Elliott Erwitt – Dogs

Elliott erwit 4Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

The first things that me about this composition is the symmetry.  It makes full use of the rule of thirds in both horizontal and vertical.  I can almost picture a measured grid with an important element in each square.  It has a good equal balance and is very pleasing to look at.

Erwitt has chosen to shoot this scene from the viewpoint of the dog with places him (the dog) as the main focus.  From Erwitt’s introduction to his book Dog Dogs, he says that his images are “not pictures of dogs but pictures with dogs in them” and this is evident when we look at what is also included in the frame.  Next to the dogs is two pairs of legs, similar in size and equally spaced apart.  Its takes a while to see that the legs on the left are of another dog and the balance is suddenly even more symmetrical.

Whats interesting with this crop is that we can start to imagine what sits beyond the frame due to the clues given within it.  We can see a pair of dogs front legs but his body and hind legs must be attached even though we can’t see them.  It’s a big dog too, do people see him from their natural eye level and fuss him first before noticing theres a small dog way down there, close to the ground.  The look on the little dogs face is quite telling as he’s looking directly down the camera lens in a quizzical way as if to say, ‘what you are doing down here, this is my world’, adding humour to the narrative.

The way this image is structured makes me think that the story is about how dogs live and how they see things, almost like they live in a different world to humans.  Of course the size of the dog alters their perspective so theres an endless stream of variations.  With a dog so small Erwitt would have had to lie flat on his stomach to gain the perspective of his little world.

What links this little dog to the human world?  His clothing of course.  Dogs have fur to keep them warm however this little dog is wearing a hat and coat.  It’s clever to see that Erwitt has include the bottom part of the ladies coat in the frame too which gives them a connection.  This also gives more of the story away too as it indicates it was cold and we can start to imagine at what time of year this photograph was taken.  Does the big dog also have a hat and coat on?  Thats left to our imagination.


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