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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Twenty Five: Stimulating the imagination with “opposites and contradictions” > High Fashion, Antwerp, Belgium, 2005
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High Fashion, Antwerp, Belgium, 2005

High Fashion, Antwerp, Belgium, 2005

A huge mural of a weeping woman offers a contradictory context for the clothes displayed on this mannequin. There are several other opposites as well here – the huge scale of the intimate mural contrasts to the smaller, coldly indifferent plaster model. The grainy texture of the mural differs from the crisp reality of the actual display. My camera position has caused the woman in the mural to weep directly onto the shoulders of the mannequin. There are more questions here than answers. What might this image mean to you?

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Phil Douglis19-Jan-2008 04:26
You interpret this image beautifully, Vera. You express what I was feeling as i made this image. I never really think about what I am taking pictures "of." The subject itself is not what I seek. Rather, it is an idea. I don't know what that idea might be when I start out, but when I see or feel the potential for an idea, I "work" the situation for all it can offer. And that is what I did here. In other words, I did not approach this window to shoot a display. The tears caught me, and I began to think about the reasons for those tears. In this case, the pressures of conformity emerged as the idea.
saltzman4006-Jan-2008 01:49
Sometimes I like to make comments before reading others, so forgive me if I simply repeat what has been said before but I want to share my impressions of your photos, not those of others. I am always amazed at the things you find to take pictures off. Here, I see someone who is looking for a shoulder to cry on but can't seem to find it. The person/model has turned her back just as we so often turn our backs on those who are in pain. She is so cool and indifferent. Perhaps it is that the fashion industry is built on an image that if you look a certain way, the world will be perfect. Yet, clearly, this is not the case as your picture demonstrates.
Jude Marion08-Sep-2006 12:43
I've noticed this sort of window display used by all sorts of clothing retailers - a larger-than-life image of a person used as a backdrop to a mannequin clad in the latest fashion merchandise. I assume the general intent is to link the mannequin model to an image of a 'real-life' model, the messaging being 'you too can look beautiful, or sexy, or younger, or sporty, or elegant' - marketing a lifestyle. But this display is very contradictory in it's message. The mannequins outfit is suggestive and seductive - the dress looks like a negligee and the sweater is clinging to her shoulders, just barely covering the mannequins nipples - a playful temptress. But the large mural displays a woman crying, implying a hurt, and anguish. Could this ensemble lead to a broken heart? I find the juxtaposition very bizarre.
Phil Douglis23-Jul-2006 17:46
Thanks, Ceci, for adding still another interpretation to this discussion. I made this image to stimulate such thoughts as yours. I still have no idea what the store is trying to "sell" here, but my image of this contradiction has certainly provoked a range of substantive thought from its viewers. It is certainly about pain, and your view of why the weeping seems quite valid. "Fashion" as commerce is one thing. Fashion as a way of separating the "haves" from the "have nots" is another. It invites delusion, and as say so eloquently, it tempts women to deny, and perhaps even hate, their own natural beauty. Thanks for adding tis comment -- it adds still another layer of potential meaning to this image.
Guest 23-Jul-2006 05:21
To me this amazing photography epitomizes the collision between the fraction of a percent of women who might briefly resemble an "idealized" mannequin, becoming slaves to fashions they can't afford, created often by men who don't like women, and the physical reality of the world's females, most of whom are more "ordinary" in their forms. It's the pain caused by an unattainable delusion which has been foisted so aggressively upon women, colliding with the truly "perfect" way they are, of which they are unaware, and which so many of them have learned to hate. An extremely powerful, telling image of juxtaposition, taken by a master observer of humanity.
Phil Douglis09-Aug-2005 19:04
Thanks, Ana. As you can see from the responses to this image, there are indeed as many meanings as there are viewers. I was struck today by the simplicity of Dandan's comment. Time has now distanced me from the taking of this shot, and I am now able to look at it with more objectivity than when I first posted it. Dandan says we use "a polished look" to hide who we really are. And that comment triggered my latest response, one which seems to make the most sense to me. Your comment about "broken dreams" is a perfect fit as well. The mannequin symbolizes our dreams -- who we like to think we are, and who we would like to be. The weeping woman now seems to me to be closer to the truth. It is who we really are.
Ana Carloto O'Shea09-Aug-2005 16:49
From the first time I saw this one I was amazed by its power. And whenever I stop by your galleries I always come here to check this one...
Surely an image with a million & one meanings. Each time I look at it, I see a different story, depending on my mood. The weeping face behind the happy mannequin shows an enourmous despair and hopelessness towards its own fate, it's the image of broken dreams...
A magnificent work.
Phil Douglis09-Aug-2005 16:26
You have said, in very few words, Dandan, what was running through my own mind as I shot. The woman in the rear seems to be who we really are. The mannequin is who would would like to be. Thank you.
Dandan09-Aug-2005 13:47
To me, Phil, this image is a strong social statement for the modern society. We seemed to use highly polished look to hide who we really are…
monique jansen03-Aug-2005 20:27
And even the clothing is draped on the mannequin in an unnatural way
Phil Douglis03-Aug-2005 20:07
You are so right, Mo. There is a sad mime quality to the weeping face. In essence, then, each of these women is a facade. The mime or clown is a symbolic person. And so, too, is a mannequin. The only reality here is the clothing. Everything else is a symbol.
