Items of Humor

This page is intended for the open submission of photography related humor. Feel free to e-mail us funny incidences in the field, jokes, teaching experiences or whatever. We reserve the right to only publish those items that make us laugh. If you prefer, total anonymity will be observed.

From Michael Seewald, a photographer from California:

A few years back I made a 16" x 20" easel from foam core and placed it on a wooden crate down on my cramped little darkroom floor.  (Starving artists must make do).  I then reversed the enlarger on the base so I could project the image down from the table to the crate on the floor. With nice classical or jazz music playing in background, I'd be in my own quiet world, working late into the night.  One time I'd just placed a 2" negative in the carrier and bent down to focus, stretching my arms up trying to reach the focusing knob. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I was startled by something that scampered across the easel.  It seemed to be the largest roach I'd ever seen, or maybe a mouse. (I must say, I don't have a lot of roaches around, but I don't see many mice either.)  Anyway, for someone who thought they were tough I was surprised at how scared I got. I envisioned this thing running right up my pant leg! In a split second I'd turned on the lights and grabbed the closest weapon I could find, a flimsy 3' wooden ruler that would probably snap on anything I'd hit.

          With heart racing, I cautiously looked around the base of the easel but found nothing. I finally calmed down after not finding whatever it was and turned the lights off and went back to work. After I turned the enlarger light on the creature re-appeared running back on top of the easel.  I got a better look at the size, about 4 or 5 inches long, and fast.  I went through the whole process again, still with no luck finding it.  I soon became less scared and more mystified.  How can this thing hide so quickly?  Three times a charm as it happened again, but this time I opened up the enlarger head and discovered something. A baby moth the size of a gnat had been running around on top of the negative, getting enlarged right along with it!

From David Halpern, a photographer from Oklahoma:

Here is one of my more amusing field experiences. (There are a lot more where this came from.) One summer morning in 1988, while serving as artist-in-residence at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, a friend and I had our large format cameras set up on a less frequented trail well below the canyon rim. Each of us was concentrating on his own work and neither was attentive to what the other was doing. I was under my focusing cloth making adjustments when I heard a series of rather nervous, high pitched giggles coming from the area where my friend was working.

I came out from under my cloth to see what was going on and when I looked in my friend's direction, I saw there were two people under his oversized focusing cloth (one of those super size cloths with a silver material on the outside to reflect the sun's heat). The second person was a Japanese tourist with two 35mm cameras around his own neck. He had been unable to contain his curiosity when he saw a photographer "buried" behind his 4" x 5" and much to my friend's dismay had crawled under the cloth without warning. Soon, the curious visitor was joined by another member of his party and both of them spent several minutes checking out the images on which we were concentrating. Neither of them spoke English, and neither of us spoke Japanese; but we had no trouble communicating with gestures. Their giggles were a reaction to their surprise at seeing inverted images on the ground glass.

From an anonymous university photography teacher:

At the beginning of my last critique this semester I passed out a pop quiz to all of my intermediate and advanced students. I felt that some were slipping by this semester and I needed to define some of their grades with the added help of this "simple" quiz. It was a 20 question paper and I handed it out to about 28 students. Here are the best answers from question 8. Not all my students did not get it but the ones that didn't, well...really didn't.

8) SLR is an abbreviation for what?
Answer is Single Lens Reflex

Some interesting answers listed below

SHUTTER LENS RELEASE (This one showed up on a number of tests. Cheating! Is suspect).

Granted, many of these students are from around the world and there is a bit of a language problem, but everything on this test is part of our vocabulary, in class, week after week........

