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

Clouds as shrouds, Bruges, Belgium, 2005

Clouds are among the most common photographic metaphors. As far back as the 1920s, Alfred Stieglitz, the man responsible for establishing photography as a fine art, was making images of clouds as representations of the feelings within us. I saw this image of strange clouds hovering over a Bruges sunset as a metaphor for the perpetual interplay between life and death. I abstracted the old Flemish buildings, with their quaint embellishments outlined against the sky, by underexposing them. They represent the homes of those who are no longer with us. The golden sunset is a metaphor of sheer energy and vitality symbolic of life. The clouds, particularly the largest one, are the keys to the image. They are actually not clouds at all, but contrails from jet aircraft in various stages of dissolution. They appear haunted, wispy, insubstantial and shroud-like, almost transparent. To me, they represent the dead of Bruges, particularly when juxtaposed with the blackened hulks of the houses they once lived in.

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Phil Douglis03-Nov-2006 19:01
HI, Armin -- glad to help. Everyone sees picture differently. There are no right or wrong interpretations. You make your own art out of what I present, and that is fine with me.
ArminB03-Nov-2006 06:18
Hm, ok, thanks for the explanation - I think, I'm getting to it (slowly :o) ).
Phil Douglis03-Oct-2006 05:57
Death is most often portrayed as something dark and threatening. In this case, I use the golden light and the ethereal effect of the wispy clouds to suggest the presence of those who are no longer with us. Hope this answers your question, Armin, and thanks for asking it.
ArminB19-Sep-2006 12:44
Dear Phil, While I find it very easy to follow you on many pictures in this gallery, be it the 'moon' or the 'post', the 'portrait' or or or :-) ...I have some difficulties with this one. I love the interaction of clouds with fading light myself ... but they always gave me a warm feeling. A feeling of change maybe ...but why death?
Best regards, Armin
Phil Douglis04-Jul-2006 06:20
Yes, Christine, we do. And that is great power of expressive photography. To trigger such thoughts as these in the imaginations of our viewers. You see a sky full of ribbons. I see the spirits of the dead. Others may only see what they really are -- contrails. I am glad you saw those ribbons, Christine - it shows me that my image must be working.
Christine P. Newman04-Jul-2006 06:11
Phil, At first I thought they were more like ribbons in the sky especially those in the background. We all see things with our own imagination.
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