Why is it so hard to be funny in photography?

I’m a goof. I’m sarcastic, irreverent, silly, and (to most people’s displeasure) punny. Hang out with me for a while and we’ll end up with a running gag or two. I’m just not a serious person. That doesn’t usually come through in my photography, though.

The world of photography is full of war ravaged far away lands, corny family portraits, romanticized diaspora on the fringes of society, and “sexy” half naked women in gas masks carrying axes. Not much humor, though.

Attempts at humor in photography tend to fall into the realms of either cheesy greeting cards, belittling the less fortunate, or the High Art ironic humor that requires some sort of Werner Herzog voiced critique: “This is humorous. It reminds me of the absurdity of life. Laughing always reminds me of death. We are all clowns, painted to look amused but dead inside.”

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Photos can be very funny when paired with appropriate (or, indeed, inappropriate) text, such as in the memes we come across every day. There is, of course, parody and satire photos, as well, usually poking fun of some other famous photo. But how often is a photo, just on it’s own, really funny, the way a snide remark or a witty one-liner is funny? The medium doesn’t seem to be well suited for comedy.

I always feel like there is a discontinuity between my personality and the work I produce. I’m sure it is not as extreme as it seems to me. It’s there though. I’m a ridiculous goon when you talk to me but then- Here, look at these oh so serious capital-P Photographs I have made. They make you think, don’t they? #artschool

This is not to say I would want 100% of my photos to be funny. It would be nice, however, to have that be an option.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. I could be missing out on an entire genre of the art that I’m just not privy to. Are there any photographers you find humorous? Is there a Bill Murray of photography? Any non-snapshot photos that crack you up with their dry wit every time you see them?


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