Photographers finding humour in the streets

Everyday life is packed with unintentionally comical moments – if only you have the skills to spot them. Here, three photographers discuss ways of capturing humour on our streets

Telling a story in one picture is probably the most difficult yet most powerful element of street photography. There’s no brief, no direction, and often the photographer is just there waiting, having to trust their intuition to find the shot. From the striking black and white street photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moments’ to Bruce Gilden’s extreme, and sometimes controversial, closeups of ordinary people, street photography can take many forms. While the job of the photographer is to observe, capturing humour on our streets can often be the most rewarding work, as the images created are unexpected, entertaining, and juxtapose the ordinary with the extraordinary. 

Street photography may seem like it’s a simple stroll outside and a few clicks of the camera, but the actual process is more nuanced than that. For London-based photographer Dougie Wallace, it’s about tapping into the environment and the people within it. “[My photography] is inspired by people and their daily lives,” he says. “What motivates me is human behaviour – people’s interactions and emotions fascinate me. My stories are thematic; they have similar expressions running through them. My work is informed by society’s trends and incongruities and translating what I see through the lens into wit, criticism and humorous vignettes. I’d like to think that my photos convey a point of view that’s believable and absurd.” 

Top and Above: From Stags, Hens & Bunnies, A Blackpool Story, 2014, by Dougie Wallace

Wallace creates images that are bold, vibrant, verging almost on the garish; he says this style is inspired by his Glaswegian roots. “I am Scottish. I grew up in Glasgow. My upbringing has shaped my style, which has been described as ‘visually exaggerated’ and ‘hard-edged’. I’ve lived in and around east London for the past two decades,” he explains. “I experienced the days before gentrification, when Shoreditch was one big party. That helped me develop an eye for the tragicomic, the messy side of uninhibited human behaviour, which you can find anywhere, not just in Shoreditch and east London, of course.”