Let’s talk about the Holga camera before I tell you how I did these photos. The Holga camera is a plastic medium format, 120 film, toy camera that is made in China. Photos have the characteristics of vignetting, blur, light leaks and a slight distortion. These are some of the quirky qualities that have earned the camera a nearly cult status.
The camera, first made in 1981, was made to give the working-class Chinese an inexpensive camera to use, but soon 35mm film took over from 120 and the Chinese market dried up for the camera. The manufacturer decided to seek a market outside of China and the toy camera revolution was born. Check out the Lomography web site to see how far this has gone. Now there are many plastic toy cameras to choose from, all evolving from the Holga and Diana, its predecessor.
The camera has many followers and there are Holga groups on Flickr. Users like its simplicity of a point and shoot, but there is also a resurgence of the use of film. The camera has even made it into college photography classes giving students an introduction to film and in an expensive way. The camera itself is pretty cheap, costing between $30 and $50 depending on the model you buy. It has only two apertures, f8 and f11, with a speed of 1/125. The camera teaches you to think creatively. You don’t fire off hundreds of photos to edit later in Photoshop. There are only 12 or 16 exposures per roll, your choice. It’s a light-weight camera so easy to take everywhere you go and it comes in different colors.
So you may ask, why do I make these holgaramas that all look like I forgot to advance my film? because I can. You can’t do this in a dSLR. Oh, you can stitch multiple photos together, but with the Holga you do it in the camera and you are never sure exactly what you’ll get until you pick up your developed film. SURPRISE!
How do you do it? Shoot one frame, then turn the film advance dial about 3/4 of a turn or turn the dial so that the head of the arrow ends up where the tail left off in the previous shot. It takes some practice, but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect because that is part of the creative process. The end result might have major light leaks and dark corners, but it’s art, so who cares.
Okay, so this one was a bit disappointing. I hadn’t wound the film tightly so when I removed it from the camera more light got into the ends of the first few frames. Oh well, I said it was quirky.