Juxtaposition Examples In Photography…Explained

By Jason Row / September 13, 2016

Last Updated on by

Juxtaposition Examples In Photography

Image by Dirk Heuser

Juxtaposition Examples In Photography:

  • What Does It Mean,

  • How To Apply It, And

  • How It Can Really Transform Your Images

Like it’s 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.

Juxtaposition Examples In Photography...Explained
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Ironically, you might often be using juxtaposition in your photography without even know you are doing it. However, a little knowledge can go a long way in the right hands. Today we are going to give you a basic overview of this powerful but underused photographic technique.

What Is Juxtaposition?

As photographers, we are well aware of contrast. Contrast defines the variation between different levels of light in our exposure. Juxtaposition has a very similar effect except that instead of light, we are using physical objects or concepts to create a visual contrast in our scene.

To create a juxtaposition, we must have at least two objects or concepts in our scene. You can also have more.

juxtaposition examples

A juxtaposition using size. By Jason Row Photography

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.

Perhaps a better way to demonstrate juxtaposition is visually rather than with words. So let’s take a look at some different types of Juxtaposition with photographs to demonstrate it.

Although the concept of using Juxtapositions in photography doesn't wholly apply to Landscapes (it applies all around us – street, portraits etc etc), we thought we'd show you a fantastic resource for really boosting your landscape skills…welcome The Landscape Photography Guide by Photzy.

Juxtaposition Examples Using Scale

Scale is a classic use of juxtaposition. It is both physical and conceptual at the same time. In this shot below there are in fact several types of juxtapositions taking place.

The obvious of many juxtaposition examples is scale, and this is multi levelled. The one that jumps out is the scale of the ship compared to the iceberg. However, if you look deeper, there is a juxtaposition between the people on the ship and the ship, as well as the inflatable boat and the ship.

There is a conceptual juxtaposition between the man-made ship and the beauty of nature in the Antarctica. Lastly, there is a juxtaposition in color. This is the contrast between the deep blue of the ocean and the ship and the white of the iceberg.

juxtaposition examples

Scale, color and concept are all featured in this shot. By Jason Row Photography

Juxtaposition Examples Using Irony

Irony can be a juxtaposition too.

It is a conceptual contrast that we often shoot without noticing it, particularly when shooting street photography. The image below was consciously taken with the idea to create an ironic juxtaposition between the static go slow sign and the speeding traffic.

Although the cars were not necessarily speeding, by using a slow shutter speed I gave the impression of speed to contrast the very static sign.

juxtaposition examples

Speeding past a Go Slow sign. Ironic juxtaposition. By Jason Row Photography

Juxtaposition Examples Using Mood

Juxtaposition of mood is often used in landscape photography. A beautiful sweeping landscape can look great in a single mood, for example a tranquil sunrise.

However, if you add in a secondary mood such as an impending storm on the horizon, the juxtaposition between the two can bring that landscape alive.

When we look at such a picture we feel the optimism of a new day contrasted with what might happen if the storm arrives. It is a very powerful compositional tool for landscape photographers.

Juxtaposition Examples In Photography...Explained

The optimism of a sunny day tempered by an impending storm. By Paulius Malinovskis

Juxtaposition Examples Using Age

Age is another classic use of juxtaposition.

It can be the contrast between a grandmother and her grandchild or in this case the contrast between the ancient and modern. The image below was taken in The City of London, a place teeming with juxtapositions.

In this case, the spire of the old church is completely isolated against the glass and steel of the Gherkin building. Other examples might be modern buses in front ancient monuments. Age-related juxtapositions are one of the most common varieties, they are all around us.

juxtaposition examples

Ancient and modern. By Jason Row Photography

Summary

At the top, I mentioned that we often shoot juxtapositions without even knowing it. The reason for this is that they are incredibly common things in everyday life.

Perhaps so common that we tend not to notice them. Next time you are out, with or without a camera, take the time to look out for those juxtapositions.

Understanding and shooting them is not difficult but what you need to do is to train your mind to see them. Once you are tuned into them, you will see them everywhere. This, in turn, will give you many more creative options for great compositions when out shooting.

Although the concept of using Juxtapositions in photography doesn't wholly apply to Landscapes (it applies all around us – street, portraits etc etc), we thought we'd show you a fantastic resource for really boosting your landscape skills…welcome The Landscape Photography Guide by Photzy.

Further Resources


About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer. He now concentrates on producing travel stock photography and video from around the world, and you can get to know him better here

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