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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Seventeen: Memories in Metal and Stone: How monuments, sculpture, and tombs express ideas. > Jacques Cartierís Tomb, St. Vincentís Cathedral, St. Malo, France, 2004
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Jacques Cartierís Tomb, St. Vincentís Cathedral, St. Malo, France, 2004

The understated tomb of this great French explorer, whose exploits gave France claim to Canada, would not have made much of a picture in itself. But the context given to it by the flowers, color, and light Ė and the way I chose to compose the image -- adds beauty, mystery, and meaning. The light streaming through the great stained glass windows of the church has turned the gray stone floor to a soft pink, changing the austere, grim nature of what is essentially room of the dead, to a chamber of warmth. I composed the image as a series of repeating diagonals Ė the tomb itself is the last of them. Using my spot meter, I exposed for the brightest part of the picture Ė the white flowers in the floral arrangement on top of the tomb. As result, the entire picture gets darker, particularly the shadowy background. I wanted the eye to move across the pink slabs to the tomb and then into the darkness beyond, creating a metaphor for both the nature of death as well as Cartierís challenge in life. The tomb is like a ship, sailing off the edge of the world into the unknown, its flowers symbolizing life, the darkness of death. Cartier, who once successfully explored the unknown, now floats upon an eternal sea.

Canon PowerShot G5
1/125s f/4.0 at 11.2mm full exif

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Phil Douglis02-May-2005 20:33
I am glad you saw comfort in this image, Ruth. It is somewhat unusual to draw comfort from an image of a tomb. Death is not the most comforting of subjects. However, given the context of death as an unknown, and Cartier as an explorer, everything changes as we quietly journey here into what symbolically has become eternal space.
ruthemily02-May-2005 20:10
my thoughts are similar to Maureen's. i could sit and look at this for a while. usually tombs scare me, but this speaks to me of peace and freedom...forever.
Phil Douglis31-Oct-2004 20:40
What a thoughtful remark, Maureen. This image does speak of quiet comfort, provided largely by the interplay of shadow and light.
Guest 31-Oct-2004 18:56
I just had to quietly take this in, and when I wondered why, I realized it was because it brings great comfort. Into the light.
Phil Douglis26-Sep-2004 01:32
Thanks, Bruce for your kind words on this image. Since I always compose my images on an LCD screen, and usually use a spot meter at the point of focus, I don't generally need to do a lot of experimentation with different exposures. In this case, by simply focusing and refocusing on those different bright spots within this frame, I could see exactly what kind of effect I was getting with actually having to make a lot of images. The spot meter itself has become one of my most critical tools. I now find myself "painting with light" on my LCD screen, and the results are pictures such as this. I am not really into technology, Bruce. It's just another tool. My main thrust as a photographer is to express ideas and stimulate thinking. Other photographers might prefer to make a roughly exposed picture and then play with it later in Photoshop, which is fine for them. But I would much rather spend my time shooting instead of laboring over a computer. Most of my images are created in the camera, not in post-processing. I use Photoshop to fine tune or enhance my ideas, but never as the basis for them. I don't ever shoot in RAW either. I just don't have the time to tinker with conversions, etc. I prefer to work with the highest quality jpeg image I can make right out of the camera, and have been very happy with the results.
Guest 25-Sep-2004 20:00
Simple, and beautiful. Your skill at capturing the light is exceptional. Did you experiment with different exposures until you were satisfied?
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