War Games by Bryan Grigsby
Bryan Grigsby began his artist statement with:
I think this all started when I was nine and my parents and grandparents conspired to make me take accordion lessons. I was never quite the same after that.
I was hooked. Of all our human characteristics, why is it that humor is the one so rare in fine art photography? Who doesn't like a good laugh, a pun, a joke, or at least a smile in the acknowledgement of some clever twist that bends our funny bone?
I've thought quite seriously about this over the years, perhaps because I was always the "class clown" during my youth. I guess I still am a bit of one. [Insert flatulence reference of your choice here.] My friends and family all know me as a pretty funny guy. You'd never know it in my photography, however, because I've never quite been able to pull it off — not nearly as successfully as Bryan Grigsby does throughout this entire portfolio.
I do know why I can't — for me, so much of humor is verbal or perhaps even intellectual. I've been known to giggle for hours over the smallest word play — like when my voice transcription software misinterprets Ansel Adams as "on sale Adams" or Eugene Atgét as "You gene ash tray." Just typing these brings a visceral response I cannot suppress. But how does one encapsulate humor in a photograph? Obviously, it has to be visual — and that's not an easy task.
War Games is filled with visual humor as Grigsby captures odd juxtapositions, strange gestures, unexpected context, and even perfect timing at a series of war re-enactment events.
I can only think of two other photographers who've explored humor in any depth — Elliott Erwitt and Ted Orland. Occasionally André Kertész would skim the edges of humor, but his images always have a tinge of melancholy pathos. I wish there were more. Laughter is, you know, the best medicine. Any suggestions?
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 full-access members of LensWork Online.
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