Composition Analysis of a Photo: Javier Monzano’s Aleppo Gunmen

While a photograph topic is essential to have a good photo, it is the composition that makes all the difference. This post will examine only the composition, and its elements, of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner photo taken by Javier Monzano, on 18 October 2012. The photo shows rebel fighters in Aleppo guarding their sniper’s nest in Aleppo.


Rule of Thirds grid:



The photo fits well with the Rule ofThirds. There are 3 plans in the photo: 1) the fighters and sand bags, 2) the tin wall, and 3) the concrete wall, and the photo is divided between these plans along the Rule of Thirds lines.

Leading Lines, Repetition and Direction:


Usually Leading Lines draw the eye to their convergent point. In this case it is the opposite; Leading Lines (light rays) diverge, bringing the attention to the whole photo, especially to the gunmen. In this photo, light rays are also a Repetition that gives a unity to the composition. The main direction in the photo is the line connecting the eyes of the gunmen and the hole in the wall. It is a slightly diagonal horizontal line that runs in the middle of the photo from the middle of the 1st Third to the middle of the 3nd Third.

Framing and the focus of the photo:


This direction leads to the focus of the photo, which is the barrel of the gun, placed in the hole of the wall (or in other terms, the anticipated action). This focus is also underlined by being at the intersection of 2 lines: a horizontal line that runs in the middle of the photo and a vertical line in the middle of the last vertical Third. The hole is framing this anticipated action, while the wall is framing the whole photo.

Contrast and Complementarity:


This is mainly due the relation between the holes and the actions, as well the size of the holes and the texture of the related wall. From one side, the light rays coming from the small holes in the tin wall give the impression that “the gunmen are being shot at.” From another, the anticipated action is “the gunmen shooting at” and that through a bigger hole in the concrete wall.



The light emphasizes the main elements and actions in the photo: the light rays and the hole in the concrete wall (discussed above), and parts of the gunmen faces, thus drawing more attention towards the focus of the photo and the anticipated action.


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