Tuesday, July 19, 2011

all hail the crap camera!

Yesterday was my birthday (and in case you're wondering, I turned twenty-three), and one of my presents was a Holga 120N camera (I also got a bag of my favourite Starbucks coffee, Ganong chocolates, a magnet for my locker, and a couple of other things).

Back in the first semester last year, we did an assignment for Creativity in Photography using Holga cameras. No rules--just go out and shoot a roll of whatever we wanted, process it, and have a contact sheet ready for next week's class. Both my rolls (as with all the other assignments for Creativity in Photography and Re-Presenting Ideas, this was a two-week thing) were shot on the way home from school. When I had a look at the contact sheet for the first roll, I fell in love. And I've been in love with the Holga/crap camera ever since. Thanks, Peter!

Cameras like the Holga (Diana, etc.) challenge the idea that a photo has to be perfect. They force the photographer to toss aside everything he/she's learned about photography. To quote the box the camera comes in,
"A Holga Camera is a study in plastic imperfection, and to use it is an exercise in breaking free from dependence on technology, precision, and uber-sharpness. The slight softness of the images, uncontrollable vignetting and peculiar light leaks create a partnership between you and your Holga. These 'flaws', accompanied by your creative choices, result in a quasi-serendipitous form of art. A Holga stretches our visual perception. Using a Holga adds another facet to the way we see the world. We notice more things, and thus we examine and evaluate their status. A Holga is an educator in teaching us a new visual vocabulary with which to describe our world. A Holga is a rule breaker. To use a Holga is to utterly change the terms of reference most people use to interpret photography."
That may sound lofty, but every word of it is true. And that's just the beginning.
"As the film is advanced manually, this camera can help achieve special effects through multiple exposure by not advancing the film after a frame has been exposed. Each depression of the Shutter Release Button will bring about another exposure. This feature will provide more latitude for the photographer to try out his/her imagination.

"To achieve multiple exposure is very easy--simply do NOT advance the film after a picture has been taken."
Best. Owner's. Manual. Ever. And it was obviously written in English--not written in Japanese and then translated in such a way that it's pretty much useless, as is the case with the manual for the flash for my DSLR.

Bottom line: creativity, creativity, creativity. And breaking the rules (either your own or the ones taught in art classes and schools), which can free one up. The rules are there for a reason, but sometimes they need to be broken.

However, since Holgas take 120 film, which isn't the most widely used kind (that title would go to 35 mm), and I don't have my own darkroom yet, I'm going to have to hunt around for places where I can get the film processed (especially the colour film that Mom gave me along with the camera, since I'll probably never process colour). I'd probably have to drop it off at somewhere like Walmart, SuperStore, Maineline Studios, or one of the drugstores--and then they'd send it somewhere to get processed. Or I'd just send it somewhere myself (on either side of the border). And I'd ask for negatives only, since I want to do any printing myself (either in the darkroom or by scanning them and tossing them onto a flash drive), so that I can have complete control.

When I unwrapped the camera, I was so excited that I forgot how to speak for several seconds: all I could do was mouth, "oh, my gosh" over and over with a huge grin on my face. I then regained my ability to make sound and started laughing. To me, getting a Holga is about as exciting as getting tickets to the Met Opera (though it's a lot cheaper), and has been since I shot my first photo last October (see the second paragraph).

Believe it or not, this is a double exposure. For my second roll for the assignment last Fall, since there were no rules, I gave myself an assignment within the Holga assignment for Peter's class: shoot a few multiple-exposure photos. This is one of my favourites.

For the past week or two I've been working on a photo project. The theme is things that we use/eat every day, often without thinking about it. I'm also playing with the colours and doing really funky processing in Adobe Camera RAW. So far I've shot photos of my jeans (see below), my morning coffee, a box of strawberries and a teddy bear (named Sweet Repose--Sweet for short) that I used to sleep with. And yesterday I shot some photos of my Holga out in the driveway, but I have yet to download and process those photos. I'm planning to have fifteen to twenty images in the final product, which I'll make into a poster using Adobe Bridge or Photoshop.

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