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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Six: Vantage Point makes the difference > Fin Flipper, Manta, Ecuador, 2003
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Fin Flipper, Manta, Ecuador, 2003

Fin Flipper, Manta, Ecuador, 2003

Ecuadorian fishermen were unloading a cargo of freshly caught Tuna on a pier just across from our cruise ship – an ideal opportunity for a photographer to express ideas about how people feel about their jobs. I have been teaching corporate communicators how to do this for the last 35 years, so this task felt like a homecoming of sorts for me. This man was transferring these fish from the frozen lockers on board the fishing boat to a waiting truck. They were still steaming as he flipped them into a big net and sent them on their way to market. Once again, vantage point is the key to a communicative image. I watched the angle of the fisherman’s arm carefully, and it formed a v-shape similar to the tailfins of the fish whenever he would flip one of them. To relate the shape of his arm to the shape of those fins, I had to get down low and shoot up. This vantage point also creates backlighting, making the fins appear to be translucent, and at the same time abstracting the face of the man to place the emphasis purely on his body language. My low camera position also pulls the viewer into the action of the picture. Instead of just passively observing this fellow at work, we all become part of the cargo itself.

Canon PowerShot G5
1/1250s f/4.5 at 25.1mm full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
Phil Douglis18-Jul-2006 04:05
I do not consciously make images for political reasons, Ceci. I do not want to be labeled as a propagandist for any cause, not do I wish to persuade anyone to act or think in a particular way. However, if my images can help awake compassion or stir anger in the viewer that can somehow lead them to help right a wrong, or make the world a better place for all of us, I will gladly accept responsibility. In other words, I try to make pictures that will trigger the imagination, emotions and intellect of the viewer, and teach something about photographic expression in the process. I made this image as an example of an expressive vantage point, not as an environmental statement. Yet you read it as a metaphor for man's domination over other living creatures, and the rape of the oceans for economic gain. I am honored that you see my image in that context, because I happen to agree with you. But it was not done intentionally. The message you read is part of the expressive process itself. I've triggered your imagination by taking a particular vantage point, and you have told the story from there. Thanks, Ceci, for these thoughts.
Guest 18-Jul-2006 03:49
Great dynamism, with the steam, the worker's torso, the light, the upswung arm and the hapless tuna -- a species that is practically gone out of the oceans from overfishing. This man's posture perfectly captures the fact of human domination over other living creatures. There is something awful (and awesome) in our capacity to decimate great natural populations, remove whole links from the food chain, and render it into frozen products for world consumption. This is a powerful political photograph, to me, one that soon may never be taken again.
Phil Douglis16-Nov-2004 18:52
Great point, Tim. It is almost a triumphant gesture, isn't it?
Tim Low16-Nov-2004 11:08
this image gives me the image of a person enjoying their job. his hands are in in the air in dance like energentic position which gives me the impression that he is enjoying his job. we spend a huge portion of our lives working and this image gives me a image of hope, that some people genuinely love/enjoy their work.
Phil Douglis02-Nov-2004 17:43
I am not sure how alive they are, Zebra. They have been in a freezer on the ship for awhile. But they sure were COLD! Glad you like this shot -- there is a shock to it at first, because of the degree of abstraction and the unusual vantage point.
Guest 02-Nov-2004 15:30
My first sense is Wow,what is it?Just like the man in photo,I got a shock.The incline strengthen my tension.THEY ARE STILL LIVE,My GOD!
bruce berrien19-Jun-2004 11:30
There are so many things I love about this photo - the backlighting, the angles, the shapes, and most of all the implied motion and proud stance of the fisherman! Great job, Phil - it seems you found the "perfect" viewpoint. :)
Phil Douglis27-Jan-2004 19:29
What a wonderful comment, Likyin. You are a very perceptive person. You have felt exactly what I felt as I made this photograph. I use it here in the context of the theme of this chapter -- explaining how and why my vantage point helps express my feelings about what I am seeing here. But you bring up another point -- the mood of the fisherman himself. Happy and proud, indeed! You also mention the strength expressed in those shining golden fins. I see much strength in the man's body language as well -- it is the strength of someone who has accomplished something. There is almost something triumphant about his gesture. You also make a good point when comparing this picture to one I made a few moments later -- the eye of the dead tuna in the net at Both of these shots are about the same subject -- tuna -- yet each of them expreses an entirely different idea. And that is the beauty of photography -- we can shoot the same subject in so many different ways, to express entirely different ideas. Thanks, Likyin, for raising these important points.
Likyin Yeung27-Jan-2004 15:00

Comparing with the other image describing the eye of Tuna in net, which is mysterious and somehow sad, this one is showing an extremely positive mood: the fisherman appears quite happy and proud, and the shining and golden fins are pointing upward full of strenth!

Both contain dead fish body, but they are telling completely different spirits.
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