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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Twenty Six : Using reflections to transform reality > Plank, Willemstad, The Netherlands, 2005
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Plank, Willemstad, The Netherlands, 2005

The canal surrounding the ancient Dutch town of Willemstad lies within deep banks. I am not sure about the intended function of this plank, which I found standing in stagnant water and leaning against the high wooden side of the canal. Is it a gangplank used for boats? Or is it a duck plank, allowing the canalís resident ducks to have easy access to land? In any event, it was the reflection that inspired this image. As the plank enters the water, it shimmers off into two directions. The underwater portion of the plank leads left, the reflection leads right. Both are mysteriously suspended in darkness. Reversing directions, we see them as alternative paths of ascent, merging above the waterline into a final climb carrying us up beyond the limits of the frame. Going up or going down, the plank tells its story according to how we choose to interpret it.

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Phil Douglis13-Jul-2005 22:51
Thanks, Marisa, for bringing still another facet of this image into play -- the symbolic meaning of that Y as a crossroads. Catriona also implied as much when she mentions "she could talk about some metaphor to do with ladders climbing out of the dark depths..." and then she declined to do so. But you, in effect, are doing just that. You see the gangplank, as well as its reflection and refraction, as an emergence from the dark waters of the unconscious -- and then dividing into a symbolic choice of unknowns. You obviously read this image as metaphor for the unknowns all of us will face in the course of our lives. And I did as well, as you can see in my response to Catriona's comment below.
Guest 13-Jul-2005 19:38
You know Phil... I always thought that a good metaphor of the life could be an 'Y'... and this photograph is an extraordinary example of that.
I feel that all of us as humans -at least once in the life- arrive to a crossroad (the 'Y'), a very big and important crossroad. Which way to choose and with what consequences??
But also, with this photograph, I can find another dimension to this Y. The way you captured here the plank (a stair... a very simple one) and the double reflection is amazing. We can find the real plank in the upper right corner; then, towards the left side, we can see how the plank sinks in the water until disappearing; and, finally, towards the right side down, has appeared the reflection of the plank.
I instantly read this picture from left to right, and from down to up. And so, what I see here is an emerging life from the dark waters of the unconscious and collective world till arrive to the surface limit. In that point, the crossroad has appeared. Which way...? If I continue my way up... ups! I don't know what's up there because the frame just cut the rest. So, the unknown is waiting for me there... If I follow the descending way, I feel that I'll arrive to the emptiness: the void and the darkness wait for me there, down there... because the plank ends steeply (maybe a consequence of the illusory reflection?).
But what is absolutely beautiful of this composition is that you can read it in so many different ways, discovering different feelings, roads, emotions, places... in each one: because we are the ones to choose which way... and maybe, during all our life, we will walk all those roads.
Phil Douglis04-Jul-2005 18:28
I am delighted you have found such pleasure in the image, Catriona.The more I look at it, the more I see reality, reflection and refraction each going off in different directions. Up and down, dark and light, extended and truncated, these are paths that can represent the choices we face as we go through life. However if you wish to just focus on the quiet beauty of the scene, be my guest. As long as it makes you more aware of the ability of reflection to transform reality by abstracting it, it is a valuable image.
Guest 04-Jul-2005 11:10
This would have to be my favourite one Phil. I was first drawn to it by the light colour of the plank contrasted against the rich dark colours of the wood and the water. I also like the way that you have captured the reflection and refraction of the plank, leading the eys in opposite directions.

As for a meaning of the image, I'm not sure. I could talk about some metaphor to do with ladders climbing out of the dark depths but that is not what I see here. I really like the image because you have captured something, abstracted it, and used contrast to direct us to something beautiful that one would normally miss.

Having ducks that nest in our backgarden every winter and always manage to lead the newly hatched ducklings into the swimming pool, I see the need for such a plank!
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