Using Juxtaposition in Street Photography

· 15.November.2017

What is Juxtaposition? Like its pronunciation, juxtaposition is one of those compositional rules that seems tricky at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. The word ‘juxtaposition’ is just a fancy word for ‘contrast.’ To be specific— juxtaposition is when you put two opposite things together, and the contrast of those two things becomes interesting.

For example:

  • fat person next to skinny person
  • tall person next to short person
  • dark colours next to light colours
  • circles next to rectangles
  • old people next to young

To create a juxtaposition, we must have at least two objects or concepts in our scene. You can also have more. If we use physical objects as a juxtaposition, they must each have a strong presence within the frame. Our eyes must be drawn to each of them individually to allow our brain to process the contrast between them. When we use concepts or moods as a juxtaposition, we must make it clear what each of those concepts are. This is somewhat more difficult than using physical objects as the viewer needs not only to identify the concepts but also to process how they contrast together.

Examples of Juxtaposition and how to apply them in daily photography:

1. Scale – the term scale is commonly used to compare sizes. This can be effectively used as a juxtaposition tool while framing on the streets.

2. Shadow – the concept of shadow itself is contrasting to the subject. When used effectively, it can serve as a juxtaposition tool.

3. Background – contrasting backgrounds combined with a strong subject create amazing juxtaposition effects.

4. Mirror reflection – using mirrors to capture reflection can also be used as a juxtaposition tool.

5. Colour – an important aspect of any photo is colour. Through combining it effectively with light, one can achieve beautifully exposed images. It can also be used as a juxtaposition tool giving viewers a striking perception.

6. Emotions – as a photographer I try my best to connect with my viewers through visual storytelling. I believe that if an image has the element of emotion, it is bound to get noticed and remembered for a long time. Examples of emotions could be:

  • Grief / Sorrow
  • Humour
  • Anger
  • Love/ Affection
  • Religious sentiments/ patriotism and so on.

7. Diptych – another very unique way of using juxtaposition in street photography is applying diptych. The word has derived from the Greek word diptukha, which means placing two pieces of writing tablets side by side.


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