Photographic Satire on Social Media

Shrek_(character)“The rules of satire are such that it must do more than make you laugh. No matter how amusing it is, it doesn’t count unless you find yourself wincing a little even as you chuckle”

– Some wise guy

What is satire?

The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Elements of Satire – irony, sarcasm, parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, double entendre

4 Techniques – irony, incongruity, exaggeration, reversal



Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, replica 1964

The use of words to convey something that’s opposite of the literal meaning of the word.

Taking the piss – PHRASE BRITISH IMPOLITE – to say something to try to make someone look silly

take the piss out of

“His friends were taking the piss out of him”.

 Duchamp takes a utilitarian, industrial   object and presents it as art.




Banksy, Rage the Flower Thrower (2005)

To present things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to its surroundings.







Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919)

“Elle a chaud au cul,”(She has a nice butt)

Giving Mona Lisa a moustache and goatee, Duchamp plays with gender role reversal.






Exaggeration & Parody


Exaggeration – a representation of something in an excessive manner.

Parody – work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work.

Image result for rick and morty back to the future

Image result for donald trump small hands

Sacha Baron Cohen (b. 1971)

Is a British actor, comedian, screenwriter, and film producer. He is best known for creating and portraying many fictional satirical characters, including Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, Brüno, Admiral General Aladeen, Erran Morad, and multiple others. Like his idol Peter Sellers, he adopts a variety of accents and guises for his characters and rarely appears out of character.

Who Is America? is an American political satire television series created by Sacha Baron Cohen that premiered on July 15, 2018, on Showtime. Baron Cohen also stars in the series as various characters and executive produces.

Image result for billy wayne ruddick

Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., PhD, a far-right conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed citizen journalist

Image result for erran morad

Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert, member of the Israeli military, and former agent of Mossad

Image result for dr nira cain

Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, a far-left lecturer on gender studies at Reed College, co-principal at Wildfields Poly-Ed, and a Democratic activist who wishes to “heal the divide” in America between conservatives and liberals

Who is America Preview (interview starts 1:01)



Baron Cohen utilizes a wide variety of satirical techniques to make his work successful. He employs two distinct approaches to satirizing political and social issues. One, where his character will highlight the follies, stupidity, or vices of the people he is talking with. This is the case with the clip above. Another tactic he uses is to play an absurd character that parodies, exaggerates and characterizes an idea, social, or political group (see Billy Wayne Ruccick & Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello). By making a fool of himself, he is satirizing his target group.

Baron Cohen’s mesmerizing but terrifying infiltration of these communities is what makes his satirical approaches to these issue so effective. The fact that the ridiculous and obviously fake characters (at least to the viewer) are able to deceive and manipulate their targets is what promotes introspection, and critical thought of current social and political circumstances.

The key is to have the target of the satire be completely unaware that they are in fact being satirized.

Social Media & the ClichImage result for instagram parody logoé

an interesting article on travel photography cliché on instagram:

“As in any creative realm you use inspiration of people who’ve already taken that path. And I think in photography, as long as you use it to improve yourself as an artist, and then transition out of that into your own space, I think it’s fine. It’s when you stay in that realm of just riffing off of other stuff, that when it becomes a problem.”

– Mackenzie Duncan, BC based commercial & travel photographer, 17.2k followers

neonnight“People eat it up, they love it. Whatever people are into is going to keep happening.” – @youdidnotsleepthere

What are the problems?

Unoriginality and a facade of innovation

Photographers’ unawareness of their role in keeping clichés thriving

Cookie cutter formulas for success

A subsequent hesitancy to do something different

The Goal

To identify trends and clichés that have seeped into visual culture. To satirize the Instagram portrait community by employing irony, burlesque, incongruity, and exaggeration. To bring a more conscious awareness to our image making and image consuming on online platforms. To highlight the uniformity and contrived nature of highly successful (most liked, shared, copied) image concepts. To expose the visual inaccuracies that are prevalent in popular Instagram portraiture.


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