monique jansen03-Aug-2005 19:47
Just looked at this again, by clicking 'refresh" button on your profile page and it suddenly really struck a chord with me - the almost ghostly image of a clownesk face on the mural in contradiction with the high end fashion mannequin - the mural's face looks a bit like a very sad pierrot clown (French clown type) or a mime.
Phil Douglis13-Jul-2005 21:39
Perhaps you may have a point, Likyin. I don't see the connection, either. However I think you will find that European who are sophisticated enough to appreciate contemporary art are often very fashion conscious as well. I can't speak for individual taste in clothing and style, but this shop is a high-end botique, so the clothes on that mannequin must be relatively fashionable.
Likyin Yeung13-Jul-2005 11:28
I would say this is the hardest one to be explained in your galleries. The first idea coming up to my mind was that the young lady had firmly decided to sacrifice her life to something and her Mom was in deep sorrow but had to let her go ...
It's hard to imagine this kind of advertisement works, since I believe clients who enjoy contemporary art and those who enjoy such kind of dress are not sharing the same pool.
Phil Douglis07-Jul-2005 00:03
I am delighted that you have fallen in love with this image, Marisa. I knew as soon as I saw this window display that it would be among the most thought provoking images in this gallery of opposites and contradictions. While this is a found image -- I did not create this display, I am only making a photograph of it -- I found it a very provocative subject, rich in opposites and contradictions. Perhaps the window designer was simply interested in stopping street traffic and shocking for the sake of shock, as he or she was in selling clothes. Or perhaps this store was just trying to establish a tone or style in which to frame its marketing approach in fashion-conscious Antwerp. I don't know what the store intended this display to mean. But at least now I know what my image might say to some of its viewers. While this store was trying to establish a marketing tone as a hip and trendy high fashion boutique, you see my own interpretation of this window display as summing up the desperation that pervades our times. Is this sterile mannequin with its lost gaze, pathetic sexuality, and an utterly consumable costume really the weeping, shattered soul in the background? Have we all become, in essence, mannequins -- nothing but facades, wearing the trappings of wealth, but empty inside? I am sure this store did not intend to ask such questions of us. (If they did, the would not find many customers.) But in choosing to photograph this window display as I do, taking it out of its context with the rest of the display, and isolating it as juxtaposition of opposites, I've presented a contradiction, which for you at least, sums up the nature of "modern man." Thank you, Marisa, for putting so much of yourself into this image. You will always remember it. And so will I.
Guest 06-Jul-2005 22:48
I L O V E T H I S I M A G E !!!
For me, this is the best picture not only of this gallery but maybe of all of your galleries ( I didn't look at all of them, but I just have the intuition!!).
It's so powerful and so shocking...
This is the epitome of the modern times, showing the profound contradiction and desperation of the human being.
This photograph can define in a superb way the intensity of human void and fall, that we are facing in the last century, especially during the last two decades.
The outside model, with the anorexic look, a cold face and expression meaning nothing, showing no feelings at all, only that sort of little smiling freezed in time and space, the lost gaze, revealing a pathetic 'sexuality' of no-forms at all... a'desirable' object, ready to be consumed..
But in the background, behind the mannequin, we have this huge face, buried in pain, isolation and desperatin, dying of pain... still maked-up, but starting to crash in thousand pieces...
The contradiction is terrific and reveals in an extraordinary way the present of the human being, trapped in a superficial world of high fashion, ultimate technology, endless richness, fearful sexuality and existencial void.
The fact that the crying face laid in the back of the 'happy' mannequin enhace in a dramatic way the meaning: the true human is trapped in the inside of this cold faced mannequin.
This is which the modern man became: a mannequin, a facade, a fake... a grotesque fake of the real human being.
Congratulations for this excellent picture!!!
Phil Douglis06-Jul-2005 17:33
I had the same reaction you did, Marek. I still wonder why the weeping woman? And I also agree that the photo seems closer to reality than the mannequin. A possible explanation for the milking of emotions here would be the nature of high fashion as it relates to Antwerp itself. As I pointed out in my response to Monique below, this might be one of those cutting edge high fashion boutiques (or a wannabe) that makes Antwerp such a trendy fashion center right now. A juxtaposition of this kind might be a matter of milking a trend, as well as emotion.
m06-Jul-2005 16:52
I like the incongruity as you describe it Phil; and in addition find it interesting that although both objects are only representing reality, the weeping image somehow seems more real... On another level, I'm intrigued as to what kind of an instore promotion would use the image of a weeping woman to advertise its clothes range. It seems indicative of the age when marketeers are literally milking our emotions purporting to fill the existential void which they have conspired to create in the first place.
Phil Douglis04-Jul-2005 18:15
I'm glad you mentioned this, Mo. Our tour guide stressed Antwerp's role in the diamond business, but never mentioned its prominence as a world fashion center. However just yesterday, the New York Times Sunday Travel section featured a full page story on Antwerp, and mentioned the emergence of the city's cutting edge clothing designed by internationally known fashion leaders. Three of its boutiques, Het Modepaleis, Walter, and Louis, were mentioned in the article. I don't recall the name of this particular shop, but it could well be one of them.
monique jansen04-Jul-2005 07:31
Given the fact that Antwerp is a fashion capital, something you might not be aware of, it even brings more depth to this picture.
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