Staple Street Project by Chris Zedano
Every end of the emotional scale from tragedy to pathos, thrill to horror, ennui to depression are found in photography. One corner of human experience, however, is almost barren turf for photographers, it seems — humor. Quick: Name all the humorous photographers you can. Ted Orland, William Wegman, perhaps Elliot Erwitt and Jerry Ueslmann. Any others come to mind? They are few and far between. You may add Chris Zedano to your list. I found his portfolio hilarious.
He helps himself by including people who are funny in his project. I cannot imagine that Poofy du Vey takes herself seriously — I trust this is not her birth-certificate name. She makes me laugh. I suspect there were more than a few crack-ups by both the photographer and his models during this project. How rare! How fun!
So, why is there not more humor in photography? Is it possible that it is so rare because laughter — real laughter — is one of the most difficult emotions to create, maintain, and fake. It's much easier to create a fine art photograph and claim it is ironic and deep than it is to create a photograph that provokes spontaneous laughter.
When we published this portfolio in issue #90, we received a few emails asking if we were serious. "How could you have included such photography in LensWork?" I couldn't help but write back and assure them that we seriously hoped we were anything but serious. Who said photography had to be dour? Isn't laughter a genuine emotion? In fact, couldn't one argue that laughter is a more genuine expression of emotion than the perpetual ennui that infects so much of the gallery scene?
Photographically speaking, Zedano brilliantly uses wide lenses and tilted angles in his composition that add to the sense of the moment being off kilter. Notice, however, that the angle of the model's posture does not seem similarly askew. Her normalcy is seen in comparison to the subconscious tilt of the real world — a compositional performance that is a perfect fit for the humor in the image. If Zedano had accomplished this successfully in an image or two, I'd be more inclined to attribute the humor to the person photographed. That he succeeds in image after image assures us that it is his skill that makes this project such a hoot.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to members of LensWork Online.
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