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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Fifteen: Making travel portraits that define personality and character. > Man at leisure, Lhasa, Tibet, 2004
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Man at leisure, Lhasa, Tibet, 2004

Tall straw hat, wispy goatee, long shirt, a seat on the doorstep of a neighborhood temple, and a relaxed attitude accumulate meaning in this portrait of a Tibetan gentleman. I made several images of this man, and his expression never changed. He looks as if he is about to ask a question but canít find the words to do so. (And if he did, I doubt if I would understand them.) I anchored the composition with the large doorstep embellishment in the right foreground, which leads us back into the heart of the picture, where the man and another doorstep embellishment await at center. The image then moves us to the third and final doorstep embellishment in the left background. Each of them gets progressively smaller as they recede into and through the frame. The man becomes part of the architecture through a series of rhythmic vertical repetitions that pull us into and through this picture. Yet he is emphasized by the vivid primary blue color of his shirt, which is much stronger than the more delicate colors in the building that surrounds him.

Leica Digilux 2
1/125s f/3.4 at 19.1mm iso100 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis29-Nov-2005 23:46
Thanks, Mia, for this wonderful story. You show me that this image has stimulated your imagination, which is what expressive photographs are designed to do. Was I "especially inspired" that day? Absolutely. I was with a tour group, and when you are with a tour group, you often must sacrifice the freedom of exploration and discovery that is so important in making expressive images. But on this afternoon, we were granted three hours of "free time" in Lhasa to roam and explore on our own, and however we wished. I love to prowl the narrow streets of ancient places, and come upon people who may rarely face a camera. It happened here, and I am glad you found it worth studying and thinking about. Thank you again, Mia, for coming to my galleries. Your feelings, thoughts, and ideas bring new insights, which I can then use in my teaching.
Mia 29-Nov-2005 22:14
This man looks like he had a decent life, maybe difficult, but fulfilling. We kind of feel an “intelligent” serenity; he is not naive and life has taught him lessons. He probably has children and grandchildren and he feels good about what he has done, and where he is now, physically and mentally. He does not feel threatened by the photographer and the sun or the bright light seems a bit strong for his eyes – the only element of tension in the picture. Maybe he also wanted to talk to you – he seems open to communication. He looks relaxed and comfortable (e.g. shoes, shirt), his clothes are clean and well coordinated (undershirt matches pants, socks, shoes).
He is sitting in front of a simple temple – temples are usually safe and comforting places. The simplicity of the temple is also emphasized by the fact that the columns are attached to the building by sorts of metal hinges close to the top, the door looks old, the red paint peels off from the beams, uncovering old blue paint matching the gentleman’s shirt.
Yet, his sitting position looks somewhat similar to the shape of the columns, especially the two left ones which seem to have a “foot” at the base.
Element of Incongruity: the graffiti on the left column with initials starting with a “B” in occidental writing.
This picture provides an impression of beauty, simplicity and serenity. Phil, you must have been especially inspired that day!
Phil Douglis16-Jul-2004 19:12
Thank you for pointing out the merger of the hands with the decorative circle behind it. I was too involved in relating his body to the layered progression of this series of decorative door way embellishments to even notice that, until now.
Tim May16-Jul-2004 18:41
I like how this person is surrounded by the timeless beauty of manmade ornamentation. I also like the small detail that his hands are surrounded by the circle of the decoration.
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