Was That A Smile Citizen Smith?
December 10, 2005 2:01 PM   Subscribe

"I am standing at the traffic lights when the woman next to me, lost in her thoughts, suddenly bursts out laughing. Then she immediately covers her mouth with her hand and glances around, embarrassed. This gives me an idea. I phone the photographer Stephen Gill. 'Let's walk around looking for people who are laughing to themselves because of something they've just thought of,' I say. 'When we find them, you take their photograph and I'll ask them what they were thinking about that was so funny.'" Jon Ronson sets out to discover the secret source of joy.
posted by Blue Stone (31 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
OK, I'm missing it. Where are the photos displayed?
posted by Neologian at 2:20 PM on December 10, 2005

This thread is worthless without pictures.
posted by sourwookie at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2005

Jon Ronson is such a good writer. Just about anything he's written, either for newspapers or books, is worth reading. Some of his profile writing — the Guardian piece on Jonathan King a couple of years ago, for instance — is just outstanding. His tone is similar to Louis Theroux's, but his attention span is greater, and so his insights are deeper. One of these days, when he allows himself to be compassionate without hiding behind too much irony, he's going to produce a book which will be exceptional.
posted by MinPin at 2:30 PM on December 10, 2005

I like that the last girl was laughing about Scooter Libby getting indicted, then panics later worried about getting a Tax Audit (must have been an American, I guess)
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on December 10, 2005

i liked the story a lot and laughed anticipating mefi complaints about the lack of photographs.
posted by xod at 2:39 PM on December 10, 2005

I really enjoyed reading that, thank you.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2005

I liked the story too, especially all the cranky interjections about what a pollyanna the photographer is ("People have lovely thoughts!"). But yes, where are the photographs? If that American woman was so freaked-out about her photo being published, they must have mentioned something to her about where it was to be published, no?
posted by Gator at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2005

Ronson's a brilliant writer. I just finished reading Them: Adventures with Extremists and it's a great read.
posted by clevershark at 2:57 PM on December 10, 2005

nice story, but where are the photos?!
posted by geeky at 3:07 PM on December 10, 2005

I find it odd that people are laughing about things that are cheerful and not funny. I may certainly smile to myself about any manner of good news, but to have a little private laugh there has to be something funny about the situation — 90% of those interviewed in the article don't cut it.
posted by rafter at 3:12 PM on December 10, 2005

You forgot the "wherearethepictures" tag.
posted by jenovus at 3:14 PM on December 10, 2005

Ronson is great, being paying attention to him for years, since he had that show on BBC2, and then the wonderful 'For the Love of' show on channel 4 when he interviewed all sorts of obsessives. This is typical of good Ronson writing, but where the frick are the pictures... seriously?
posted by Elmore at 3:50 PM on December 10, 2005

Alleged photos. Where are these photos? Perhaps the entire story is a fabrication and they don't exist? How convenient that the best one, supposedly, can't even be published...
posted by scheptech at 4:00 PM on December 10, 2005

"Oh. You're one of those 'I just love life' people, are you?"
He looks confused and apologises. "Sorry," he says.

Tonight or tomorrow I'm going to remember reading that, and then I'll smile in public without anyone knowing what was so funny.
posted by easternblot at 4:29 PM on December 10, 2005

pictures or stfu
posted by bigmusic at 4:46 PM on December 10, 2005

Heh. Often when I have that type of laugh, I would not know where to begin explaining it to someone who asked.

Well, you see, this lady was trying to buy mushrooms and...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:00 PM on December 10, 2005

Yeah, that's true of me too, furiousxgeorge. If I'm alone with my thoughts, they tend to bound along from point to point, and if anyone asked me what I was chuckling about I'd pretty much have to say, "It's a private joke" or "You had to be there" because otherwise it would take all day to set up the backstory. And then it wouldn't be funny to anyone but me.
posted by Gator at 5:04 PM on December 10, 2005

Scheptech: "Perhaps the entire story is a fabrication and they don't exist?"

Yup, especially after the last paragraph ("Over the phone, we toy with the idea of pretending she was laughing to herself about something else. ") Possibly corrupt data aside, I enjoyed this. I've been sporadically laughing to myself over Little Billy Evans being third base for a day now and the odds that I will do so in some deadly boring public setting are high. I think you'd just make the situation worse by trying to explain it.
posted by Pigpen at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2005

bigmusic writes "pictures or stfu"

wasn't this about joy?
posted by moonbird at 6:34 PM on December 10, 2005

If you're interested in Street Photography, head on over to the Streetphoto Forums which I administrate and where some of the best SPers working today hang out (not including Stephen Gill, though -- yet!
posted by unSane at 7:17 PM on December 10, 2005

It might seem at first glance that the woman in black, pushing the orange pram, is laughing at her baby and consequently oughtn't to be included...

The man in the black suit walking past the Sainsbury's next to Westminster City Hall is called John Dimmer.

I find it hard to believe this article didn't include at least some photos in the print version, given the above phrasing. And given that at least one similar Ronson/Gill series featured photos. Anyway, maybe the paper will get around to posting the photos, in which case someone should link them here. I couldn't find them on the site, anyway.
posted by mediareport at 7:25 PM on December 10, 2005

Who gives a shit? Where are the fucking photos? What kind of fucking bullshit is this? Balls crap fuck, ass, cunt, fuck fuck!
posted by redteam at 10:40 PM on December 10, 2005

nice story, but where are the photos?!

Didn't you read? The guy was laughing because his friend deleted all of them!

(The photos were in the print version. I could do text descriptions of each photo since y'all seem to be so desperate to "see" them, but, y'know...I can't be bothered.)
posted by Katemonkey at 12:17 AM on December 11, 2005

They all have balogna in their shoes.
posted by HTuttle at 12:31 AM on December 11, 2005

I read it in the print edition. The pictures did exist, but you're not missing much: they didn't have a picture for each description, and they're not particularly interesting.

The Guardian has a feature that lets you read the full print edition with pictures on the web, but it's subscription-only. £1.50 (About US $2.70) for 24 hours access.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:18 AM on December 11, 2005

I read the article online, and then saw the print version. I think the article's better without photos because the words are exceptional but the photos aren't.
posted by iffley at 3:25 AM on December 11, 2005

oooh, this is just so... twee.
posted by lapolla at 6:18 AM on December 11, 2005

That's fantastic, I love those little moments..
posted by smitt at 7:21 AM on December 11, 2005

I think the article's better without photos because the words are exceptional but the photos aren't.

I agree with that. While Stephen Gill specialises in ostensibly banal photography that actually speaks a lot about our environment(s) (he's had some excellent photo essays published in Granta in the recent past), the pix printed with this article are the wrong type of banal.
posted by macdara at 1:00 PM on December 11, 2005

redteam wins.
posted by ManicExpressive at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2005

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