About a month ago my friend Puloma lent me her Holga camera, and I finally got to use a roll of color 120 film that I had accidentally bought last year. The holga is an interesting piece of machinery to work with (if you can even call it machinery). It is a plastic black box with a matching plastic lens that only has one shutter speed and four aperture settings: mountains, lots of people, three people, and one person. Literally, there is a tiny little picture on the “lens” to describe each of those settings. There is no focus ring. The shutter is spring activated (I think it might just be a paperclip). The hardest part about using a holga is probably loading the film, but once you’ve done that all that is left to be done is point the camera at your subject matter and press the shutter. Advance your film and repeat until all 10 frames have been used (there is also the option to double-expose a image, which I did accidentally).
Although the holga has recently been found in the hands of many a hipster and sold in Urban Outfitters (aka hipster walmart), there is something wonderful and alluring about its simplicity. Because it does not do well in low light, the holga is best used during the day. This fact forces you to go out into the world, and because all the technical aspects of photography are effectively removed, I feel like it distills the photographic process into a more pure, if somewhat error-prone, experience. It reminds me why I got into photography in the first place. There was something very captivating about wandering around with my camera in my hands, not concerned with f-stops but just looking and taking pictures of everything and anything that caught my attention. The holga brings out that same care-free instinct.
Yet there is one crucial difference. Unlike my first digital camera, which let me take close to 100 images, the holga only gives you 12 chances (unless you have more film, I didn’t). This reality forces you to slow down and really consider if the scene in front of you is worth that precious frame. And so, the beauty of the holga is that you find yourself slowing down your process while also experiencing a more pure photographic mindset.
But that’s just my opinion. Maybe the magic of a holga is just simply that it is a holga.