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Juxtaposition Examples: a FUN, Useful Lesson in 21 Photos!

As an English teacher for 17 years now, I delight in teaching vocabulary words and literary concepts that have real applications to our daily lives. One of my favorite such terms is “Juxtaposition.” Let me teach it to you via a trip around the world!

Juxtaposition photography
Juxtaposition power can help you take vibrant photos.

Juxtaposition Definition & Synonym

The easiest way to define the noun “juxtaposition” is: CONTRAST. More specifically, juxtaposition is when two very different things are put right next to each other, causing an impact for the viewer, reader, or listener. In the photo example above (taken near Fallingwater in Pennsylvania), the juxtaposition of my magenta outfit against the green background draws your eye.

The word “juxtaposition” is derived from the Latin root iuxta, meaning “close to” or “beside” and the French position: placing. Yes indeed, the word is all about placing two contrasting things next to each other!

A simple synonym for the verb “to juxtapose” would be “to contrast.” A more detailed translation would be: “to put something next to another thing which causes the people looking to notice striking differences.” In the example below, I purposely staged this “influencer photo” to juxtapose my friend Savannah’s formal suit with the ridiculous yellow bathroom context.

Juxtaposition example
Juxtaposing a formal outfit with a silly context.

To Juxtapose, You Need Similarities, Too

Here is where things get tricky. In order for juxtaposition to have its contrasting effect work — highlighting the differences between the two things — there actually need to be some basic similarities so the viewer knows to compare them.

Here’s an example. In the photo below, I’ve juxtaposed my elegant spouse’s human profile with the fuzzy face of a cute llama! Now, the similarity here — the fact that both are face profiles — is essential for the contrast to pop out and make the reader laugh, “Hey, it’s funny to compare that guy’s expression to the llama’s!”

Juxtaposition examples
My husband’s face juxtaposed with a llama in Vermont.

See how the similarity (faces) makes the contrast and thus juxtaposition possible? If my illustrious husband were just standing next to a pile of pears, there would be no pull to compare any parts of the photo, and thus no contrast or juxtaposition.

Types of Juxtaposition

You’d be shocked to realize the number of things that can be juxtaposed! Wherever you can create contrast, therein lurks juxtaposition. Check out this photo from my time teaching in Ghana in West Africa, where the sun was huge and bright. See how the brightness is juxtaposed juicily with our dark shadows? Such a cool effect.

Juxtaposition example 7
Juxtaposing light and shadow in Ghana.

There are several other juxtaposed elements in that Ghana picture as well. (Yes, this is the beach near where the billboard of me shockingly appeared!) There is a juxtaposition of shape, as the roundness of the sun contrasts with the tall lines of our silhouettes. There is also a texture juxtaposition between the rough sand and the smooth sun.

Juxtaposition in Literature

Juxtaposing is not just for the visual realm — it can also be used in situations and descriptions in writing. For example, the actions of an extremely hyper character in a book can be juxtaposed with a chilled-out character. (An extreme version of this is called a “foil.”)

In literature, speeches, songs, and sayings, any passage that compares two things that have a base similarity in order to contrast their differences is an example juxtaposition. This list contains some common examples, including the adage, “All’s fair in love and war,” which juxtaposes the two states of society.

Now, let’s begin our journey around the world to explore the many forms of juxtaposition that exist. Being able to spot them will enhance your appreciation of your surroundings — and can also improve our photography and art!

Juxtaposition Examples

What is juxtaposition, and what does it mean to juxtapose? See examples and sentences from around the world that show real life examples of how to use this great literary term and English vocabulary word. You're welcome to click through to any article to read more about the destination, or just learn from the photo and blurb explanation.

Juxtapose for Better Photos and Art

Can you see from this wide-ranging list of photography examples how juxtaposition helps improve photography and visual art? It does the same for spicing up text, speech, poetry, and literature — and even everyday life! I hope you see now why this literary concept is one of my favorites.

Juxtaposition in Sum

Did you enjoy this journey of juxtaposition around the world? What were your favorite photos and realizations? Do you still have remaining questions about this fascinating word? Do share!

Juxtaposition examples, definition, and sentences
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Want more English vocabulary lessons? Check out these posts on a liminal space, hubris, inclusiveness, apart vs. a part, and performativity,

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Soheila

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Wow, you're teaching me so much about the word! All those examples of seeing it in your travel photos, I didn't even think about previously!

Lillie Marshall

Friday 5th of February 2021

Yay! This is the beauty of learning these vocabulary words and literary concepts: once you can see them in everyday life, everything you look at gets more interesting and profound!

Brianna

Monday 1st of February 2021

Your photos show you've always been the queen of juxtaposition!

Lillie Marshall

Monday 1st of February 2021

Hehe, it's true. I've been running this travel and life blog since 2009 and juxtaposition is the name of the game for me in terms of highlighting interesting contrasts, both visually and in terms of situations and thinking.

Katherine Beck

Monday 1st of February 2021

So this is not something I keep in mind with my food photography, but boy will I ever from now on! I never thought about the contrasting components and how to make them work with each other - thank you for the tips and many examples!

Lillie Marshall

Monday 1st of February 2021

You're so welcome! Thoughtful juxtaposition has the power to improve photos in any genre: travel, food, fashion, fitness, parenting, art -- all!

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