In recent months, we have, up to this point, dealt with the topic of “heroes” under various aspects and on several occasions. We did not mean shining figures placed on a high pedestal, but people, like you and me, whose behavior makes them role models for their fellow human beings.
We had no idea how relevant the topic would become in the context of the coronavirus. Like any crisis, the pandemic is feeding the need to identify all sorts of “heroes” who can show us the way out of the darkness and back into the light.
The genuine substance of many of these “heroic epics” fluctuates somewhere between pathetic and embarrassing. Forget it: lolling about on the sofa at home, for example, does not make you a hero just because doing nothing is suddenly declared a noble civic duty… How much more refreshing and above all honest is a bit of comical distance, even, or especially, under adverse circumstances. This is also the hour of the anti-heroes, who, despite their understanding of the seriousness of the situation, can laugh at themselves and life…and perhaps infect others with their humor, pulling them out of their misery.
When what was assumed to be immovable and certain gets pulverized under the force of unforeseen events, rattling our familiar world, we do not need self-pitying whining and hollow sayings, but rather encouragement from people who are up to such times. We are not talking here about priests, psychotherapists, self-proclaimed moral guardians, and certainly not about politicians, but instead we are talking about the rogues among (and in!) us, who cheekily stick their tongue out at life and do not lose their (black) humor, even in the darkest hours.
In “normal” times, these jokers may sometimes seem like the complete opposite of heroes. Because they tend to step out of their trained roles more often, they have the reputation of being somewhat childish and frivolous contemporaries. Nevertheless, they can sometimes save our bad day with a good joke, an original saying, a stage-ready buffoon, or—very important—with their ability to not take themselves or life too seriously.
This is all the more true when fear and uncertainty dominate all minds. Then the resilient humor of the anti-heroes is worth its weight in gold—and in a crisis, the price of the precious metal, as you know, rises sharply. Within many comedians, great and small, there is a serious, sometimes melancholy person who is well acquainted with the tragic sides of life. This has prepared these characters better for times in which the all too often only displayed mask of cheerfulness disappears from many faces, or at least they must hide behind a grin.
The tongue-in-cheek confidence of such jokers can then sometimes create more public spirit and reflect confidence in the future than many empty phrases ever could. And when the coronavirus nightmare is over, we will hopefully remember those who cheered us despite all our anxiety for longer than all those alarmists, hoarders, and cowards.
So, as photographers, dare to put a few hero caricatures in the scene because humor isn’t just when you are already laughing anyway, but for all of us it is as important as the air we breathe—in every situation of life. Celebrate people in your photos who express their non-conformity in a humorous way and do it with Monty Python’s “Brian,” who, while hanging on the cross, was still singing: “Always look on the bright side of life…”