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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Thirty One: Interpreting cultural festivals -- Mexicoís Day of the Dead > Musician, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2005
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Musician, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2005
24-OCT-2005

Musician, Guanajuato, Mexico, 2005

The Day of The Dead is celebrated in sound as well as with sights. Mariachi bands often lead the songs that toast the departed. Music acts directly upon the human spirit, and I wanted to express a sense of that energy here. I did so by using a full one-second shutter speed and moving the camera slowly while the shutter remained open. The result is an extremely abstract image of a vibrating, blurred figure with the outline of a trumpet flowing through the image. While we canít hear the traditional Mexican music being played at this moment, we can certainly imagine it.

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Phil Douglis22-Aug-2006 05:30
Thanks, Ceci -- there at least two other complete abstracts based on movement in my galleries in addition to this one: the spirits on parade (http://www.pbase.com/pnd1/image/52099799 ), and hockey violence (http://www.pbase.com/pnd1/image/37158110 ) I don't use this kind of imagery as exercises in form for the sake of form. In this case I blurred the musician because I wanted the viewer to feel the vibrations of the music. In the case of the blurred parade, I wanted ghostly spirits to float through the frame of a Day of the Dead celebration. And in the case of the hockey game, I wanted the viewer to feel the concussion of violence on ice. In the case of your Light Mob image athttp://www.pbase.com/seetheeearth/image/65320101 , I saw it as an overhead view of a moving people heading to a stadium. You saw it as kangaroos bouncing en masse. The bottom line is that extreme blur is an abstracting device. There is a fine line between what is seen and what is implied in my own images. I try to have some kind of context in at least one part of the image. In this one it's the man who offers context, along with what appears to be silver musical instrument in motion. Yet that silver instrument is reduced to a series of vibrating illusions, playing Mariachi music we can almost hear.
Guest 22-Aug-2006 05:10
I see what you mean, Phil, about the similarity between this evocative image and my LIGHT MOB abstract. This is the first photo of this kind that I've seen in your work, a motion shot full of blur, where you can still see what the subject is, and in this case, absolutely hear the music. Most lovely and magical!
Phil Douglis24-Jan-2006 04:50
That's why I took this picture, Lisbeth. So you could listen to it.
Lisbeth LandstrÝm14-Jan-2006 23:41
The musician is so alive and just in the middle of an improvisation. The blur adds to the impression of the darkness which again adds to the focus on the music. One just has to hang around this picture to catch the rhythms …
Phil Douglis13-Dec-2005 01:45
I was thrilled with your remark about the lower right hand corner representing the souls of the departed, listening to music fired by energy and passion. I did not notice that symbolism when I made this shot, Jen, but certainly do now. Thank you for suggesting it. I wanted this image to be sensuous -- a delight to see, and perhaps, if you listen hard enough, to hear. It certainly fires my imagination. I am glad it does that to yours as well.
Jennifer Zhou12-Dec-2005 13:45
I think Celia and you said it all here, but I still want to tell you how brilliant I think this picture is. I did hear the music, like I was there that night. The burred image really can do something a technically perfect picture can't. It is like a touch on the soul, emotionally, sensuously, imaginelly.

On the lower right side, the light is like fire, bringing passion and energy to this picture and give us a hint of life. It is like the musician playing to waken up the souls of those departed ones...
Phil Douglis14-Nov-2005 21:35
Thank you, Celia, for appreciating what I have tried to accomplish with this image. I wanted you to hear the music and feel the energy of this spirited musical form, and in the process celebrate the festive spirit that pervades Mexico at this time of year. Yes, I took a risk here. At first, the image is an abstract puzzle. But my images are not intended to stand by themselves as in an art gallery -- they are teaching examples, and to assure learning, I include titles and captions that add context for understanding and knowledge. I am thrilled that it worked as I intended -- not as immediate gratification, but a gradual series of revelations that might stir the imagination and emotions. I did indeed concentrate on the music rather than the appearance of the musician, and through blur and movement and light and shadow and color, tried to make its sound palpable. Thanks for acknowledging your experience with it.
Cecilia Lim14-Nov-2005 17:49
Phil, this has to be one of my most favourite images from your "Day of the Dead" gallery, simply because this is such a departure from your usual style of photography. I had no idea what this image was when I first saw the thumbnail, but when I read your caption and understood its context, the image began to speak to me bit by bit - the fiery colours, the glint of a shiny trumpet and the hint of a musician's fingers fleeting over his instrument... It was so exciting seeing the image reveal itself right before my eyes.


I feel you have taken such a giant leap photographically into the abstract world, expressing only the pure sense of energy and vibe that you are experiencing there. Most people would try to describe the physical form of the wonderfully ornate costumes and hats the Mariachi are famous for, but you've boldly chosen to ignore that and concentrate on their music instead, which in this instance is such an apt expression of the intangible spirit that surrounds this festival. I don't think you could have expressed this any better!
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