Composition: Juxtaposition

  • Pattern name: Juxtaposition
  • Problem or question: How to distribute content when you have some interesting subjects in a regular layout at the same plane or distance?
  • Visual elements: A set of geometrical or natural outlines, in the same plane, splits the frame separating clearly each subject.
  • Solution: Put or distribute the multiple subjects content in the same plane, into its own geometrical or natural frame, juxtapositionally, forming clusters of content. In studio photos this pattern is easily achieved because you control the whole scene. The most difficult situation is on natural or spontaneous scenarios (street, e.g.). In those contexts, the juxtaposition of elements really «emerges» from the content and the viewer is only responsible of the «correct» perspective to capture the different clusters in the same plane.
  • Technical implementation: Elements in juxtaposition are in the same focal plane most of the time. For that reason you might keep the lens aperture open, focus on one of the subjects, and also maintain a good sharp image.
  • Examples: This pattern is implemented commonly in group photos—persons, figures forming clusters—when the components are in the same plane and have visual and equal significance, and there’s also a natural or artificial separation. A classical example is the train image of the front page of the canonical book «The Americans» by Robert Frank. Each window on the train functions as frames to different people or groups, with a lot of meaningful content. Also, above the windows, you can see another line of clusters with reflections of what is in front the train. Another good example is the photo of woman shoes and a man taken in Mexico (1934) by Henri Cartier-Bresson. There are three clusters with a dark, surreal, meaning.


In the above picture there are at least 3 clusters. The first one is the image of the woman in the left side window. The second one is the image of the photographer with a grayish woman pointing to the left. And the third cluster is an imperceptible image of a face in the right edge of the image.

This pattern is related with the sub-framing composition pattern, when all the elements are distributed with similar divisions, commonly a squared form.






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