Max Siegel

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No More Holga

2015 ended on an inauspicious note, with the death of Holga. Dan Cepeda of the Casper Star Tribune provides some background on the medium format camera:

The Holga was introduced in 1981 as an affordable alternative as mainstream cameras started to become more complicated and expensive. …

Word came from China that the manufacturer of the Holga camera had ended production. The terse notification also stated that the tooling had been scrapped, making it impossible for anyone to ramp up production again with any practicality.

Photographers typically paid less than $20 for the camera. That affordability was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, its construction quality was a complete joke: the poor-fitting plastic body allowed light to hit undeveloped film. And that plastic, fixed lens… it was awful, soft and distorted to hilarious extremes. Yet that very lens (and those light leaks) also lent Holga photos a haunting and even, on occassion, a breathtakingly beautiful quality.

I received a Holga at a Secret Santa exchange, when I worked at an art house movie theater in Berkeley. (It's still, by far, the best Secret Santa exchange I've experienced.) Holga dropped all of the complicated shit and stripped a camera to its most basic component: as a lightbox that records an image onto media.

Capeda continues:

That lens is what gave Holga its soul. It’s just a piece of plastic with three focal ranges. It is somewhat sharp in the center and softens towards the edges, where the light also falls off. Weird colors and flares happen when light hits it just the right way. Sometimes you get an OK picture, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes that picture is magic.

My Holga continues to be an endearing toy, and it never fails to make photography feel fresh and fun. Below are some photos I've taken over the years with it. RIP.