Life Through A Plastic Lens

Written by Paul Williamson

Holga 120NI was given my first camera for my 21st birthday. It was a small digital point and shoot, which I was instantly besotted with. I took it everywhere with me and photographed anything that caught my eye. After a while I noticed I was spending more time in post-production than out shooting. What I didn't realise at the time was that I was trying to break down some of the sterility of my pictures. I desperately wanted my pictures to have a more organic and unpredictable nature. A few years later I discovered the Holga. I immediately felt that rush of excitement of something new and unpredictable. I bought as much 120 roll film as I could—shooting dozens of pictures before waiting anxiously for them to be developed.

So what was it that attracted me to the Holga? It may have been any number of things; the price, the dreamy ethereal images, the square format, the huge negatives, or the wide angle lens that forces you closer to your subject. I was immediately struck by its simplicity—fixed shutter speed, one effective aperture, and basic focus. At first I found this simplicity restrictive, but I soon found it quite liberating. I began to wonder just how far I could push the camera, and this is where my true obsession began. I started to notice various modifications turn up: PinHolgas, Holgaroid’s, macro modifications, 35mm modifications, and then it hit me just how flexible this cheap hunk of plastic is. I started to compulsively collect and collate information of these hacks, and before I knew it I was regularly performing surgery on my Holga. I now have a unique Holga that is as flexible as I need it, and something to be proud of. Each Holga starts out with an identity as unique as a fingerprint, and with a few simple modifications it's easy to put your own heart and soul into the camera.

From talking to other fanatic Holgagraphers, it seems that for the majority of us, using a Holga takes us back to why we ventured into photography in the first place; sheer unadulterated fun. For me, seeing everything through a plastic lens breaks up the sterility of the digital age. Leaving you with a world that is simpler, more colourful, and blissfully innocent.