent.
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