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Tuesday, 15 July 2008


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The closeup gallery Rocks!

Robert has some wonderful work on his site, regardless of the type of camera he used. I think that many amateur and advanced amateur photographers would benefit from spending time REALLY looking at his images and taking note of his light and composition decisions.

Despite starting out as a "Saluki", Robert's done good!

Never heard of this guy, but I like him already - there are way too many photographers taking this all of this too seriously. His canned answer for these "fine art" posers is pretty amusing, while acknowledging that fun and discovery are really his prime motivation. Cheers to that.

Very much enjoyed that. Some of the work is way too 'HOLGA" but most of it not and really, really good.

Thanks Mike

The picture you choosed is very good. it looks like it is a few from the figures eye....
this photographer is a good example that a good view is half the success of a good photograph (sometimes it is all).

His statement "why this.." is really cool and honest, i like this way of seeing the "toy camera thing". between the lines i've read some kind of love for the thing. (brewing own beer, playing the ukulele). that rocks, like listening to some old vinyl, instead of the digital remastered special edition in original cover CD. (best listen to y'r old vinyl with an old marantz *g* ;-))

yes, thanks mike (....and i'm going off now with a not-own-brewed beer and some of the most brilliant guitar music i know. It's Buckethead and Travis Dickersons's "Chicken Noodles")

good night

Thanks for the nice words everyone. My full Holga archives is on Flickr.

Gosh, I feel horrible. I may be the only person in the world who goes to bed each night hoping to wake up to the news that the Holga factory burned down. When I enter juried shows, I have to produce pretty decent work just to get in. Others just get in by using Holgas. Fine Art photography seems to be currently defined as anything taken using a Holga. I just can't imagine the Westons, Paul Strand or Caponigro, Michael Kenna, et al, going out and getting a toy camera to express themselves.

"... but the answer likely to be somewhere around the same reasons that people fix up old cars, brew their own beer or play the ukulele. It’s low art with outsized dreams ..."

My son used to make his own beer. But his idea was not to just throw good ingredients in a pot and hope for a pleasant surprise; he worked hard, used the best techniques he could afford, and sought excellence. He tried to leave nothing to chance. (Unfortunately, this effort didn't mix well with his college courses - he left those to chance and hoped for pleasant surprises :( )

In all fairness, I will say that much of Mr. Holmgren's work, especially in the "Toy Camera" gallery has merit - if only ...

Thanks Mike, another inspiring post!

A remarkable collection of images, the most convincing argument for use of the Holga that I've ever seen. Interesting to consider how many of these shots would have been considered failures if taken with a "real" camera - there would be too many "technically wrong" distractions.
Remove the decisions about exposure, focus, DOF and general image quality and the important subject and composition shine through, a salient lesson for all of us.

Not for me though, this toy camera stuff, I would be mortified to take a "masterpiece" and then worry about how much better it could have been.......
Congratulations and good luck to those who can adopt the Holga mindset.

Cheers, Robin

RE: Al Benas thoughts, forget the Holga, look at the work. Do you like it? I do, but then that could be just me. It would be interesting to try this. Put on a gallery show and on one side of the room Mr. Holmgren presents his Holga work. On the other side, in the same order of presentation are the same views shot with a 501c and 60mm Distagon, same film of course. I wonder how people would react?

Hi Al,

I think we all understand where you are coming from. Holga's are tres popular now and have been for some years. Really hip about 20 years ago. Loads of people who use them (Like Robert) work in a professional capacity by day and find the simple, unpredictable (sort of) nature of toy cameras. In that capacity it must be really liberating to shed the Phase one or Hassy and really and truly concentrate on vision and seeing.

MAybe you should buy one and take Mike up on his "challenge" to give some love to a forgotten or crappy camera. Run a roll or 2 through one and you just might have a different opinion of the experience as well as the ability to get a good image from a holga. It may not be as easy as you think.