From Dave Hills who formerly owned the Hills Gallery in Denver:

Your photo viewers may applaud this notion advanced by Man Ray:

As the story goes, Man Ray was being chastised by a fellow painter for his use of a camera. The painter argued that a photograph was only capable of reproducing something exactly as it appeared. The strictly documentary nature of the photographic medium, he said, limited the creative input of the artist and therefore was forever stuck in a world of reality....( no doubt a surrealist speaking). In reply, Man Ray asked if the fellow had a girlfriend, and if so, did he have a snapshot of her. Proud of his sensuous, new, live model, the painter quickly produced a well worn, wallet sized print, a full length nude, to demonstrate her beauty. Man Ray studied the image for a moment and returned it to the painter saying. " Very lovely...a pity she is so small."

Another story from Dave's gallery days:

As a former photo gallery proprietor, I do recall with a smile a lady who came in one morning earnestly seeking a large "picture" for reception area of her office. She published a small, monthly Bible study journal and was really hoping to find a copy of a "photograph" she had seen somewhere else. A friend had suggested she come to my establishment. I asked her to describe the image. It was "really big" , she said, "and showed Noah's Ark perched on a mountaintop...and ...the sun was just coming out." I could go on but will stop here....

From Ben Breard, owner, Afterimage Gallery:

I recently thought of this incident, and, as Dave Berry says, I am not making this up. Occasionally I will receive a call from a salesman who works for a company not normally associated with photography. This fellow was with a publisher of graphics, and for some reason they had published a portfolio of Hollywood portrait photographer George Hurrell. It costs several thousand dollars, and I wasn't in the market. But I couldn't shake this guy. He kept going on and on, getting more and more excited about the portfolio. Eventually he said, "You know that Hurrell was a master of lighting." I agreed, knowing that my saying anything positive might push this guy over his emotional edge. Then he said, "That photograph by Ansel Adams of that western town with the moon: well, Hurrell did the lighting for that!" I have heard photographers extolled before but never deified!

From Tom Tarnowski, a university-level teacher:

Student proposal for a final project: "I will be doing a photographic story of a life, from beginning to end. It will consist of approximately 8-10 pictures."

Here's an occurrence sent to us by photographer Rob Pietri of Colt's Neck, New Jersey.

I was photographing the front of a museum in south Jersey with my 4x5 Sinar when a gentleman came up and asked me where the rest of my camera was. Sensing that he was teasing, I said that there is plenty of camera right here.

He smiled and then showed me what he was carrying under his arm. It was a painting of the Jersey Devil, a mythical legendary demonic creature that is said to haunt the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He said that he was going inside to see if it was worth anything. I complimented him on the painting and then asked very seriously, "Now did he pose for that or did he give you a photograph to use?"

He then gave me a look as if I were the Jersey Devil himself and without a word, quickly walked away. Apparently he took me seriously!

From another university-level teacher:

During my first semester as an adjunct instructor teaching photo-history, I learned that taking anything for granted can be risky. I spent the first half the term referring to "19th century photography;" only to learn in the mid-term exam that almost every member of the class thought I was talking about the 1900's.

When I taught a beginner’s class, I was amazed at how difficult it was for some students to remember the necessary sequence in making a print. Many of them would first get out a sheet of paper and put it in the easel; then they would put the negative in the enlarger and compose and focus the image on that sheet. This completed, they'd turn the enlarger off, set the timer and make the exposure---all on that same sheet of paper. They would ask, "Why is my picture so dark?"

I had a student in that same beginning photo class come to me in tears because every print she tried to make came out totally black. I went through every step of the process with her in the darkroom to determine what she'd done to fog the paper. But, she had the sequence "down pat" and in fact seemed to be a very careful worker. When I told her I couldn't understand why her prints were fogged, she said that she knew it couldn't possibly be due to defective paper---because the first thing she did after buying it was to take it home, open the package, and inspect every single sheet.

I asked how could she make this mistake after I'd spent so much time in class explaining the light-sensitive nature of photographic paper and she replied that she thought this only applied to ENLARGER light.

Another funny incident is when I asked a class of second-term photo students to write a very brief paper which would help me assess their experience level and long-term interests in photography. One student, apparently impressed by the potential of a career, described how if one became a really-really good photographer, one might someday win "the Pull It Surprise."