A Life in Art

Finding The Humor in Street Photography Now

Humor in street photography isn’t something you see every day. I’ve walked through galleries, admiring the work of photographers who, for all their skill and art, have no sense of humor. But, look long enough, and you can find some whimsey.

Humor is in short supply. Blue/Red social and political tensions set nerves on edge. On television, producers still think we need a prerecorded laugh track to tell us when a joke has been delivered. Subtlety in mass media is missing, and even the sweetness of comics pages has been sacrificed.

But all is not lost. At least in a place where humor is almost always absent, fine art street photography, a publicly good sense of humor is still possible without meanness or obscenities.

Getting a Smile in Urban Photography

Humor in Street Photography: Central Park.
Everyone’s a Critic, Fine Art Street Photography by Deborah Julian

Everyone’s a Critic, shown above, makes its mark as fine art. Nature colors an autumn afternoon in Central Park, accented by variations in light and white balloons.

A living statue poses as a butterfly or maybe an angel. A strategically placed bucket waits for tips.

It takes a moment to sink in, but take a look at the expressions on the three girls out in the park with their dads. Gentle distaste with a little disbelief.

It’s not meant to be comical, but the irony of those looks, reacting the what they see, makes me smile.

I Can’t Grow Up / Street Photography by Deborah Julian
It may be angst. Tom Waits has a great song titled I Don’t Want To Grow Up, and you can imagine a defiant, “I won’t grow up.” I can’t is another story.

I Can’t Grow Up is a relief, a comic acceptance of the facts. We all feel like that sometimes, don’t we? The world’s too big, our ambitions too small or you just throw up your hands.

I like the way this composition shapes out, a linear expression of the city. It’s plain simple, funny and truthful.
A Cactus of Her Own, Bologna, Italy, Street Photography by Deborah Julian

Humor in street photography is wherever you find it…

This fun photograph from Bologna, Italy is the kind of picture you will never see again. It’s just so unusual. A fashionably dressed young woman walks in the brick paved street, a tall cactus at her side.

Surprise is a better generator of humor than pain, although pain is probably more popular. This woman could be carrying groceries, flowers, a child. Instead, it’s a thorny plant with which she walks easily along. 


Humor doesn’t have to rely on the predictable meanness that fuels most television comedies. Cruelty or pain are not required. In fine art street photography, the elements so common today would probably sink it. To fit, the picture must be refined, artistic and smile-worthy without a laugh track.

Click here for more of more Deborah Julian’s street photography.

Do you have any favorite humor in art you can share?

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