November 2, 2007
Holga Experiments – Part I

This is my Holga, nestled in the leaves of my moneywort plant, sitting upon the wooden bench I made in 8th-grade shop class.

(Please note that this Holga has been modified with colorful letter stickers spelling out the word, “Holga,” where the usual branding would appear. It also came from the manufacturer to create images in a square format. Many of them are designed to create vertical rectangles.)

A Holga is a plastic medium-format camera. I bought this one at B&H; for $20.00. I have found them for as little as $16.00, and am quite fond of giving them away as gifts or taking them to unusual places to shoot, like the ocean. Straight in. Big waves? No worries. It only cost $16.00-$20.00.

My photo lab came into some extraneous expired 120mm film, and I bought a lot of it for this and what will be future Holga experiments.

This time around, I used a roll of tungsten-balanced film in daylight (for the tech-savvy, you know what this means, for the layman, it means the colors would turn out whack). The assignment was to create an abstract piece of potential cover art for a new rock band, Sputnik Sweetheart (coming soon to Ever since spotting that Mick Jagger/jaguar shot by Albert Watson, I’ve been anxious to do some experimenting with in-camera double-exposures, so I decided to give it a shot on the Holga.

Because the camera is plastic and has one set aperture and shutter speed, this was a shot-in-the-dark experiment. I put the Holga on a tri-pod and did a double-exposure in bright sunlight on 64 ISO film. Man, did these shots blast out! I mean, WAY too much light got in.

However, in PhotoShop, I pulled it down to what could pass as an interesting 3-color print-making piece, and I think I got the band a unique piece of work after all! The image on the bottom is the unadjusted scan of the WAY over-exposed film, and the image on the top is the same image after PhotoShop tweaking (note that the colors could not be tweaked – other color information simply did not exist on the film). This experiment had a surprise twist in that I originally intended it as afilm-based project, but it turned out to be quite a fun challenge to manipulate the scanned image digitally. The quality of the film gave me the basis as a minimal image, and the benefits of technology allowed me to emphasize that minimal outline to the point where it conveyed the information in an interesting visual way. While some might say it is important to maintain the integrity of the medium (and often I agree – especially when it comes to shooting true black and white on b&w; film), in this case, starting with the film laid the groundwork for something creative that could truly only have been finished digitally. So, I consider this experiment a happy marriage of mediums.

Some things to consider about the flaws in this experiment: the film was expired. The film was tungsten-balanced slide film, which explains some of the strange color-cast, and also the lack of the 4-stop forgiveness of negative film. In other words, where another filmstock may have recorded more information color or detail-wise, even in bright sunlight, this filmstock did not possess those capabilities. A limitation? Perhaps. But when you are limited, you are forced to be creative. And, the little I was able to squeeze out of this film took the concept for the image in a totally different direction. It seemed to me ironic that an image with a futuristic setting and sense of minimalism could appear antiquated in the way that the print-making technique itself is antique.

Because of this, the image became about wondering if the viewer is meant to be looking backwards or forwards in time. There is a question of what this is a remnant of, and how it came to exist in this timespace. Was it the camera, the recording, or the subjects themselves that have transcended this time and space? I prefer images that beg questions of time. Time is one of my biggest fascinations, and I am always intrigued by the relationship between normal life, which moves forward inevitably, and the camera which attempts to freeze or capture it.

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