Monday, July 21

holga = my new hobby

holga box

so a couple of weeks ago, destructor and i were out for a stroll when we met holga. ok so it wasn't a stroll, but an intentional afternoon of shopping/consumerism. we found holga at turntable lab on fairfax, and it looked so curious and fascinating that we had to have it. he got it for me as a gift, and i am grateful because it now gives me a new hobby and perspective on the world.


what is a holga? i'm not sure how to explain this. it's a little plastic camera - not particularly well made - that has a long history. it has a plastic lens, and captures the essence of snapshot photography. (plus, your photos come out square. isn't that enough to love it?) to me, having this camera is like being forced to travel back in time. it is the opposite of the high tech digital canon that i have. you have to get your hands dirty.

let me back up. apparently, in 1982, the russians were inspired by a little japanese camera. they based their lomo lc-a camera (the "lomo kompakt automat"!) on it and thus a whole sub-culture was ultimately born.

then (or, simultaneously?), a plastic low-tech camera was developed in hong kong. originally, this was meant for people who wanted to partake in casual photography: this was a cheap medium-format camera with all the basic mechanisms needed. this was called "ho gwong" in chinese which meant "very bright" - of course they then put a european spin on it and thus the "holga" was born! eventually the holga ended up in the hands of artsy people and institutions, its reputation gaining momentum until it officially became a part of the lomographic society.

holga starter kit

in the older/original models, there were some manufacturing defects that ironically became the reason why people loved this camera so much. the body was not constructed well, and would cause several light leaks. this gave shots taken with a holga a very distinct personality. the idea that you never knew what mood your holga was in was perplexing, challening, and fun. people always say, you could get only 1 good shot out of a whole roll while all the others are crap, or if you're lucky you might get lots of beautiful shots.

a common characteristic of these shots is the vignetting around the edges. i still haven't figured out what makes it stronger in some shots vs others. on my first roll, only 1 shot had this effect. why?? another fun thing you can do (and this works against you, too), is multiple exposures on one frame. like i mentioned, everything is super-manual. it took me 30 minutes to load my first roll into my camera. i felt like i had traveled back in time. i was afraid every little thing i was doing was going to ruin the film. i also had to cut a tiny piece of cardboard out of a random box to wedge underneath the film because it wasn't staying straight (the holga is notorious for this, which will give you shots that are crooked. not cool) anyway, you have to manually advance the film in order to go to the next shot. if you forget to do this, you will take your next shot on the same frame, causing either 1) a really creative/interesting/fun image or 2) ruining both your shots.

but the double exposure is why i love this camera. i can play with it and see what comes out later. the first time i took a photo, i felt really weird. living in a world of digital technology makes you take everything for granted. we are so spoiled - we go through life with digital confirmations. did that email go out? who called you on your cell? how did that last photo turn out? just look at the display on your digital camera.

with the holga, i clicked and got nothing. there i was standing on the street, holding what could have easily been a plastic toy, not knowing if my picture actually "registered" or how it would turn out. it gave me anxiety.

however, i got over this very quickly. it forced a perspective shift upon me. and that's what life is all about. you have to bring change onto yourself, so you can see things differently.

next up: photos from the holga AND how to pimp your holga.


Holga Mods said...

that camera looks class! good luck with it.

harry said...

Awesome..! That camera is looking trendy.