Category Archives: Exercises part 4 (reading photographs)

Exercise: Elliott Erwitt (page 98)

Look carefully at Erwitt’s image and write some notes about how the subject matter is placed within the frame. How has Erwitt structured this image? What do you think the image is saying? How does the structure contribute to this meaning?

Image by Elliott Erwitt

At first glance we are led to think that the four legs and feet on the left belong to two people. It is only afterwards that we realise that two of the legs belong to a very tall dog. The little dog on the right is almost at ground level and we are made to feel that we are laying on the ground at his height. We see the whole of the little dog but the bigger subjects are cropped at the knees which ensures that we see the dog on the right as the main subject. He is dressed in a coat and hat which gives him a quirky identity and provides an element of humour in the image. The little dog is placed in accordance with the rule of thirds which also gives him a prominent position within the frame and adds to his importance in the image. We can never know whether the Great Dane’s hind legs were included in the original image but any cropping out of the back legs only serves to aid the illusion that they are human legs at first glance. The little dog’s legs are only as high as the lady’s ankles but yet he is the focus of the image, not the larger dog.

I am a dog lover and I can see how this image gives a ‘voice’ to a tiny, perhaps overlooked, little dog. It makes him important. He is important enough to be photographed as a main subject. Perhaps Erwitt was a dog lover and noticed and celebrated all the little ones.

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