Our sees see the world in wide and deep detail. Some of the magic, to me, of photography is that we use the frame of the lens to crop out just a portion.

I’ve tried to see it, is in a way, creation by deletion (strangely producing no google search results, though Newspaper Blackout poetry is a cousin, and again, why the human brain that associates meaning trumps the mechanized one)- we remove the rest of the world to focus on a part we see. It may say something, it may ask a question. It may just make us stop and pause. It may spurn us to create a story.

I try to teach this idea of thinking about juxtaposition in the camera- how can you put together objects that typically are not together, or ought not to be adjacent.

Sometimes you manufacture it, you put objects together. This was an assignment for the old Daily Shoot (“@dailyshoot: 2010/01/27: Take something common–an object, building, or landscape–and compose an abstract composition with it.”):

Flossing in 3D
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

This one is called “Flossing in 3D.”

Quite often I look for shop signs in the world that seem like, if planned, they would not be placed adjacently”

flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

One of the things we heard often from students in ds106 when we have them practice their visual and camera skills with Daily Creates- when asked to look for shadows, or patterns, or vertical lines with a camera– they start to notice the world in a new way. They see detail in places they normally overlook. They literally see the world in a bit wider range of fidelity. Rather than moving through the world with faces planted in a text screen, they perhaps are looking at the normally overlooked details around their every day world.

I would guess that 60% of my daily photos since 2007 are taken in my yard, just 1/3 of an acre. I never fail to find something of interest in a tiny place.

This whole preamble was generated from a photo I took yesterday, on the last sunny day spent seeing the sights of Guadalajara. A few nights earlier walking in the area, we spotted an interesting abandoned building propped up on the street with girders:

Propped Up Housing
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I realized that from the plaza on the other side, you could see the other side of the building; it faced a heavily traveled road into the central part of the city where we stayed, and it was covered by graffiti. I thought it would make an interesting photo on it’s own, and on framing the shot I noticed that a large tour bus was coming in from the left and would “ruin” the photo. A first thought was to wait for the bus to pass, but the second thought is that it was offering a great possibility for juxtaposition.

This had to have taken me maybe 1.5 seconds to process. And just hope I had the right settings to capture the bus.


There it is.

Los Turistas y Grafitti
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

It makes for an interesting contrast of tourists and the abandoned building– “Los Turistas y Graffiti”.

I would not be here blogging this, except for a comment on that photo by fellow observer with a camera, Michael Coghlan (who lives in Adelaide) (who if not for the amazing story making feature of the open internet, I might never have known before, nor would have ever gone in a photo walk with in Adelaide)– oh yes, his comment:

Well caught. Great juxtaposition. Some nice detail too – some under 30 something is of course on their phone ignoring everything. And the guy in front of him shielding his head from the sun….

I actually had not even looked at the detail in the bus as Michael noticed. But it also makes me think, with these kind of juxtapositions, almost no one could ever make this same art because you had to be there.

It reminded me too of one I spotted in Vancouver a few months ago, a moment becomes almost mathematically, with a camera, an un-reproducible creation.

2015/365/9 Find The Juxtaposition
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

These seem to happen a lot for me with moving vehicles. I use a photo I took in New York City as an example of telling a story in a photo. I thought the object of interest was a shop called “The Morrison Hotel” (self-identified Doors fan), but I wondered if the capture of people in front and moving cars might make it be more than just a photo of a thing:

Caught Checking In to Morrison Hotel
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

It becomes a story, when I suggest a title– “Caught Checking In to Morrison Hotel” — do you see something different now?

This thinking out loud here also connects with Simon Ensor’s thoughtful post on driftwood curiosity a parable on #rhizo15 question of content — how with disparate, even cast off objects in the world, “we will have to assemble our own meaning.”

A camera is a wonderful device for making meaning by selecting the frame, by removing everything except what is in a small view.

Into the Lens
flickr photo shared by cogdogblog under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Maybe there is a rhizomatic parallel (>) for the world of information we swim in. Do we look to juxtapose disparate ideas to make meaning? Can it be done just by placing them side by side, and wondering?

Geograph flickr creative commons licensed photo by Richard Croft http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2577710

The post "Juxtaposition in the Viewfinder" was originally zapped with 10,000 volts and declared "It's ALIVE" by Dr. Frankenstein at CogDogBlog (https://cogdogblog.com/2015/05/juxtaposition-in-the-viewfinder/) on May 3, 2015.


  • Simon Ensor

    I think this is a great example of how to sift through the mass of potential meaning.

    It strikes me there is something zen-lens about extracting an esssence from the noise.

    Being present is an art.

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      Thanks Simon. Maybe you have these experiences where you sit down to write one idea, and as you write, you end up somewhere else? I really meant to write just about the photo.

  • Simon Ensor

    I most often just have some sort of urge to start with some picture, scene, sentence and that is an open door to adventure.

    I very rarely have stuff mapped out before. I love that about writing.

    The other thing I have discovered is that I tweet quotes, images, or other and after a while I realise that they constitute a story or a reflection that I am quite unaware of at the time. It is like jigsaw puzzling.

  • Michael Coghlan

    Really happy that my comment was a trigger for this excellent post Alan. Makes me realise that I could blog more about what I do with photography. Thanks.

  • Ken Bauer

    Great post Alan. I have never been a photographer but like taking photos. I did take a class years ago (using film in the 90s) so know the science. Now I’d like to just go and shoot things.

    I will add a link to a segment from a podcast I was listening to this morning (CBC Spark with Norah Young) which is related but with audio instead of images: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/284-stores-are-the-new-stores-art-algorithms-and-more-1.3057138/finding-the-ghost-in-the-mp3-1.3057424

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