Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If I weren't so damn lazy and so in need of instant feedback, I'd be doing some Holga photography

Years ago I bought an old box camera from the St. Vincent De Paul Society, threw in a roll of 120 film that was lying around and started shooting away. The results were wonderfully bizarre photos, with a strange, out-of-focus softness (due to cheap lens) and wild, surreal color fringes around everything (again, due to cheap lens).

Shooting with a Holga is kind of like that, but more so. With the Holga, you can add circular, often off-center vignetting to the mix, weird perspectives from a wide-angle lens, as well as random light streaks from sloppy construction that is far from light tight. But I'm lazy, addicted to the instant feedback of digital photography, and can't stand to wait for film prints to come back from the processor. Sometimes I try to outfox the machine intelligence of my little Minolta Dimage X and fool it into Holga-like ways, sometimes by moving the camera quickly while pressing the shutter. More often I'll deliberately try to take pictures where there's not enough light.

But it's not the same. There's something about a photograph taken with a Holga that is completely different from anything by any other camera, and that look is the basis of the "Holga esthetic."

I was reminded of my fondness for Holga photographs by some I saw on the Alphabitch blog. The first link goes back to when she started with the Holga a few months ago.
A while back Ms. Twisty mentioned that she'd acquired a Holga, and I started reading about them and decided I absolutely had to have one. Judging from the comments at Twisty's place, I was not the only one.

As you can see on this photo of my neighbor's lawn, the camera does all kinds of amazing things, what with the light leaks, and odd shadows around the edges, and the unpredictable focusing. I think this one, like the one below of poor dear Pirate Jenny, was shot on expired slide film and cross-processed. [Update: but the gal at the place where I had it processed says that they wouldn't have done that, that it must have been negative film, not slide film. But the negative says "fujichrome" on the edge, and all the other rolls of fujichrome film I have are slide film. Whatever. It looks cool.]
More photos are at this link, including the one at the right. Most of her photos are in color (expired color film she bought on eBay), but I like the slightly ominous starkness of this black and white shot, even though it doesn't show the full Holga color effects. I think what gives it the strangeness is the wide-angle effect of the lens, which (along with the Holga's inherently poor resolution) makes it look a bit like a pinhole camera shot.

"Whatever. It looks cool." -- that's about the best description I've seen yet of the Holga esthetic. Call it "Holgatude."


alphabitch said...

the lack of instant feedback is disconcerting. I've been taking the same shots from the same places once in a while with the holga and then with my digital nikon, just to try to figure out what the differences are in terms of the viewfinder & depth of field and so on. I've concluded the viewfinder is useless, and I keep meaning to pick up a couple of those keychain-sized levels to glue on the camera body so that I can tell sort of which direction it's pointed in. Not sure it'll help, but I'm a bit of a control freak. Also, there's a lot more in the picture than you think there's going to be, so you have to get way up close. And there's not much point in taking pictures of stuff that's any distance away. Which is a bummer, because I'm trying to capture the majesty of the kudzu in my neighborhood. I'm going to try disposable panoramic cameras next. Maybe I can find some expired ones on eBay.

alphabitch said...

ps -- I want to try one of those old box cameras too.

And I think I got some OK holga-like effects with the nikon though it was accidental. Both unsteady camera-holding and low light. I will try for more of this. I can't make the link work, but it's over here: http://alphabitch7.blogspot.com/2006/07/blueberries-for-stella.html