With my recent holga fascination and the seeming Renaissance of film that is going on in the photo-blogo-sphere (TM), it got me wondering – Why?
Look, by any technical measure, the Holga is a crappy camera. It is flimsy, plastic, full of light leaks, blurry, Basically the *exact opposite* of everything we look for in a camera. We will spend thousands of dollars for a little extra bump in that MTF curve, or a fraction of a stop in increased lens speed – So why is my fancy-shmancy-SLR and High-end glass sitting on the shelf while I gleefully run around with a $25 toy camera with plastic lens?
Allow me to make an analogy (which I have used before, but applicable in this case as well!) Consider the bicycle – Nowadays your average bike has 27-some odd gears, carbon fiber doohickeys, hydraulic disk brakes, and suspensions which will absorb a city curb or tree root with nary a complaint. Pretty cool, huh? Gotta love technology (road bike tech is equally, if not more impressive).
Of course with all that, I can still walk into a bike shop and buy a “fixie” or “fixed-gear” bicycle. Some shops even specialize in ’em! To explain: a fixed gear bicycle is a bike with 1 speed/1 gear. No shifters, no suspension, no brakes (!) – just 2 pedals and 2 wheels. Not only that, the bike cannot even “coast” as ther gear is “fixed” (hence “fixie”) – the pedals turn the wheel directly, with no freewheeling so you *must* pedal as fast as the bike is going. To slow down/stop you simply slow your pedaling, or lock your legs and “skid” the bike to a stop.
Now at this point one may ask, why on earth someone would want to ride a bike like that (ahem -Holga) when they could get a 27 speed, freewheeling, brake-having, trigger-shifting racing bike instead? (DSLR) And ultimately, everyone who rides a fixie has their own reason – but for many, it is *discipline*.
The Fixie keeps you honest. It *forces* you to work on your riding technique. It *forces* you to pedal properly, “spinning” as the pros call it. It doesn’t allow you to slack off – if you don’t pedal, you don’t go – simple as that.
It eliminates everything non-essential, strips the act of riding down to it’s most basic fundamentals and beats you over the head with them until they are mastered.
Similarly, the holga doesn’t have any of the fancy bells and whistles of high end cameras. It strips the camera down to it’s bare essentials – a box with film and a shutter (ok, so maybe a pinhole is more “bare essentials, but you can get holgas in “pinhole” version too!) It forces you to work within it’s constraints, and thus compensate by using your other skills – composition, previsualization, etc… Digital shooting makes you lazy – the Holga makes you *work* for your shot!
Furthermore, most fixed-gear cyclists will tell you that there is a certain “Zen” to riding a fixie. No clicking freewheel, no worrying about shifting, just you and the bike -directly connected. Just like the holga, its very primitiveness strips away distractions and complications, leaving us to concentrate on the act in it’s purest form – either riding or shooting.
So if you are feeling in a rut with your shooting, or are dreading over sorting through those 4,000 almost-identical shots you took on your last shoot, try it – grab a holga and a couple of rolls of ASA400 b/w film. it’s only a few bucks, and can give you a whole new outlook on your photography!