I first met George Olson during a sniper attack in San Francisco in the late 70’s. A deranged gunman, reportedly with an M16, was firing from a high floor of an office building down onto the increasingly concerned rush hour population of citizens who happened to be on foot on the streets and sidewalks around the office building. George was clearly a professional news photographer, a photojournalist, with at least three cameras around his shoulders and a Domke bag and a serious yet studied expression betraying the slightest hint of weary jaundice… he’d seen it before… I was thrilled to see him as I imagined that I might be like him someday and be able to leave my miserable job washing cars at the Lincoln Mercury dealearship around the corner.
Since I only could afford the single wide angle lens I remember turning away from the rifle shots above to photograph the pinned down pedestrians pushed up against the wall where George was standing. His dry humor was evident from the start. He deadpanned that I might prefer to get my ass out of the street and have my back safely to the wall with my eyes looking up.
Humor is probably the hardest thing to photograph. And it’s often said luck favors the photographer who is prepared. But luck does not explain the many, many very funny images this man has accumulated. Here’s a few:
Humor is a personal thing so obviously this is my opinion, but it is just uncanny what he’s done. Sort of irritating actually because it’s just not explainable. I mean I walk the streets all the time, and if I get one image a year that is even mildly amusing I’m grateful. I think you’d have to spend almost all your time each and every day cruising for this kind of thing with an amazing antenna up for the set up– the sign that sets up the joke–and the action he’s captured. And then you’d have to be psychic because otherwise you could not possibly anticipate that someone or something was about to happen that would illustrate the opposite of what the sign intended, thus making the punchline. I mean I just don’t get it. It’s way beyond the decisive moment. I can’t even begin to explain it. And so I won’t, but I will recommend taking a look at these images here and more at George’s site: georgeolsonphotography.com
and from his recent show at the iWitness Gallery in Portland, Oregon, here: http://www.pnwcp.com/iwitnessgallery/galleries/George_Olson/George_Olson.html