Language of photography

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?


The contents of the image are a whole dog and four legs. The setting is an exterior, perhaps a park. The weather is cold, sufficiently so to warrant clothing the small dog in a hat and coat. The other pairs of legs, it is safe to assume, belong to a person and another dog.. The person is also wrapped up warm and booted for the weather. The humour and absurdity (Erwitt loves the absurd) derive from the relative sizes of the figures, along with the small dog’s attire and expression. A visual rhythm of big, big, big, big, small.  It’s easy to anthropomorphosise the dog’s opinion of its circumstances – it must feel very small and left-out, and its expression may support this view.

Erwitt has used a degree of selective focus, blurring the background and foreground which emphasises the plane of interest. The line-up follows the structure of a narrated joke – you see this, this, this…and then that. There is a visual punch line in the form of the little’un, emphasised by the fact that its hat is clearly far too big. Considering these clues, we are at liberty to construct an extensive narrative involving the relationships which may exist between the characters. We don’t even need to see the others – we can make our inferences based just on what we can see.