CAN 4 Exercise 1.1

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?

Erwitt has framed this photograph so that the small dog is directly centred on the vertical plane and aligned against the right-hand third division on the horizontal plane, a location that naturally invites the eye’s attention and makes the dog the main focal point of the image. He has positioned his camera at the dog’s eye height, so that we are seeing the world from the dog’s viewpoint. This means we cannot see the full extent of the two pairs of legs to the left of the dog in exactly the same way that we can’t see the whole height of a skyscraper if we’re close up to it, so we don’t just meet this little dog eye to eye and see the world as it sees it, but we also experience the world as the dog experiences it. In this small creature’s eyes there is negligible difference between the two pairs of legs to the left of the image, so we share its experience of the world being divided into tall vs small beings instead of humans vs dogs as we usually would. Our identification with the dog’s worldview is further reinforced by the fact that it is wearing a woolly hat, which gives it an anthropomorphic appearance and makes its face seem almost human in its quizzical alertness. The parallel stance of the row of feet planted firmly along the lower third baseline informs us that their owners are calmly static, their park walk held on pause while we and the small dog examine each other, equals in our mutual curiosity.

Elliott Erwitt: New York, 1974