Spending a lot of $ on equipment, and lot's of time executing a textbook perfect no rules broken photograph does not make it in any way a more "authentic" photograph.


charlie d:
I did my Holga time, back when it was a Diana. Shot with them (you neeeded several + plenty of black electrician's tape), processed the film and printed the results. Got them for my kids, even. Also tried an old Kodak folder. They just didn't work for me. According to Mr. Holmgren's comments, he has used the Holga for most everything since 2005. When I want to "chill" and just concentrate on vision and "seeing," I put my 30 mm Sigma on my APS-C dSLR and just go play. I don't think that using a decent piece of equipment negates your ability to "see," nor do I think that using a Krappy Kamera automatically gives you a better "vision." And I will NOT go back to film and all of its required technical perfection. By using my digital, I can concentrate on "seeing." I never said that getting good images with a Holga was easy, only that those images got a leg up on the competition for just being what they were. Getting good images are, hopefully, what we're all about, regardless of our equipment of choice; the Holga is not an automatic solution.

john robison:
How a combo comparative exhibit would turn out would be quite interesting; but it won't happen because Holga-ites will keep shooting Holgas and believing, and us Neanderthals will stick with the best equipment that we can and doubting. As I stated in my previous post, I thought that Mr. Holmgren's work, especially in the Toy Camera Gallery had merit, but I still was left with a feeling of wanting more, of something just missing. It seems to be his later work and I like his selection of subject matter better. Maybe he needed the Holga to grow his vision. Now he could switch to a Rollei :)

I guess that I have seen too much abuse and inappropriate use of Krappy Kameras and I tend to view them as a crutch. Now, I certainly don't wish to claim that I am any arbiter of good photographic taste, just my own. Hell, I even like Rembrandt better than Jackson Pollock.

I hope the photo gods will forgive me but this plastic lens, toy camera stuff is of limited appeal for me. I've tried to like images produced by toy camreas but it's not working. I'm sure folks have fun with it, much like a pinhole but personally I get my kicks from B&W film and an old vintage like my Rolleicord, which BTW still can turn in some impressive results. Sharp too. LOL

I can't help but sense that some people seem to subscribe to the formula

Holga + film + B&W = instant art!

I wish to thank Mr. Holmgren for both his inspirational vision with the Holga, and the fact that I think his toning of images is some of the best I have seen anywhere on the interweb. The sepia stuff is really so amazing I had to use a color picker to "lift" various colors in the flickr gallery so I could steal the tonality of Mr. Holmgrens most recent Holga work. I have, to the best of my ability, recreated the color of the sepia palette in the flickr gallery as a preset in "Alien Skin's Exposure 2". If anyone would like the preset, please contact me through this comment.

I hope Mr. Holmgren doesn't take offense, I simply couldn't resist.

Thanks also to T.O.P. for finding this guy, I was blown away.

To Al, I thank you for the chuckle about the Holga factory burning down, that was a classic. A pretty scathing rebuke of the equipment employed though... and although I can see your point, if you look through the flickr stuff, you can see the guy is getting huge exposures by overlapping frames. I estimate, and this is purely a guess, that Mr.Holmgren is getting scans of such negatives well into the hundreds of megabytes per "shot", as it were. Digital cameras can do this with stitching an montage (in PS), but I hasten to say this presentation is far more organic and artistic, without any effort/time consumed by post processing. Digital really won't be able to touch the details from these scans for at least 5 years, imho.

I think it's art and it looks like it takes a hell of a lot of skill.

Thanks AL,

I made way too many assumptions I guess. Speaking of folding Kodaks, I just picked one up for 20 bucks and it had a roll of color film to boot. Seems it will cost me dearly to have it processed. ;-(

All is well.

"A pretty scathing rebuke of the equipment employed though... " My reaction to the abuse of its use and automatic acceptance by the art world, I'm afraid - but I did say that I may be the only person in the world that felt that way. However, to show that I'm not a total philistine, I agree with you about the "Sepia Holga" set on flickr. The "eye" and craftsmanship of the images are very unHolga-like and quite good. I don't think that they were impulse shots, left to chance, and the photographer should be commended for that fine work.

