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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Twenty Six : Using reflections to transform reality > Memling’s Eyes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005
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Memling’s Eyes, Bruges, Belgium, 2005

Past and present come together as Bruges' opera house is reflected on a glass-covered poster featuring the gaze of Flemish artist Hans Memling. The poster features a reproduction of Memling’s self-portrait, painted in the 1400s. The cracking paint of the portrait brings an aged texture to the image and the huge eyes float within the softly reflected building. The cracked paint and the soft reflection unify and symbolize –- it looks like a composite montage made with Photoshop. But this is image is not an electronic blend or a double exposure. It’s an abstract, surreal reflection with multiple interpretations.

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Phil Douglis27-Apr-2007 17:07
As always, Zandra, you offer a richly humanistic interpretation of my images. It is an all seeing pair of eyes here that gaze out at us. It's the huge scale of those eyes that gives them such power and wisdom. You are right -- most people would look at this glass covered poster and see the portrait of Memling. They would see his whole face, but would fail to isolate on those haunting eyes, and would not notice the reflections on the glass that give the image its context. As photographers, we have a chance to give our viewers an experience that they themselves might never have. We must force our camera to see selectively and emphatically by isolating those eyes, enlarging them by moving close, and juxtaposing the reflections upon them. The result: an image that does just what you say it does, Zandra. It offers us a metaphorical guardian angel.
Guest 27-Apr-2007 14:19
The all seeing it an angle watching over us as we go about in our daily life..or maybe even god himself...always present...but only seen when searching and looking for him. I wonder how many people have past by the same street, the same window, the same framed painting and not seen teh beauty, meaning and expression in the reflection. I wonder how many have thought...i wish there was no reflection. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to make an image all of their own, as you did here. These are kind eyes, looking out over the world...this building, the people passing by it. Hidden in a painting but brougt to life by one viewer who saw more, who saw beound the picture and captured the dpeth in it. A depth whcih is equally reflected in the eyes. It is beautiful and haunting and safe at the same time. Gives me the feeling that there is always someone watching over us. Without judging, only watching and perhaps, when needed, interacts when asked for when somoen comes looking and searching...
Phil Douglis19-Oct-2005 22:11
Thank you, Galina, for these delightful thoughts, linking reflection and expression as concepts. You then go beyond that to point out the positive value of the "complications," that can result from reflections. In this case, abstraction, which, as you say, gives a hint, yet leaves room for the viewer to create his or her own vision out of my own vision.
Galina Stepanova19-Oct-2005 18:34
Reflections are treasure. Time, dimensions, meanings, suggestions, emotions, surrealism... actually any definition would work, since reflect life and express life are close enough. But Reflections also add (!) complication, which reflects life even better. This picture is masterpiece, it mixes together time and place, art and life, giving a hint, but leave viewer with the freedom of his thought.
Words are helpless when music sound…
Phil Douglis10-Aug-2005 16:57
Memling does haunt Bruges, Dandan. His ghost seems to be everywhere you look. As I told Jen, you feel his presence the most in the hospital where he spent so much time, and which is now a museum of his work.
Guest 10-Aug-2005 13:42
This is quite hunting. It seems that Memling’s sprite never left the town; he has been watching everything happening there…
Phil Douglis21-Jul-2005 17:04
Thanks, Jen, for adding your voice to the many who have responded to this image. I am moved by what you see here -- without even knowing the story of Memling and the world in which he lived and painted. He knew much suffering. In fact, he almost died from an illness, but his life was saved by the care and love given to him in a crude and poor hospital. Memling did not forget the people who cared for him. When he became a famous painter, he gave much of his best work to the people who saved his life. Today that hospital is the Memling Museum, and we can see that work still displayed in the very place where he fought for his life. So your comments about sadness and heart break are extremely perceptive, Jen. I felt it when I made this shot, only hours after visiting the old hospital that is now a fantastic museum. I wish I could have merged that hospital into his eyes, but the opera house will have to provide a substitute.
Jennifer Zhou21-Jul-2005 08:22
When I click in, I know this picture is about reflections. But I just can't separate the eyes and the opera house into two. This doesn't look like a picture but a piece of painting, it is like every bit of it was painted by your own hands.

The texture makes me to interpret the story as a city in a memory of a broken heart. But what contradictive is the eyes show a very strong spirit beside the sadness, and the red/yellow warm color make it much more than a broken heard story. The city and the artist, they all have a history, and somewhat related, blending in, on a very deep level.
Phil Douglis20-Jul-2005 18:05
Thanks, Augustinus, for coming to this image. It was an idea that came to me as I passed the poster and saw the reflection on the glass merge with the gaze of Memling. I am always looking at reflections and what they might say when merged with reality. In this case, it worked beautifully, but I had to shoot it five or six times to get the eyes in the right position. This is the great joy of digital shooting -- you just shoot until you get what you want.
Guest 20-Jul-2005 08:40
This picture is indeed very strong with the power from the gaze of the eyes, and i really adore your brilliant idea.
Tami05-Jul-2005 23:22
Great capture Phil!
Phil Douglis04-Jul-2005 20:42
Thanks, Cory. It was my hope that this image would offer food for the mind as well as the eye. Apparently, it is doing just that.
Guest 04-Jul-2005 19:36
This image is remarkable. I have not enjoyed a Photo this much in quite some time. Wonderful work on this capture Phil.
Phil Douglis04-Jul-2005 18:22
Thanks, Mo and Catriona, for your comments on this image. I was drawn to this subject because of its ambiguity. I could see that the intensity of the eyes and the coloration of the reflection were equally prominent in my viewfinder, which asks the very question you ask here, Catriona. Which is the reality and which is the reflection? I think the fact that the cracking paint permeates both the image of the eyes and the opera house creates a bond that makes reflection and reality one and the same.
Guest 04-Jul-2005 11:25
Very clever Phil! I like this image because it really made me think. What is the reflection - the face or the building? I showed the image to some friends and we sat discussing it, answering the question. There were differing opinions and when we read your comentary, we all saw the true reflection. It does look like a composite montage mage using Photoshop. What does make it special is that it was not 2 images combined into one - you saw it as shown and captured it.
monique jansen04-Jul-2005 07:37
Well spotted, this is a truly abstract picture, almost Dali-like
Phil Douglis02-Jul-2005 18:14
Thanks, Alister and Kal, for commenting on this image. I think this image refers to de Vinci because of the power of the eyes. Leonardo knew the value of the eyes in defining character and expressing meaning, and used it well. I have always worked under his spell (who hasn't?). I see sadness as well, Kal -- your question is a good one. The reasons for his sadness will be defined by our own imaginations and the contexts we bring to this image.
Kal Khogali02-Jul-2005 13:33
Eyes of the past, long gone now, look at a building of the past still here. I wonder have these eyes been watching through the passage of time, as guardians of Bruge's heritage. There is a sad look about his eyes, I wonder is he sad at what he sees, or at his own aging.
alibenn02-Jul-2005 08:39
this is superb, for some reason it reminds me of a de Vinci, your expressive creation juices were flowing when you saw this image..
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