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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Nine: Composition -- putting it together > Approaching the Great Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, 1984
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Approaching the Great Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt, 1984

I wanted to visually express my awe as I approached the most massive and famous tombs in the history of mankind. My wideangle lens creates a layered sense of depth, as well as maximum depth of focus from foreground to background. I used our guide as “foreground layer” as he led us up the long approach toward these wonders of the ancient world. He was just in front of me, but the wideangle perspective makes him seem farther away from me than he really is. The tiny figures in the distance are much smaller than the guide, giving a sense of depth to this picture. The converging parallel lines of the edges of the road lead the eye to the pyramids themselves, the “subject layer” of this picture. A “context layer” features clouds rising from the pyramids, as if they were great plumes of smoke soaring into a deep blue sky. By using a wideangle lens, and maintaining the corrrect proximity to my subjects, I link foreground, middleground and background “layers” to express the legendary mystery of these awesome structures.

Nikormat FT,Vivitar 20mm wideangle
Scanned from a Kodachrome transparency. full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis08-Apr-2007 07:14
Thanks, Niquin, for your comment. I made this image twenty three years ago, and it still is just as fresh to me as the day I made it. I am glad you feel both its energy and mystery.
Guest 07-Apr-2007 23:15
Wow, you are right this is breath-taking!! You captured the mystical and old world feel brillantly! v
Phil Douglis18-May-2006 03:07
Such is the role of circumstance in photography, Ruthie. I was very fortunate to approach the pyramids along this walkway at a time were the crowds were less and the clouds were more. The right lens from the right spot at the right time can make a huge difference in expression. Thanks, too, for bringing up the enigmatic aspect of this image. These pyramids have come to symbolize the very essence of autocratic power, and of the cult of secrecy that still surrounds it.
ruthemily18-May-2006 01:25
fascinating to see this, Phil. so much has changed in 22 own approach to the pyramids was on a packed coach, along with god knows how many others...this approach has much more of a mysterious and enigmatic quality to it, really as though the pyramids hold huge secrets and a great sense of power.
Phil Douglis01-May-2006 22:21
Yes, he is, Jenene. The man is really the subject here, while the pyramids and smoke like clouds become powerful context for this study of, as Marek put it, "humility in the face of an overwhelming experience." It fits well with your own impression of determination and perseverance.
JSWaters01-May-2006 19:51
He's walking through history, Phil head bent to bear whatever forces he must with determination and perseverance.
Phil Douglis17-Feb-2006 23:06
Clare, glad to help with your media project. Tell me more about it if you get a chance.
Clare 06-Feb-2006 09:06
wow this is a really good photo, great for my media project!
Phil Douglis14-May-2004 20:18
Thanks, dR, for your comment on this shot. Walking towards the Great Pyramids was one of the most moving experiences I have had in all of my years of traveling. I am glad that those cloud plumes were there, and that I had the right kind of film in camera, the right lens in place, and the ideal person in the foreground. All I had to do was to frame and shoot. It was a dream-like, almost out-of-body feeling. In retrospect, I feel very fortunate to have made this image -- which summed up exactly how I felt about what I was seeing before me.
Guest 14-May-2004 14:17
Powerful depiction of an awesome creation... I love the muted color tones, composition, graininess and the wide angle effect. Just an amazing shot... dream-like, moody, spiritual and mystical in it's visual effect and it's overall content. Glad to have found this.
Guest 25-Apr-2004 08:34
ahh i like this.. looking far..
Phil Douglis21-Apr-2004 03:10
Thank you, Ray. Coming from you, that's high praise, indeed. It's an old photograph, but one that seems to hold up well over the years. I'll gladly accept such parentage.
Guest 14-Apr-2004 23:41
Extremely surreal! Out of this world image. Bastard child of Magritte & Dali. Very intriguing, moody piece, Phil. One of your most memorable image for sure.
Phil Douglis28-Nov-2003 01:42
Thank you, Marek, for your very special interpretation of this image. I am thrilled by the intricate workings of your imagination. To see the Great Pyramids as a frontier, border, line of defense, and passage to the other side is a gift. You have made this photograph mean so much more to me now that you have voiced this concept. The clouds as an emission from the ancient cosmic generator -- souls escaping -- is another profound impression. Although none of these ideas have occurred to me until now, they make sense. The Pyramids are tombs, built thousands of years ago to guarantee their occupants immortality, and in a sense, that is exactly what they have accomplished. The mystique of Ancient Egypt still lives, and I tried to capture a sense of that by making this photograph in the way I did.
Guest 27-Nov-2003 22:33
After the tiger, this one stuck in my memory the most. I love the completely unconventional perspective, simply by being an 'ordinary', 'non-catalogue' one. The figure is us, and you've caught it perfectly, not allowing the head to break the horizon line. This gives the feeling of humility in the face of an overwhelming experience. The cropping of the pyramids suggests that there is a whole line of them extending into infinity at both ends. This suggests a frontier, a border, a line of defense, a passage to the other side. The clouds could be emissions from the ancient 'cosmic generator'... souls escaping...
Phil Douglis22-Oct-2003 22:48
Thanks, Vanessa, for summing up what this photograph says to you. I am fascinated by your interpretation regarding the slow pace of the figure contrasted to the quickly moving clouds. Janer saw the dream, Bailey felt the weight of his step, centuries of endurance and enlightenment. To you, this image is about the varying pace of time itself -- an idea that I only sensed,, more than envisioned when I took this photograph back in 1984. We live only for a sliver of time, compared to these 4,000 year old tombs, which once promised eternity for those who occupied them. And this picture itself rides through time -- for me, my moment of awe will always live within this image itself.
Vanessa Y 22-Oct-2003 18:33
This is my favorite photo from the Pre-digital Phil Era. Everything about this picture is mystical. The clouds and the sky certainly add to the dream like quality this image evokes. Like the man in foreground trekking forward, so do the clouds, only his steps are heavy, while the clouds seem to race toward their enigmatic destination.
Phil Douglis20-Oct-2003 02:13
BZ -- one of the reasons I chose to post this particular image was to share it with you and the other photographers here who rely on mysterious components as central elements in their own work. "Centuries of endurance" is a perfect theme for this image. I was concentrating so hard on the symbolic power of the Great Pyramids themselves that I did not fully appreciate the message brought to this picture by this man, and his long walk to wisdom, until you so eloquently pointed it out. Phil
Bailey Zimmerman19-Oct-2003 21:15
Oh Phil....this is magic!!
The weight of his steps...the centurys of endurance!!
I love his enlightened path.
Just Beautiful!!!
Guest 19-Oct-2003 14:15
Very effective mysterious picture with a dramatic mood. The tension make also the picture working very well, I love it. And again your very interesting description of why it works, wonderful, thank a lot. Kind regards, Dirk
Phil Douglis18-Oct-2003 19:41
Jane, this image was a realization of lifelong dream to see the Pyramids, so a dreamlike quality is certainly fitting. I was very fortunate to have arrived at this particular moment in time -- those clouds were magical and it was my joy to get the most out of them.
Guest 18-Oct-2003 15:44
Your comments explain very well "why it works"
My first impression was about the dream like quality. clutter, every part and shape is symbolic
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