photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Thirty One: Interpreting cultural festivals -- Mexico’s Day of the Dead > Free Spirits, Parade of La Katrina, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005
previous | next

Free Spirits, Parade of La Katrina, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005

La Katrina is one of the Mexican popular phrases for death. Lady Death is often depicted in Victorian dress. In San Miguel, the eve of The Day of The Dead is celebrated with a parade of La Katrina’s through the town's plaza. Dressed in 19th Century clothing and wearing hats, the Katrina’s, usually expatriates, paint their faces as skulls, and distribute treats to children and then head to a charity ball to raise funds for worthy causes. The ghostly women represent spiritual figures, and that is how I interpret them here. Once again using a full one-second exposure, and moving the camera while the shutter remained open, I was able to create a sense of flow that energizes this highly abstract image. There are two ghastly faces blurred within this image. Their huge circular hats appear to be moving, as do the blurred arms and hands. The image is surreal, expressing the arrival of the spirits of the dead themselves.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30
1s f/3.7 at 85.6mm iso200 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
Phil Douglis22-Feb-2011 17:46
Thank you, Carol -- I am glad you commented on this picture as a follow-up to the pbase message you sent me regarding your struggles shooting a Chinese New Year parade on a rainy night in San Francisco. Each of us was unable to make "traditional images" of our respective parades unless we poisoned them with blasts of artificial flash illumination. I never, ever use a flash, which forced me to take an untraditional approach here. By making use of blur, movement, and abstraction, I express not what I saw, but instead what I felt.
Carol E Sandgren21-Feb-2011 19:45
Yes, your image here certainly does convey a feeling of mysterious spirits in the air. I love the flowing motion, and no need at all for a sharp subject. I see what you mean about taking advantage of what one "doesn't" have, namely light in this case. Very expressive indeed!!
Phil Douglis22-Aug-2006 05:45
Spectral. A perfect word to sum up this image, Ceci. And the bones and ribs you see are wonderful too -- I had not even thought to see the flow of spirits as such things, but such is the value of another viewpoint. I like the extended hand reaching out to grab us at the bottom as well. Thanks for this delicious commentary. The Day of the Dead is a good example of a different take on death. I did not see this celebration, as a "more realistic and healthy approach to the topic of dying," however. So much of it seemed to me to be rooted in fantasy. I enjoyed it as something that is unique to the combined Indian and European traditions that infuse Mexican culture with its color, energy, and great passion. These qualities continue to permeate American culture as well, particularly here in the Southwest.
Guest 22-Aug-2006 05:20
What a spectral success this photo is, Phil! It really gives me a sense of bones, ribs, gaping skulls and movement, and conjures a night street scene very strongly for me. I am fascinated with the Latino attitudes towards a topic that has been so "sanitized" and removed from our everyday experience, and feel that somehow theirs is the more realistic and healthy approach to the topic of dying. I love the bit of green in the middle of the picture, and the most expressive hands at the bottom.
Phil Douglis24-Jan-2006 04:51
Some pictures defy verbal analysis. They speak in symbols, not words. This is one of those pictures, Lisbeth.
Lisbeth Landstrøm14-Jan-2006 23:47
Sorry, no right words here. There are so much to explore - really a "long lasting" photo..
Phil Douglis11-Dec-2005 20:11
Kind of spooky? Dandan -- this is the eve of the Day of the Dead in San Miguel, a night when the spirits of the dead are supposed to be upon us. These are women dressed in Victorian gowns walking through the night with grinning skulls as faces. I wanted to be able to make an image that could express the feeling they gave me, rather than just describe the sight. And this was the result.
Guest 11-Dec-2005 11:09
This is really like "free spirits". It's kind of spooky...
Phil Douglis12-Nov-2005 19:18
You are right. I had to work on this -- a lot. I must have shot 100 files during this parade. The great majority of them did not express what I was I was feeling. Most of them were just softly focused mush. Yet the setting was incredible -- a 400 year old square at night, very spooky liturgical music playing over loudspeakers, hundreds of people milling around a handful of spectral young women in Victorian garb who were almost constantly in motion. I knew how I felt and what I wanted to say, and this image was a close as I could come in realizing my wishes photographically.
alibenn12-Nov-2005 10:21
This works extremely well Phil. A man who knew what he wanted. Big pre-visualisation and great execution (pardon the pun). How many frames did you shoot to get this one?
Type your message and click Add Comment
It is best to login or register first but you may post as a guest.
Enter an optional name and contact email address. Name
Name Email
help private comment