Photo by Elliott Erwitt, 1974. Titled, ‘Dog legs’ This linked image is from: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk
At first glance the joke in this picture can be easily missed, simply a small ‘cute’ dog on a lead with it’s owners in a park. The image has been taken at a very low angle from the level of the small dog cutting off the rest of the owners bodies from the frame. But a second look and something is wrong with the two pairs of legs. The nearest (probably) the dog’s mistress in her high length boots and now we notice the second pair of legs belong to another dog that appears to be only standing on it’s hind legs like a man. (In fact with very close scrutiny you can work out that these are a tall dog’s front legs and the dog is standing diagonally to the photographer with it’s belly and hind legs cropped from the frame.) The subjects are positioned approximately one-quarter of the way up the frame with the cute dog to the right looking in to the lens; so drawing the viewer’s eye away from the left side of the picture. The small dog is what Roland Barthes would call the ‘punctum’ in the image. The mistress stands in the middle and our eyes naturally glance at the boots which we expect to see the second pair of legs take third place in our visual priority and so don’t stand out until we take a closer look at the picture. The image is also in black-and-white this also helps with the deception. If it had been in colour I am sure the tan fur legs would have appeared more obviously in the image and the joke would have been weaker. Erwitt had used a structure of vertical lines in this image which has an element of design. The image is backlit which makes his subjects stand out from the background. The composition draws the eyes from the bottom of the picture through these vertical lines to the top. The placement of the tall dog’s legs next to the lady’s boots looks natural, as if two people were standing posing before the photographer with their dog. The depth-of-field is kept fairly shallow to keep the eyes from looking deeper in to the background that is unimportant.