Category Archives: Project 1: The Language of Photography

A4: Project 1: The Language of Photography

Before you read any further, 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?

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Erwitt, one of Magnums founding photographers, was a master of the decisive moment in street photography. He apparently did not plan his images but just reacted to what he saw on the street (1). Believing this,  it is hard to understand how he managed to capture the above image. He must have noticed the juxtaposition of the dogs, humans and little dogs legs. Then he got down at the level of the small dog to make him the ‘star’ of the composition. The dog is really comical with the hat and so insignificantly small compared to the other dog that I take to be a Great Dane and their owner. The little dogs expression is a little scared and maybe suspicious. He is unused to being the centre attraction of any image because of his sister – The Great Dane. This is what makes the image amusing.

What is the image saying?

The image is composed of three distinct sections as illustrated below.


The image  follows the rule of thirds almost perfectly. The main point of interest, the little dog, is placed in the third vertical quadrant on the right. The image is also divided into thirds from front to back hroitontally. In the foreground we have the pavement. The main components of the image are placed in the middle and the fading background is to the rear.

In addition  the image can be further divided according to the Phi recangle


The little dogs face is exactly centered where the lines cross. This makes it a very strong point in the image giving the little dog the ‘star’ role.

There are other details which make the image well balanced. The dog’s lead on the right is balanced by the tree in the background on the left. the big dogs legs on the left are balanced by the archway to the background on the right. This pulls the image together both horizontally and vertically.

Until I had to look in depth at the image for this exercise I had never noticed some of these details. I always wondered where the rest of the Great Dane’s body was. Looking in detail I found a small part of her body in the top left corner. I asked myself would that be cropped out if the image was created today leaving the image more sterile. I also noticed that the Great Dane was female. Did Erwitt want to highlight this too? The male is tiny and the female is enormous… Maybe but we will never know.

Having done this analysis I asked myself “Do I like the image”. I have to admit my opinion has not changed. I have always found this image a visual challenge…… It is all those parallel lines……

  1. 14 Lessons Elliott Erwitt Has Taught Me About Street Photography. 2016. 14 Lessons Elliott Erwitt Has Taught Me About Street Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2016].