Juxtaposition In Photography – What Is It?

In the Foundations in Photography it was suggested that we take a look at a photo made by Kevin Carter in 1993 whilst he was filming the famine and drought in Sudan. The photo is of a sick child with a vulture in the background. A disturbing photo, that won Carter a Pulitzer prize, and also added to the guilt that he felt about photographing people who had been tortured, killed, suffering the effects of apartheid, war and natural disasters. (Neal; 2017)

The New York Times reported that the child continued on her journey after the photo was taken and that the vulture was chased away. Carter committed suicide on July 28th 1994. The juxtaposition in his photo was one of life and death. (Keller; 1994)

A powerful example of juxtaposition but there are many other ideas of what the word means. In my mind juxtaposition is about two opposing objects that create a dynamic subject. In my photo below the man in the skeleton mask wearing the chains and the leather jacket is in contrast and opposing the “church open” sign.

Street Photography

Eric Kim puts it simply “To be specific— juxtaposition is when you put two opposite things together, and the contrast of those two things becomes interesting.” (Kim; 2017) He goes through several ideas that relate to contrasting emotion, social circumstances, activity, past and present, and direction. For me the most enjoyable photo is one where he shows subjects versus shadow. I am drawn to the humour that is created by the womans shadow and how it distorts her features.

Shadow Eric KimFig. 1. Person and Shadow (2017)

Jason Row explores many themes including scale, colour and concept, as well as mood/emotion and age. The two examples below are good photos and demonstrate his ideas. They are themes that I will log in my mind as I am sure that I can make use of them at a later date, although I do prefer street photography based juxtaposition.

Fig. 2. A Juxtaposition Using Size (2016), Fig. 3. Scale, Colour and Concept are all featured in this shot (2016)

The photo that I appreciated most in this short excursion into researching juxtaposition is called Emoticons. It came second in the Curators Choice Award in the World Street Photography Awards 2015 (Kujaja). The photo by Paola Saetti captures contrasting emotions and also the diversity between the new age and maturity.

Emoticons-by-Paola-SaettiFig. 4. Emoticons (2015)

Although this has been a quick review it is something that will reinforce ideas and themes in my mind, so that when I am out with my camera I can be more aware of how ot create interesting photos.

References and Illustrations

Figure 1; Kim, E; 2017; Person and Shadow; At: http://erickimphotography.com/blog/juxtaposition/ (accessed on 13/11/2017)

Figure 2; Row, J; 2016; A Juxtaposition Using Size; At: https://www.lightstalking.com/juxtaposition-examples/ (accessed on 13/11/2017)

Figure 3; Row, J; 2016; Scale, Colour and Concept are all featured in this shot; At; https://www.lightstalking.com/juxtaposition-examples/ (accessed on 13/11/2017)

Figure 4; Saetti, P; 2015; Emoticons; At: https://www.kujaja.com/en/photo-competitions/winner/street-photography-awards-2015-juxtaposition-5 (accessed on 13/11/2017)

Keller, B; 1994; Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Winner For Sudan Photo, Is Dead at 33; In: The New York Times [online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/29/world/kevin-carter-a-pulitzer-winner-for-sudan-photo-is-dead-at-33.html (accessed on 13/11/2017)

Kim, E; 2017; 10 Tips How to Create Juxtaposition in Your Photography; At: erickimphotography.com/blog/juxtaposition/

Neal, LM; 2017; How Photojournalism Killed Kevin Carter; At: http://all-that-is-interesting.com/kevin-carter (accessed on 13/11/2017)


6 Replies to “Juxtaposition In Photography – What Is It?”

  1. I took this picture of the Big Buddha with the Chinese flag in the foreground in Hong Kong. What I love about it is the juxtaposition of the religious icon and the flag representing a government opposed to religion.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well researched and written Richard, I really enjoyed reading it. Juxtaposition is used a lot in street photography and there is a current school of thought that some of the cheesier shots are becoming cliched, but I agree there’s definitely a place for it. I liked your photo of the church open / skeleton 🙂

    There was a shot I took and liked contrasting the concrete jungle of the Barbican with a lady’s bright orange clothing..but I can’t seem to copy it onto this comment unfortunately.

    Cheers, Andy

    Liked by 1 person

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