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Archive for Sunday, June 7, 2009

Behind the Lens: Juxtaposition can make a photograph

Farm Security Administration photographer Dorothea Lange captured this juxtaposition of subjects in this 1937 image titled “Toward Los Angeles CA.” For a gallery of other juxtaposition images, visit LJWorld.com.

Farm Security Administration photographer Dorothea Lange captured this juxtaposition of subjects in this 1937 image titled “Toward Los Angeles CA.” For a gallery of other juxtaposition images, visit LJWorld.com.

June 7, 2009

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I was driving through Lecompton looking for a feature photograph when I spotted a woman mowing her yard. Not usually a scene worthy of a photograph. But in this case, the woman was pulling her mower near a row of riding mowers. The photograph captured the humorous contrast between the subject matter. This is a good example of juxtaposition, a visual device I enjoy and use often.

Capturing a relationship between subjects in a photograph so that each relates to the other doesn’t require any technical proficiency. It just takes an alert eye and the recognition of situations where opposites and contradictions, similar and dissimilar subjects can be illuminated. By drawing the readers’ attention to juxtaposition you are creating a new perception of a subject or event. I like to think of it as a visual riddle of sorts.

A majority of my humorous photographs have some amount of juxtaposition. But juxtaposition in photographs can convey many different meanings. In one tongue-in-cheek but telling juxtaposition, famous Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange photographed two men with a suitcase and pack walking down a long, treeless highway. In the frame at right is a big billboard with a picture of a man reclining in a chair and the words, “Next time try the train. Relax.” One moment you smile at the incongruity of the image, and on second thought you identify with the plight of rural Americans during that era.

Whether making people smile, attempting a political statement or just creating interesting visual riddles, juxtaposition in photography is a creative communicative device available to all observant photographers.

Comments

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 6 months ago

Mike,

Thanks for the lesson on juxtaposition. The photos truly speak for themselves. (on a side note, the thumbnail/gallery links doesn't work, says page not found so I cannot view photos in a larger size).

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