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May 30, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Lomo Experience

My package had arrived. I pulled her out and held her in my hands. She feels so light! What’s this little switch for? Oh, here’s the coloured flash bit—I guess I’ll be needing batteries too? My Holga had arrived, and my relationship with film photography had begun.

eVer Since i read about the Diana F+, which then led to Lomography, I was intrigued. My initial reaction was “I want that”. As the things that tend to prompt these words are usually unnecessary and unable to be funded on my student budget, these ‘wants’ are often momentary, and I forget I even ‘wanted’ in the first place. But Lomography left a lasting impression. Many Trade Me searches later, I finally committed and clicked the ‘Buy Now’ button on a Holga 120CFN auction.

You may of heard of Holga, Diana F+, Lomo (LC-A) and Coloursplash. These are all film cameras that many would describe as ‘old school’. They are part of a revival called Lomography, which refers to a kind of film camera and the vibrantly coloured, heavily saturated, and blurred- edged nature of the prints these cameras produce. The Lomography ethos is underpinned by ’10 Golden Rules’ describing the way photos should be taken. The idea is to take your camera everywhere you go, and to take snaps of everything—of anything. Be spontaneous, be ridiculous, go crazy.

My initial excitement after receiving my Holga in the mail soon turned to helplessness as I realised I had no idea what to do next. Film, aperture, exposure, bulb flash, focus—I’d never heard of any of this. I’m 21-years- old, which means since the age of 14, I’ve taken photos with a digital camera: it’s all I’ve ever known. Technology enabled ordinary people to shift from film photography to digital photography, which enables infinite photo taking, immediate viewing and also immediate deleting!

For someone like myself who seems to break everything, advances in technology has also seen the creation of ‘drop-proof ’ and ‘water-proof ’ cameras (I’m actually on my second ‘drop-proof ’ and ‘water-proof ’ camera; I’m hoping for the introduction of ‘lost-proof ’ cameras soon). When I’m out with my friends and the camera comes out, all I have to do is push the button, because the camera does everything else. It focuses itself and it decides whether or not to flash with auto-flash – I don’t have to use my brain for anything, and it even turns itself off with ‘auto-off’. Film cameras, on the other hand, don’t seem to do anything themselves. You can begin to understand how my experience with Holga has been quite the eyeopener.

Even though Google has the answer to everything, I still didn’t know what film to use, or even if I did, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to load it, or which way to push all the switches. So off I trotted down Vivian Street to seek professional help at Wellington Photographic Supplies. With my 35mm adapter, I had my Holga loaded with film, and the nice young man there gave me a rundown on how to use her. I stepped out of that store tingling with excitement, and my hand kept lingering over my handbag where she was sitting. I wanted to take photos straight away. The first photo I took was of my little brothers, who I’d stopped to feed at Subway. After the signature ‘click’ and flash, the littlest one asked “Can I see it?”. Out of habit, I moved to push the playback button and hand it over for them to giggle at—but no playback button! What a strange feeling. It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t going to find out what any of my 24 frames were going to look like until I’d shot 24 photos, and had them developed, and this could be over a week away!

Anticipation began to simmer. All of a sudden, digital photography seemed so safe, so secure. With digital, any photo that I wasn’t sure about, I could just check, delete and re-take. If I’d had far too many wines and didn’t want to be reminded of it, I could just check, squirm, and delete. Taking photos with my Holga was so carefree: the photos could turn out great or they could turn out terribly, but there was no point worrying about it because there was nothing I could do about it! I felt like I was throwing caution to wind, being a little bit crazy, having a bit of fun. Over the course of a week, I shot two rolls of film. While shooting my first roll, I took heed of the well-known phrase “Don’t think, just shoot”. It turns out you do have to think just a little bit, about things like whether the flash is charged or whether it’s on the right focus setting. But sometimes the most screwed-up shots are the most memorable. By the second roll, I’d picked up confidence and was taking photos in the street of people I didn’t know (not as perverted as it sounds), or places I walk past everyday and never taken notice of. Having Holga with me everywhere, as if she were an extension of myself, seemed to splash colour onto the dull aspects of a daily routine. 100 stairs on my way to uni, a homeless man feeding birds, even my salad for lunch: they all suddenly seemed worthy of a frame with Holga. A sort of ‘Holga frame of mind’ had seeped into my brain; sometimes I felt like I was seeing life through a viewfinder instead of my own eyes.

I could have written this article as a “How-to Holga” and really detailed how to use her and how to pull off cool tricks. But that would mean, giving you all the answers, and that’s no fun. So, if you’re interested, here’s a rough price guide. Holga: $80, batteries: $4, film per roll: $8, developing including prints: $20, developing including prints and photos as files to a disk: $30, a variation of adapters: $30-$50. If you’re a digi-baby like me, and you want to wind back the technological clock, then get amongst it and figure out the film camera business for yourself. With Google’s help you’ll find some wicked Lomography sites and blogs where you can pick up some epic inspiration on who, what, how, and where to shoot your Lomo camera. Go to a photo shop and ask them a 100 questions, as I did. Your first roll might turn out looking less than impressive, but that’s the magic of it. It’s the ones you least expected to like that you’ll end up loving the most.


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Comments (4)

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  1. Rick says:

    Hi there, great article. You may also like to take at our online resoures and store for Holga photographers. We have lots of cool articles, interviews and more at our blog and also some great Holga products at very competitive prices in our store. Links below.

    Happy Holga Shooting!
    Rick @ HolgaDirect


  2. myself says:

    “All of a sudden, digital photography seemed so safe, so secure.”

    You mean ‘point-and-shoot’ photography.

  3. Nick says:

    Really enjoyed the article! Keep an eye out for Lomo’s own 35mm saturation film which over-saturates the colours. Its not usually more expensive than normal film, or not by much anyway.

    Rick @ HolgaDirect – nice bit of digital marketing/soul selling, but as you don’t offer price in NZ dollars and therefore probably dont ship to NZ (that’s New Zealand, by the way), then it may not be relevant to NZ blog readers.

  4. smackdown says:

    im a camera man flick me a twitter and ill send you the best pics flickr can buy

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