Question: How has Erwitt structured this image?
The image is composed such that there is equal space on the right and left hand sides between the subject matter and the edge of the frame.
The field of view incorporates the bottom edge of the person’s coat; this removes any ambiguity about the centre ‘legs’ and makes the humour immediate and obvious.
There is enough foreground (with texture) and background to give the impression of a path, of spontaneity, or real life and not a studio, or set-up, shoot.
Question: What do you think the image is ‘saying’?
The image is inviting the viewer to share in a visual joke or jokes: the juxtaposition of the three pairs of legs; the size comparison between the two pairs of legs on the left and the small dog; the correspondence between the large dog’s legs and the humans. It’s possible to anthropomorphise the expression of the small dog as one of ‘deadpan’ humour, sharing the joke.
Question: how does the structure contribute to this meaning?
All the humour in the image is dependent on the point of view, i.e. the camera being at the level of the small dog such that only the legs of the other subjects are visible. However, if the subjects of the image were assembled in a studio in order to make a humorous image the results would be forced and staid. Essential to the photograph is the sense of capturing the humorous side of life, something that is always there if we looked and here the photographer has captured a good instance of it. Therefore the setting is outdoor (foreground and background. Above), the small dog is on a lead implying that the situation was caught, a moment captured as the dogs were being taken for a walk by their owner. All of this is implied yet does not take away from putting the main ‘story’ of the image centre stage (literally as the composition is centred, see above).