Benjamin mentions collective laughter as “one such preemptive and healing outbreak of mass psychosis” (118). Immediately I thought of pictures I have of my friends and family members mid-laughter and decided to find them. Upon browsing through these pictures, I could feel the healing power of laughter in photography and further questioned these photographs in terms of Benjamin’s studies. As Benjamin speaks of the “optical unconscious,” he mentions the details in movement that are not caught on film, for example the split second of a person taking a step while walking. Though we can see the full action, these minute details are lost. Similarly, although the general tone of the photographs is lively and full of evident laughter, I question what prompted these responses and the photographer’s motives for taking these candid photographs.
The first photograph is from my senior prom and the second is a photograph of my grandfather that I took last March at a family dinner. In Section XVI of his The Work of Art in the Age of Its Reproducibility, Benjamin comments how, “slow motion not only reveals familiar aspects of movements, but discloses quite unknown aspects within them” (117). Having snapshots of people during a fit of laughter, I am able to see a distinct moment. Just as walking is a fluid motion that details are quickly lost in, for me laughter parallels this motion. I not only do not recognize how people appear when they laugh, but I never recognized the power of laughter photography. Although laughter is in fact something you can see with the human eye, it is also a movement that can be easily lost or devoid of details.