Juxtaposition

The word ‘juxtaposition’ is one that is bandied around frequently in artistic circles; photography, film and painting among them. I have always taken it to mean conflicting or contrasting articles within the same scene to provoke the viewer, overtly or covertly in to asking questions or making connections about the image in question. Michael Freeman in his book ‘The Photographer’s Eye‘ (2007, p.178), describes juxtaposition as bringing at least ‘two things to our attention at the same time, and as soon as the viewer starts to wonder why the photographer chose that viewpoint, and if the juxtaposition was intentional, this sets off a train of thought‘.

The exercise here asked me to make either a still life image of juxtaposition or a real life juxtaposition of a person and a possession. I decided on the latter which works better for my style of photography. The image in question is below. I think it fits the remit because of the two clear aspects in the frame; the young boy and his catapult.

Catapult boy

Catapult boy

While it may not be unusual to see a boy this age with a catapult, what attracts me to it is his actions and expression. He is not pointing it at me in an act of aggression, rather he is displaying it for me to see. The look on his face is proud, almost excited by showing me his possession and he is looking directly in to my lens. I suspect it may be homemade which could be the cause of his pride. Or maybe he has just used it to good effect. I can’t know whether either of these two quizzical statements are true, but it is what is suggested to me by him. The fact that he has pulled the elastic taught rather than just holding it up to me shows intent to use it for what it was designed to do.

The photo is clearly made in the countryside and no one else is in shot. If this boy’s image was transposed to say an urban scene, possibly with many other people in the image then a completely different story would unfold.

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