Director of Chobi Mela, Bangladesh
TAKING HUMOUR SERIOUSLY
We sit up straight when being photographed. Make sure our hair is looking right. In selecting ‘subjects’ for photography, my students choose from themes ranging from ‘drug addiction’ ‘prostitution’ or ‘child labour’. The more adventurous ones go to war zones. Photography is a serious business. What we photograph are ‘matters of consequence’. We might collectively put up V signs, or smile when being photographed. Even our frivolity is guided by norms of conduct. In our justified attempts to be taken seriously, we place barriers upon our craft, that seriously limit our ability to explore the social space. Once the photography is over, both photographer and subject can get back to being normal. Our imperfect world with all its unpredictability, its serendipity, its quirks and most importantly its humour surrounds us again. We breathe. We let go. We live.
There is another more ‘serious’ aspect to this behavior. Humour, satire and irony are wonderful instruments to not only express mirth, but also to critique, dissect and tease out subtleties of human emotion. Its playfulness allows a proximity that is difficult to achieve otherwise. Being less ‘serious’ it is capable of making statements far more provocative than would be tolerated in conventional spaces. It puts us off guard making us more receptive. Being ‘fun’ gives it a license that can be both powerful and effective. Like the child talking about the emperor’s clothes, the obvious but unstated can be tabled, where otherwise one might stay silent. ‘It was only in jest’, finds cracks in our armoury that heavier weaponry would find impenetrable.
In the end it makes us laugh, reflect, perhaps ponder. A worthwhile act in itself.
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