How to create a Juxtaposition in your photography; City Green.

How to create a Juxtaposition in your photography.

Mick Hales recalls photographing the book City Green: Public Gardens of New York published by Monacelli Press. Written by Jane Garmey.

Battery Park at the Southern tip of Manhattan is filled with memorial gardens and a wonderful place to spend a lunch hour.
The juxtaposition of the trees and the buildings emphasizes the scale of park in the city.

Photographing gardens in New York City means the borrowed landscape is likely to have a variety of buildings in the background. Not a bucolic background, but often thought provoking. This was especially the case when photographing the World Trade Center Memorial Garden, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the High Line and Brooklyn Grange. All of which are surrounded and sometimes overwhelmed by high rise buildings.


The World Trade Center Memorial Garden is so powerfully surrounded by high rises and sunken waterfalls in the center that sometimes realizing that it was a beautifully designed simple garden was hard to capture. When using a juxtaposition of size, ie the huge skyscrapers of the financial district and the relatively low height of the trees, the difference in scale places an emphasis on the fragility of the living trees. This is extended by the design of this memorial by the deep two stage waters falls which exaggerate the height and depth of the memorial, the falling water symbolic of the passing of life.

The World Trade Center Memorial Park.
The trees of the World Trade Center Memorial Park are dwarfed by the PATH building and High Rises.

Another form of juxtaposition I like to utilize is photographing into the light. This can be technically challenging as it can create flair in the image if light goes directly into the lens, however if that can be avoided, it often gives strong form to the subject and as long as there is enough fill in the shadows form an exciting image.

World Trade Center Memorial Garden
New growth in the trees is Juxtaposed with the man made skyscraper.

Similarly, juxtaposition between a fragile natural form and that of a rigid man made form can set up interesting conflicts which emphasize differences within an image. The reason we do this in photography is that although we are capturing something which is in reality normal we are trying to show it or explain it more deeply by contrasting its contents or surrounding. Creating a visual question which the viewer has to take time to evaluate and go deeper into the photograph to fully comprehend. We are holding the viewers attention and giving information which we experienced as the photographer in front of the actual experience or happening so the viewer can receive that it as well. As photographer we are trying to tell a story to some else which we have just seen and experienced. Juxtaposition is a great tool to capture attention.


Get your copy of City Green; Public Gardens of New York, and find out how to use juxtaposition in garden photography.


Mick Hales


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