Juxtaposition: the act of placing two seemingly unrelated images side-by-side to create new meaning.

One of the trade secrets or strategies of advertising and contemporary art is the unexpected juxtaposition of things unrelated to attract attention, shock, puzzle, or question people’s perception of those things.








It’s important to understand that interpretation comes from the viewer. As an artist, one would create a piece of work that places unrelated images together to communicate their interpretation of its meaning. This, however, does not mean that the viewer would interpret what he/she sees as this same intended meaning.  Any interpretations are formed from previous background knowledge and experiences of the individual.  So meaning doesn’t necessarily always come from the work, but from the viewer.

A simplified example would be a Popeye action figure next to an olive fruit. Although these two are unrelated in the type of object they are, when juxtaposed together in the same scene the olive fruit gains new meaning (because of our knowledge of Popeye’s wife’s name “Olive”).  Or another could place an image of an old man next to an image of a clock: a number of possible narratives could come from such a juxtaposition.

Part One: Found Juxtaposition

Go online and find a good example of Juxtaposition in Art that interests you.  Insert the image into a post and in writing explain the following:

What is your interpretation of the juxtaposition?

Why do you think you have interpreted it this way?

Is it an effective piece of art? Why or why not?  (visually appealing, powerful meaning, composition, etc.)

Part Two: Creating Juxtaposition

Use your image bank to randomly place images together.  Spend a few minutes thinking about each juxtaposition and your interpretation of what the message could be.  Come up with 3 juxtapositions with solid narratives- these are to be posted in your DSB (insert the 2 images side-by-side). Share your juxtaposed images with a partner.  See what their interpretations are.  If different, discuss where the ideas come from. Finally, explain your intended narrative below each pair of images.

Part Three: Juxtaposition Project

The challenge is to create a unified composition that contains an interesting/shocking/thought-provoking juxtaposition.  You may use one of your ideas from Part Two.  Try to create unexpected or almost random juxtapositions, and not simply pairs of opposites, that create new meanings. Digital manipulations allow for very obvious placement of images to communicate your intended meaning.  Try not to completely “spell things out” to the audience; leave SOME interpretation to the viewer. Make the viewer think or try to interpret it in different ways.


8″ x 10″  @  200 dpi


  • Create a narrative by juxtaposing 2 unrelated images
  • Use high resolution imagery
  • Use non-destructive editing
    • Layer Masks to compose
    • Adjustment Layers to match the colour / tone of your imagery
  • Consider the Rule of Thirds
  • Go beyond simply placing images side-by-side
  • Try to imply intended mood with a thoughtful colour scheme


Co-construct criteria as a class.