Why Holga is My Favorite Camera
Updated: Jul 24, 2018
After one of my newsletters mentioned most of the studiosiegXclusive scarves are created from an original photograph made with a Holga camera, many reached out with the question ... "what is a Holga camera and what is so special about it anyway?"
Allow me to give you a glimpse into my creative process and introduce you to my favorite camera!
In its original form, a Holga is a very rudimentary, inexpensive, plastic camera that uses medium format 120 film (2" x 2" square negatives). With minimal settings and controls, the outcomes are quirky and unpredictable - which is precisely what draws me to it.
Vignetting, blurs, light leaks and other random distortions (often the unique stamp of an individual camera) leads to an artistic low-fidelity aesthetic. No (Instagram) filter necessary!
Manufactured in Hong Kong, the Holga was first introduced to the Chinese public in the early 1980s. Over the years, it gained a global cult following, especially in the 2000s as its low-tech appeal brought a popular counterbalance against the rise of photographic perfection from digital cameras.
In 2015, photographers all over the world mourned as production of the Holga camera came to a complete stop. Luckily, it didn't take long before massive resurrection initiatives were undertaken and a total revamped Holga line was born, featuring different colors, flash capabilities, different lenses and even some digital versions as well.
I myself swear true to my original basic black Holga with a mere 2 light settings (sunny or cloudy) and 4 focus (distance) settings: 1 person, 3 people, 1 group of people or mountains ... all nicely visualized by some basic iconography on the side of the lens 😎
As each Holga comes with its own unique patterns of distortions I find mine most prominent in the vignetting—the gradual darkening of the image corners—inconsistently present in 2, 3 or all 4 corners of my photographs. See original photograph for the Meditation Mind scarf below.
My Holga has no outspoken light leaks (grateful for that actually) and other random and adventurous results are typically welcomed as a fun surprise.
I do not develop my own film. I do have a high-resolution photo scanner in my studio to scan the negatives into my computer. After several hours of cleaning up dust and scratches in the image file, I take full advantage of having my original film in digital format so so I can determine print-size and/or blow them up for use in my next art-to-wear design. This is the 21st Century after all 😇
One of my favorite things to play with when working with a Holga is double-exposures. Once considered a rookie mistake (who remembers forgetting to wind the film forward between photographs?), I LOVE taking 2 photographs on top of each other and discover what new story it brings.
At first, the results were a total hit or miss on color film, though the fun and chaos in black and white kept my experiments alive. By now I've learned that pulling off a successful double-exposure in color requires a little more foresight and creative "planning," if that is even possible with a camera sans controls ...
Can you discover the 2 separate scenes in this original photograph for the Traffic skirt? Wish I could show them to you side by side, but they never existed as separate images to begin with. Fun, right?
And now you know a little of how I play ...