Juxtaposition – definition, explanation and examples.


Collins Dictionary online.



(formal) the juxtaposition of two contrasting objects, images, or ideas is the fact that they are placed together or described together, so that the differences between them are emphasized ⇒ the juxtaposition of extreme wealth and poverty ⇒ This juxtaposition of brutal reality and lyrical beauty runs through Park’s stories.


proximity, adjacency, contact, closeness, vicinity, nearness, contiguity, propinquity



Jason Dunlop explains in his article how juxtaposition can be achieved in photographs. He tells us that at least two elements in a photograph need to be present with equal weight. He speaks about an instance where a drunk man might be walking past a poster advertising cheap alcohol and this would be a strong example of juxtaposition.

Juxtaposition can be more subtle and unless the context of an image is known then the impact isn’t as  great. Dunlop illustrates this with a photograph of two men on stage at a concert with  a rainbow arc in the moisture surrounding  them. The impact is strongest once we know it is a ‘Gay Pride’ concert.

To view the article and examples:



Examples of Juxtaposition in Street photography.

Vivian Maier’s ‘Striporama’  ( Maloof collection, Portfolio, Street 1, Slide 18) shows a classic comical use of Juxtaposition in a composition that shows a backdrop that consists of an advertisement in a window of ‘long-legged lovely ladies’ and the face of an ‘excitable middle aged male’  gazing upon the delight before him. Vivian Maier either by design or by picking ‘the moment’, photographs a woman in dishevelled ragged clothing doing a handstand against the window in stark contrast to the advertisement. A child in similar attire is stood to one side completely disengaged.

I flicked through my London Street Photography  book 1860 – 2010.  The book is chronological and much of the earlier work is merely photographs that document London life and in only one photograph do I see a possible deliberate attempt at juxtaposition but it could have just been good timing too. The image is taken in 1902 by an anonymous photographer. It shows a ‘working class’ youth selling ‘trumpets’.  The child is wearing a straw boater and ‘working’ attire, whilst the potential customers purposefully walking past him dressed in a ‘middle class’ dress code of stiff necked shirts, bowlers and jackets.

It isn’t until the 1960’s that I can see evidence of purposefully composed street photographs. Jerome Liebling photographs a Doorman outside Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair who is looking down on a cloth capped working man, who is  looking back up at him, with a look of distain on his face.

It’s not until the 1980’s that deliberate statement making compositions are apparent in Paul Trevor’s photography. The image ‘Sclater Street, E1, 1987’ shows a heavily pregnant female laden down with shopping and pushchair, whilst stood in front of a brick wall. The graffiti on the wall states “Life Begins.”

Into the 1990’s and juxtaposition really starts to come into its own with Mimi Mollica’s ‘Homeless’ in 1997.  There are two elements to this image and the first is where the poster behind the man sleeping rough shows a photograph of a stage show with 3 men carrying a 4th man in a horizontal ‘show girl’ position. This position of the 4th man is exactly parallel to the homeless man but the lifestyle of both men are in stark contrast to each other. The second element is the writing situated at either end of the man sleeping. “It’s furious and it’s fun.” “Cafe fresh and sexy, touching and true”.

Humour and juxtaposition arrives with the millennium photography of Adrian Fisk’s ‘It’s Pants in Wlathamstow’, David Gibson’s ‘London 2008’, Nils Jorgensen’s ‘Car Fraud’ and Stephen McLaren’s ‘Big Ben’.


Example in Landscape Photography:

Manuel Alvarez Diestro uses a number of graphic design tools to give an entirely different perspective on the Egyptian Pyramids. Rather then a ‘glossy brochure’ style of image , he finds vantage points from barren industrial areas.  Due to the distance in the frame the size of the pyramid dwarfed by advertising hoarding, telegraph poles and similar urban landscape furniture.

The set can be seen here.





Unknown. (2014). Juxtaposition. Available: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/juxtaposition. Last accessed 01/04/2014.

Dunlop,J. (2014). How to use Juxtaposition effectively in photo’s. Available: http://www.expertphotography.com/advanced-composition-techniques-juxtaposition/. Last accessed 01/04/2014.

Maloof Collection. (2014). Vivian Maier (Street 1). Available: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/street-1/#slide-18. Last accessed 02/04/2014.

Seabourne, M & Sparham, A (2011). London Street Photography. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing/ Museum of London. 24, 77, 86,87,95,103-111.

Unknown. (2011). Pyramids by Manuel Alvaraz Diestro. Available: http://www.dezeen.com/2011/10/26/pyramids-by-manuel-alvarez-diestro/. Last accessed 02/04/2014.



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