To Robert Holmgren: May I respectfully suggest that there's a lesson you might learn from this brief thread? It's one that I learned a while ago: Keep your tools and techniques mostly confidential. Let your end-products speak for themselves and for your personal style of expression.

Identifying your work principally according to the tool you used (Holga, Leica, Kodak EasyShare, hammer-and-chisel, etc.) just begs for prejudicial remarks, such as some of those above. Categorize your work presentations according to your visual goals or the theme of subjects. But never, NEVER according to your camera. That's pure "Flickr" stuff and just begs for eggs. You're too good of an eye for that. It's never important (to anyone who matters) what the hell camera you used.


Holga pictures always look like Holga pictures, and there's nothing else that can make pictures that look like that. (Diana cameras are similar, but not the same in their image-look). If someone shoots 35mm film, a discerning viewer might be able to look at the image and say: "That was shot on 35mm film", but no one can tell if it was done with a Nikon F, an Olympus OM-2, or a Leica M6. You can always tell when a Holga was used!

"prejudicial remarks, such as some of those above" Since I was the prime anti-Holga voice, I'll assume that you might have been referring to me. Guilty as accused; but with mitigating circumstances. I have just heard too much rhetoric trying to justify poor, lazy or ill-informed work using toy cameras. And yes, that's only my opinion of the work. I guess I could go on forever about prejudging equipment vs. work; looking harder at work, knowing equipment; holding work to the same standard regardless of method or process. But, for the sake of brevity I'll say that I agree totally with you that the work should stand on its own, and methods should remain anonymous. It does detract from the discussion. If the flickr set "Sepia Holga" was merely named "Sepia," no one would ever know the photographic origin of that excellent work.

PS - mighten your jab "That's pure "Flickr" stuff " be just a little prejudicial ;)

"I have just heard too much rhetoric trying to justify poor, lazy or ill-informed work using toy cameras."

Be that as it may, remember that one individual member is not responsible for the implications, whatever they may be, of the class or category of which he is a part. Just because I shoot family snapshots doesn't mean my work can fairly be judged indistinguishably from the entire genera of family snapshots; just because a photographer uses a view camera doesn't mean that he should be subjected to criticism based entirely on that fact.

What I'm saying is that you might have a prejudice against Holga photographs, but at some point the critical enterprise requires us to get past our "class" or category prejudices (which might be perfectly defensible) and judge the individual work on its own merits. In other words, he uses a Holga; okay, get past that--now what? That's really the basis of a critical/appreciative approach to any sort of art. So far, Al, you've said a lot about your views of Holga pictures, but not much about your views of Robert Holmgren's pictures.

Mike J.

Who doesn't like reading positive comments about their photos? But I'm also enjoying the negative comments about the use of a Holga, and have to say that I've thought about them, and tend to agree with much of it. So thanks for that.

Photographers, and I am including myself, sometimes revert to discussing what is known, such as methods, instead the often difficult task of evaluating the unknowable--the visual stuff. No harm in that and no need to apologize.

If what we seek to do with a camera were obvious I would find much less interest in continuing the practice. So here's to the mystery of what a mind choses to like in all of its wonderful variations.

Nail in the coffin, or maybe knife in the back, time -
My photography art school graduate daughter, currently working in cinematography, calls me today - she does not read this blog, although I have recommended it, so this was not a joke - and wants to know if our old Diana cameras are still around; she'd like hers back to play with. In the words of the famous poet Wily, from the comic strip BC, "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!"

But, like a good father, after delivering my long anti-Holga lecture (to her hysterical laughter), I gave her Robert Holmgren's, Menlo's and B&H's web sites. Did you know that the bloody Holgas now come with built-in flash? They're almost $40, for gosh sake!

I don't recommend the Holga with the built in flash. The batteries tend to fall out if not taped in well, and you have to wait until you're done shooting the film that's in the camera to change them.

Much better to spend the 40 bucks on a Holgamods.com Holga -- these have modified apertures (2 real f-stops!), closer focusing, interior flocking, and a modified mask. Lots of other options available, too.

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