Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Adieu Faere Holga.... Adieu...

Well this must be a little bit like what the hard-core felt in the early 60s when the Speed Graphic line was halted, or maybe the 1940s (?) when the Plaubel Makina with the 125/1.8 and 165/1.8 were stopped... (that's a story i'd love to know more about...) but yes... yesterday was one of those days. The word came via our friends at Freestyle Photo in Los Angeles, confirming that not only was there not to be a new "Holga" production facility, but that the 30+ years old factory which has been making these plastic beauties will be shut down, and actual production of the the Holga 120N will no longer carry on. I have been struggling with Holgas for nearly twenty years. Originally, as part of the unending, ongoing search for the next visual nirvana, I had seen amazing work by the photographer Eric Lindbloom, compiled in a book called Angels At the Arno (…/…/ref=sr_1_1…) Not only had Eric (I did meet him once in New Paltz, so I'm going with 'first name' here...) figured out how to make beautiful pictures in b/w with a DIANA (the original forerunner of the 21st century batch of crappy cameras) but he managed to hustle the Guggenheim Foundation into giving him two.. yes TWO fellowships to endure the hardships of photographing statuary in Florence. (Not enough truffled' risotto to get me there!) The pictures are sublime, dreamy, and enough to make you get on the next plane to Firenze. I bought a Diana, and promptly (about the time the focusing lever fell off) realized it wasn't the camera for me (the 4x4 neg instead of 6x6 for one thing,just didn't seem right.) Later one summer, at the Maine Photo Workshop, I found their new entry level camera, the Holga, then priced at about twenty bucks. I bought a few rolls of Tri-x and off I went to enjoy in the nascent days of digital, just what a truly genius-crappy camera would let you be capable of. In bringing all the decision making down to basically one decision ( focus: OneDude, the Family, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mt. Everest) it brought photographers back to the simplicity of understanding that a real picture is made in your eye, in your head, and not necessarily in that three thousand dollar piece of chrome around your neck. I loved that the edges of the Holga frame looked as if they had been run through a VitaMix filter, that you had to use tape or velcro to keep the back from popping off. (Once, photographing Sec. of the Interior Gale Norton (ca. 2005) I had the Holga along with my Canon digi cams, and when she noticed the odd-looking bit of plastic slung over my neck, I started to point out to her that it was a special camera which..... "oops..." and as I held it up to show her, the back fell off, exposing that poor, helpless roll of Tri-x.) Where it was sharp, generally dead center, it was pretty sharp, certainly sharp enough to run full page in any magazine. The charm was in those edges, roughly hewn, and indescribably soft. For a picture of Al Gore near the end of the 2000 campaign (which actually won the White House News Photogs. Contest "Campaign" Picture category that year) I held an old red Nikon filter in front of the lens, struggling to keep it lined up as I held the camera, and tried firing it without jostling too much. Days later it was suggested to me by an altruistic colleague that I could actually just tape the filter on the lens. Wow! What a revelation that was. I tried for years to always include the Holga (much as I do with the Speed Graphic) in any shoot I'm working on. Even just a few frames, it sometimes makes for something special. Here attached is a shot of then Olympic hopeful Michael Phelps, taken in the summer of 2004 before the Athens games, for TIME piece on Olympic athletes. I was trying to do a long exposure with Michael, with splashing water bouncing all over his swimmer's body, hoping to catch some of that water motion. Sadly, with a miniature production crew (one assistant and myself) instead of having large tubs of warm water to pour over him, all we had was a garden hose (temp. approximately 53 deg.) and I have to admit that while he wasn't crazy about being hosed down with cold water, he was a sport about it. More so than his coach who yelled at me for five minutes (editors note: 5 Minutes is a long time when someone is yelling at you non-stop) accusing me of being THE SINGLE reason why Michael would fail at the Athens Olympics that summer. I left feeling pretty bad, but after he won 8 medals that summer, I got over worrying about it. The Holga, like Michael Phelps, has won a lot of awards, probably more than any of its designers or producers had ever even thought about. I just ordered two more, and having Randy Smith of add a cable release point (making those long exposures possible.) Sadly, I suppose these are the last two I'll ever buy. Adieu faere Holga, adieu.  We're just sayin'... David

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