Holga, baby

I’m a digital baby. It may surprise a few, but I’m just old enough that I did study film in college. What that meant for me is that instead of spending my time learning camera settings or photoshop, I spent hours in a dark closet *a hem* room mixing chemicals together, developing film, and dodging and burning (the old way). I graduated from school, got a “real” job, and started shooting weddings and bands because I was asked to by friends and friends of friends. I bought an extra camera body so that I could wear two around my neck at weddings – one for color film and one for black and white. I had to carefully plan how many photos to take during a ceremony so that I wouldn’t have to change my roll of film and potentially miss something important. And yes, I did run out of film at the first wedding I ever shot. Thankfully, the bride’s sister had plenty that I could use. 🙂

After years of it being drilled into my head by my professors and liberal art classmates that digital photography wasn’t art and that it “wasn’t fair”, I had assumed I’d always shoot film. I dreamed of one day having a dark room of my own. And then one day a customer at my garage sale in Gray, TN (I swear this is how it happened) said in passing, “You don’t shoot digital? It’s so much more practical.” And that was it. Once I realized that I didn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on film; I was intrigued. In truth, I had no idea what kind of animal the digital world was (is). But I jumped in with both feet.

It’s been a crazy/bumpy/blurry ride ever since. Shortly after switching to digital, I quit my job (my husband did too) and we moved to Atlanta chasing dreams. 7 months after getting here I became a full time photographer at age 22. I had no idea what I was doing (some days I still don’t).

It’s been almost six years now since I switched to digital. A few months ago, on a whim, I decided to buy a Holga (medium format film camera) off of Craigslist for $30. I spent another $30 on 6 rolls of black and white film and one roll of color. I knew I wanted to take it with me on my trip to Italy, so I waited to use it for that occasion.

When the time rolled around, I barely took a full roll of pictures. I loved snapping away with my digital camera and then, when I saw something really perfect, pulling out the Holga for a shot.

Upon returning, it cost me another 20 some dollars to get the roll of film developed and then another $10 to get a few of my favorites scanned. By then, I had been out of town for Christmas and then again on my trip to southeast Asia. When I finally picked up the disc, I brought it home and laid it in the floor beside my bed. I didn’t look at it for at least a week. I had seen the negatives and they didn’t look that spectacular. I figured, if there’s not really a difference between this and digital, I’ll just sell the Holga. It’s too expensive.

One night when I was home by myself, I decided to look at the images (to mark them off my to-do list).

I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw. They pretty much took my breath away. And suddenly it came rushing back… what it was that was so “great” about film. There really is a difference. And this is what I have missed. You will be seeing more of this on here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Richard Swearingen

    other than assuming that you were too young, I’m not surprised to know that you learned on film. It shows in your work. Digital is fantastic, but there’s a certain…something…integrity? authenticity? I don’t know…something that makes it easy to spot a photog who learned to expand the boundaries of film through digital and a photog who has never known anything other than photoshop. Maybe it’s a better understanding of what light is doing…maybe it’s just discipline that comes from not knowing what your pics look like until they’re fully processed…maybe it’s knowing how to “read” a negative and visualize the finished print, or having to commit at the time of exposure to whether the shot would be BW or color. Whatever is, you’ve got it. Not bad for a punk kid. 🙂

    And my first wedding, I owned one flash (I miss the vivitar 283) in a HUGE dark church, and three frames in I dropped it and blew the capacitor out in a massive shower of sparks. We adapt.

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  2. Rick

    Great post! Even the Holga world has moved on and entered the digital age. There are now Digital Holga lenses for most camera mounts (Nikon, Canon, etc) which have allowed younger photographers to get an idea of just how appealing sometimes imperfection can be 🙂

    Rick @ HolgaDirect

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