Exercise: Elliot Erwitt’s New York, 1974

In this exercise, we are asked to 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?

Elliot Erwitt: New York, 1974

Due to the careful positioning of the small dog and the eye-catching hat, the eyes are first drawn to this part of the image. The fact that the far left set of (fore)legs plainly belong to a much bigger dog is only noticed after a time. The small dog’s head is positioned quite precisely to draw our attention: at the mid-point of the frame vertically and approximately a 1/3 of the way across the frame from the right-hand side. The boots of the assumed owner (quite possibly a woman) are positioned centrally and the legs of the larger dog are positioned in the left-hand third with careful cropping to exclude the rear legs which would have made the joke much less effective. The overall effect is of across the horizontal axis, helped by the line of the lead to the smaller dog adding some “weight” on that side of the image. The camera viewpoint is very low – at dog’s eye-level we could say. We can imagine Erwitt holding his beloved Leica almost on the ground to achieve the shot.

The cropping of this image is critical to the joke and to the impact. Taken further back, at full height, we could imagine a woman with two dogs and the power would be completely lost. By getting closer, the joke is complete.





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