Humor will always be central to street photography, and for some photographers it underpins much of their work (Rene Maltete, Martin Parr, Garry Winogrand, Elliott Erwitt, and Jeff Mermelstein, for example). However, it is difficult to work with because when you go looking for it, it’s hard to find-but then it pops up out of nowhere when you’re least expecting it. The key is to have a camera with you at all times, switched on and set up for a quick “grab” shot.
There is no magic formula to producing work of the likes of Parr and Erwitt, other than always being ready and being relentlessly observant. Don’t just “look” at things, but really see them; consider their context and their relationship with other elements in the frame. Over the course of a month, focus on seeking out potentially humorous photographs, with a view to creating a series of six visual puns.
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- Try to anticipate humorous situations. For example, the combination of people, pigeons, and food will often lead to a funny event so, when you come across this situation, stick around and wait for something to happen.
- You can use juxtaposition to inject humor into a photograph; it’s all about defining the “story:’ Often a mundane image with little narrative or context can be turned into something quite witty when all the pieces are assembled correctly.
- It’s a good principle not to use humor to debase or ridicule someone. Let your own moral compass guide you toward what’s right and what’s plainly wrong. Never set out to make fun of people, particularly if they are disadvantaged or vulnerable in some way.
- Be aware of cultural differences. Something which is funny to you may be highly offensive to someone in another part of the world.
- Serendipity has a big part to play here. The more you discipline yourself to really see the world around you, the more likely you are to bag the humorous moment.