Laughter isn’t something I typically associate with art. In fact, it’s probably frowned upon at most museums and galleries (both for the loudness and the insolence). But in the case of Tiny People Big Laughs, it’d be rude not to giggle.

TPBL is a father-son team. JJ Johansen is based in Denver, while his father, Erik Johansen, lives in Denmark (where JJ is from). In a process that puts 21st-century technology to use, JJ sketches out his ideas, emails them to his father, and then watches via FaceTime as his dad sets up and captures the shot. Many of JJ’s ideas stem from idioms—phrases that he found humorous (and, oftentimes, confusing) when he was first learning English. In JJ’s mind, “watching paint dry” takes on a literal translation and “on a roll” becomes tiny skier figurines on a toilet paper roll. The pair’s Scandinavian roots come through in the simplistic images, but the final result is anything but basic. These are photographs that require a double take and an extra second of thought. After that the laughter comes easily.

Still in need of a stocking stuffer? JJ will be selling prints at the Arvada Center’s 34th Annual Holiday Craft Fair (November 29–December 1).

Before You Go: Hear where JJ got the idea for these clever images and see more photographs in the video below.

Meet the Artist: Tiny People Big Laughs from 5280 on Vimeo.

View all of our Meet the Artist profiles at


Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at