The ticklish subject of humour is often on the sidelines of writing about photography, yet photos often entertain us with their wit and visual jokes. Photography and Humour remedies this situation by providing a history of photographic laughter, gathering together over one hundred images. In this first survey to look at the history of photography through the lens of humour, Louis Kaplan reviews some of the important ways photographers from the mid-1800s to today have found humour in the world, and how viewers have found amusement in photographs.
Kaplan focuses on key aspects of photographic humour that are closely connected to human experience – our identity, social situations, and death. He exposes readers to the key genres of photographic humour, whether making fun of photography’s role in identity and identification, mocking the social function of photography or scoffing at the association of photography and death. The images range from stereographic domestic comedies to the biting political satires of photomontage, from conceptual artistic pratfalls to Surrealist humour noir, from the doubles of trick photography to amusing optical distortions, from the decisively funny moments of photojournalism to the parodies and masquerades of contemporary art photography. Illustrations bring together classics from renowned photographers, including Jacques Henri Lartigue, Elliott Erwitt, Weegee, Cindy Sherman and Martin Parr, as well as hidden gems of vernacular photography. This is a unique collection of the deadpan, the witty and the downright absurd.