July 12th, 2017 … The Photographer’s Toolbox … Juxtaposition
It’s common knowledge to know that juxtaposition is the most important element in photos. I won’t speak about other art forms, just photography. If you look in the dictionary, you will see a definition stating it’s about contrasting elements.
: the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect an unusual juxtaposition of colors; also : the state of being so placed contrasting shapes placed in juxtaposition to each other
In part that is true but in whole, it leaks and desires to be more. Juxtaposition is the single most creative device at our disposal as photographers. In the photo above, we have Jefferson’s face and his riveting eyes and layered behind, people walking in unison. Maybe, just maybe that’s not the only juxtaposition. What if juxtaposition is based on contrast. They say it is. If that’s so, is the contrast of black & white a juxtaposition?
How about the contrast of dark and light and also movement? The shot above has the dark and light and movement but just a faint glimpse of stillness. Then there is the blur and is the fact that there is nothing not blurred an issue. What if we have juxtaposition implied and not stated perfectly in the frame. Is the concept of an image and the reality it comes from, is that also a juxtaposition?
The reason I write about this is, because out there working, we need to understand the devices and trigger mechanisms that we have and then to be aware of them. Oh yeah, then use them. During the course of me teaching workshops, certain questions were brought more than others. Trigger mechanisms, juxtaposition are just a few. Many say to keep a toolkit. That’s right but the toolkit is not your camera or lens or any gear. That’s your camera. Your toolkit is what you have at the ready in your mind.
Perhaps you won’t want to accept this but it’s right anyway. When you work, your toolkit gets activated and aides you in the making of the photo. This is not the camera etc. That’s your friend. Your toolkit is the knowledge you have acquired and the way you use that. Photography for most of us is a process of inside/outside. What you have inside is what influences you on the outside. Of course, the outside also influences your inside. That’s where your toolkit comes into play.
So this becomes a major juxtaposition. Seeing the inside image and playing it against the outside, is the basis of making photos. Ansel and Minor called this, Pre-visualization. I suppose we should call it that also. The main difference is that with a stand camera, it’s easier to find the image inside you on the outside. Once the camera is planted, it’s a question of framing, light, movement etc. Same as for us with handheld cameras but we move thru life instead of standing in it. Ansel’s juxtapositions were more literal whereas Minor was more cerebral and emotional.
Life is a potpourri of thoughts and feelings. Speaking for myself, I travel thru life and smell the roses even tho most around don’t even see them. Not that I’m special, even tho I read my own writings. I remember being with Harry Bertoia. We were talking about art and photography. I was amazed by his works but what got me was his thoughts and emotions. He told me that he felt that we have a certain amount of energy. We use this energy to do our work. As we get older, the works become that much more special and personal because they see the finality. I asked him why he did his work. He told me…”Because I can”.
I’m not a kid and I don’t get excited about hearing something I have heard a million times. I must tell you. When Harry said that to me, it was like hearing it for the first time. It resonated in the fiber of my being. It still is vibrating. Harry asked me if I understood juxtaposition. Well, cocky ass me said, of course I do but I sure would like to know what it means to you. Harry laff’d with a refrained chuckle. He took me to one of his sculptures for the Sound of Sculpture. Then he said breathe. Harry took his hand and arm and drew it thru the rods. I saw a wave that was magical and I could hear the sounds. I realized immediately that all things are open to each of us to draw our own conclusion.
The beauty of photography is the beauty of life. The toolbox of life fills the toolbox of photography. Our experiences and our thoughts and emotions, installs the tools we need to work and survive. We all she the air and the planet while we are alive on it. What we do with our life is the juxtaposition that we make for ourselves. It may be nice to have a following and make money if that’s your thing. The important concept to realize and use, is that in your toolbox is the makings of your work.
Your toolbox is your tools, your camera is your friend, life is your journey, go make photos and find out there what’s inside you.