“Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.” Master lttei commented, “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.” – From Hagakure
Is this photograph funny or revolting? I can’t make up my own mind about it and imagine it will divide readers as well. It also illustrates how we should consider humour in our lives. Should we just use humour to let go and have simple innocent fun? Or should we give what we find humorous some serious thought because of how personal it is, how it can offend others, how one culture will find another’s humour unfathomable … ?
And beyond this, why is it that funny photographs are so darn difficult to make? Peruse an Elliott Erwitt portfolio and you’ll think the world is just one series of endless visual jokes. Then, walk out your door and you’ll realise just how annoyingly difficult to find said fun scenes really is, on a day to day basis.
Fun is hard work. Maybe we should take life easy and be serious about everything? 😉 😉 😉
But some of you made it. You sent some genuinely amusing photographs and those evoke a final thought in my mind. Those photographs appear to be split into two camps: photographs of something funny / photographs made funny by the author.
I’m not trying to introduce a notion of superiority here, and think both are interesting in their own right. But the distinction is important. One appears to hinge around a sharp eye, an ability to detect what we know is rare in nature (funny scenes). The other rests on an ability to construct from elements that aren’t that funny, taken separately. The first is more likely to appeal to everyone. The second, as all creative things, will find a laughing echo only in liked-minded people.
And then, there’s culture. Humour varies greatly from one area of the globe to the other. We’re all geared to enjoy and understand humour differenlty. Humour requires a solid intelligence and tolerance, an ability to take a step back. Not everyone is brought up that way. Not all education systems develop that (or at least maintain it intact). Not all cultures find the same things amusing.
I got some slack for the picture of the waitress above. Sexuality is a touchy subject for many (as are religion, race …) And my intention of showing a saucy smile on that playmobil got lost in translation for those who only saw an offense to the lady. Ah well …
Similarly, this photograph could be perceived as racially/socially connoted. It’s not. It’s just an observation of the fact that a sign indicates a bump in the pathway, just where a person has inexplicably lied down in the middle of it, causing oncoming bikers to swerve away. As often, chance juxtaposition of incongruous elements is what makes (some of) us smile.
Other interesting comments were made by contributors. Jean-Claude remarked that being funny shouldn’t be an excuse for being sloppy, for instance. A funny photograph still needs to be a well executed photograph. I agree entirely. It’s hard enough to convey a fun meaning when photographs are well executed. Any sloppiness could make the task impossible.
Paul adds: “The first photo is an old friend that is painted on a wall near a street in Seattle where a Farmer’s Market is held. I will by here often and try to become reacquainted, though my friend needs to endure smokers for the building behind him.”
“The next two images were made while out walking in the City of Renton, which is South of Seattle.
Both images were made while walking to see what the river was doing. At the time we were having record rain, even for Seattle, and the local rivers were running above flood stage.
The first image seemed rather funny because of the sign pointing away from the river and the others signs proclaiming that the water was covering the walk way. Well … Duh?”
“The third image is farther down stream from the second. In this case it seemed rather funny that a general aviation aircraft was buzzing over a grounded Boeing 737 with BUZZ printed on the side.”
Over the weekend I was out making images and after taking the elephant image above, on the way home I had to stop at this location. It is a derelict self car wash with a food truck in the background.
Usually I drive by and never give this spot a second thought. Except about 3 weeks ago it changed and morphed into this.
The property owners obviously have a sense of humor. Because they hired my favorite street artist, HENRY, to cover up the bare metal and graffiti with a Sasquatch family album. At least that is who I think this character is.
I cropped the first image a little to remove some ugly stuff, the other I left full frame to keep the context.
I hope the titles explain the amusing part, if the photographs aren’t self-explicit 😉
Jean Claude adds: “Good challenge ; as photographers we often tend to take ourselves too seriously. Photos can entertain us with their wit and visual jokes. It is, however, not easy to find images that are intrinsically funny. Plus, in my view, funny images should also meet basic photographic criteria – technical, light, composition, etc… Many times, though, they need a caption as a crutch, New Yorker style. Below is my selection for the challenge – as you can see, animals come easy as a subject, a fertile ground for our taste for anthropomorphism…”
Sateen adds: “What a difference a few lines of scribbling make. They turned this spilled paint into a portrait that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary art museum. And I find the satyr face really amusing.”
The topic of the next challenge is usually announced at the end of a results post. However, this time, I’m not the one presenting it. Adrian came up with a very good idea and he’ll be explaining it to you very shortly. It has a lot to do with movies, so I love it already 🙂
But it might be a good idea to announce more challenges ahead of time to give everyone more time to prepare and think, so here are two more, that will come afterwards.
Philippe suggests “RAW”. Photographs that trigger raw emotions. Laughter, sadness, awe, cringe, love, absolute disgust, cute awwww … no fluff, no fancy editing, just raw emotion.
And it feels natural to follow that one up with a “polished” counterpoint. “Polished” meaning the exact opposite, ie photographs that don’t necessarily convey much in terms of emotion or meaning but which have received lavish treatment, elaborate post-processing, fine art level attention to detail.
There will obviously be reminders in between then and now. But that’s food for thought for the next 3 months. In the mean time, thanks for daring & sharing!
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