Wednesday, March 26, 2008

hol-GA, hol-GA, hol-GA

I may be barking up the wrong tree here (or wrong tripod, whatever), but do any of you Out There have any experience using a Holga? Brief primer, all of which I basically learned surfing the internet last night after getting paged out of REM at 3:00am and (shockingly) was unable to resume a normal sleep pattern: a Holga is a brand name for a cheapy plastic film camera that has a cult following for the low-fidelity, distinctive photos it generates, full of lens defects and light leaks and oversaturated colors. It uses 120 film (as opposed to 35mm in your standard point and shoot), and there are multiple modifications or hacks that people use to enhance or customize their Holgas to get the effects that they want. Here is an example of a Holga-type photo (the classic Holga print is 6" x 6", with vignetting defects at the corners and a soft, dream-like focus):

photo credit: condoaustin from his flickr Holga 120 set

So my question to you out there (and I gather that some of you have a peripheral interest in photography, as I do) is--have you used a Holga? Do you like it? Is it worth it? The camera itself, being a toy, basically, is relatively cheap--probably $25 or so. But it's a film camera, which means, duh, the expense of film, plus the cost of processing (probably more for 120 film than for your standard 35mm rolls, though I honestly have no idea how much) and miscellaneous expenses that accrue with any sort of print photography. Additionally--and I think this freaks me out more--is the lack of control. I know that some people love the unpredictability of the results obtained with a Holga, what with its no focus, no light meter, one shutter speed shooting from the hip aesthetic, of the "oh look, it was an accident, but look at how it turned out" vein, but honestly, I don't know if that's really my personality. After shooting with digital for so long, I love the ability to see right away that 1.) I shot a good photo, and 2.) be able to do all my own post-processing immediately. MUST BE IN CONTROL AT ALL TIMES, OF EVERYTHING. This must be why I got into anesthesia.

Purist sentiment aside, what's the difference between getting a crappy camera to shoot photos valued for their imperfections, and shooting with a better (possibly digital) camera and crapping it up in post-processing? I like the idea of the Holga, but feel like there is a large chance it could just be a pain in the ass. And honestly, I don't really need a super time-consuming hobby these days. I could probably do well with cutting out a few hobbies, actually. Like sleeping.

Above: some random photos I took with my phone cam on my way to work today and lomo'ed up in post-processing. They are not the artsy square prints as valued in the medium format film world, but some judicious cropping is simple enough. You can use Photoshop, of course, or this new service I recently discovered called Picnik, which is like Photoshop for people who don't know how to use Photoshop, or would rather not deal with all those layers and masks and stuff. Check it out, it is rather pleasing, and free as well.