Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Holga Feature Photographer Ryan Duffy

It's been a while but today I'm back with another great interview with a Holga photographer!


Ryan Duffy is a fine art photographer and graduate from Webster University with two Bachelor's degrees in Photography and Business Management. Ryan’s photographs have been featured in over 20 exhibits, from the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis to the Soho Photo Gallery in New York City. He was the winner of the Nancy Underwood Photography Scholarship in 2012 and in 2013 was the first Webster undergraduate to have a solo exhibit at the Sheldon Art Galleries. Ryan currently teaches photography at Ranken Technical College. In addition to being a photographer Ryan is also a writer and musician.
How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?  

I've been shooting for seven years (Holga for five). I first learned of the Holga during my freshman year of college when another student mentioned an upcoming toy camera contest in class. I had no idea what a toy camera was, so I looked up this contest and was first introduced to the Holga and plastic cameras. The next day I bought my first Holga.
What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?  
What draws me to shooting with the Holga is its dreamy, mysterious look; it captures on film how I feel when I see something special. It makes the strange beautiful, ordinary moments unique and unexpected. Instead of presenting the viewer a glance into a clearly defined scene, images from a Holga allow you become part of it, for you to fill in whats blurred and connect with it in a personal way, like fleeting memory from something in your past where the names are forgotten but some feelings linger on.
Flare Trail
Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga
One series that I'm using the Holga with is OFF Color. For this project I use the plastic Holga and color film to capture relics and symbols of the Midwest; objects that tell of its past, its secrets, and its drama. I wanted color to tell the story with as much precision, tonality, and creative control as with black and white, to explore the relationship of color to the subject, and use it to drive the narrative. The Holga's dreamy blur, dark corners, aged look, and unique rendition of color compliment the unusual subject matter.

Car Wash

Blue Chair

I'm also working on a series that uses the Holga to take an unusual approach to nature photography. Instead of the typical ultra sharp, carefully composed photographs of grand landscapes, I wanted to use the idiosyncrasies of the Holga to make photographs of nature that were blurred, unclear, and fragile. Instead of the grandiose I capture the quiet and personal scenes in nature missed by most, and using the Holga's blur, light leaks, and optical distortions to further emphasis the expressiveness of these fleeting scenes lost amongst the woods.
The Tree


What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them? 
The biggest problems I have with the Holga is that how quickly their plastic bodies break down. I usually only get a year out of a Holga before the plastic breaks down and the light leaks (the bad kind) become too obtrusive and ruin most of a roll of film. I've gone through about seven Holga's, but with one Holga I found its lens to be particularly good (in a Holga way), and so I've kept that lens and just keep putting  it on new bodies; the body dies, but the lens lives on!

A tip for this problem is to tape up the edges of the Holga, that will keep some of the unwanted light leaks out, as well as prevent accidentally opening the back and exposing the film.
What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out with a Holga? 
My biggest piece of advice for those starting out with the holga is look up as much about the camera as possible; watch videos on loading and unloading film, decipher the mysterious focus symbols, understand light leaks (maybe you want them), look at the work of other photographers using the Holga, and most of all keep shooting! Your first roll will probably be a dud,  but after a few you'll start to see what makes the Holga so special. Another thing I do is write a cheat sheet (focus symbols, aperture, shutter speed) and tape it onto the back, I find it quite helpful, especially if you haven't shot the Holga in awhile.
What other cameras do you have in your arsenal? 
Some other cameras I use are a vintage Diana, a Zero Image 6x9 pinhole, a no name plastic 35mm "Panorama" camera, a Mamiya C330 TLR, an old 4x5 Speed Graphic, a digital toy camera called the Joco VX5, a Canon AE-1 Program, and a Canon 6D.
Favourite photo film(s)? 
My favorite color film is the Kodak NEW Portra 400 and my favorite black and white film is the Ilford Delta 400. The portra has an incredibly forgiving exposure latitude, perfect for imprecise toy camera exposures, and a really lovely, soft color palette. I love the Ilford Delta for its long tonal range, sharpness, and soft grain. I find iso 400 films to be best with toy cameras, as it offers the most room for exposure, from sunny days with color film or b&w filters, overcast, to indoors with a flash.

What inspires you? 
I'm inspired by strange and wonderful things; objects. people, and places that may seem mundane, but in the right light become extraordinary. I'm inspired by things that can tell a story, even though its up to you to make up most of it.
Tree Among Others
Find out more about Ryan at the following links:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Holga Feature Photographer Inge Van Leipsig

I am pleased to bring you another from my Holga Feature Photographer Series.  This week I'm featuring the work of Inge van Leipsig.  Inge was one of the winners from last year's Holga Week contest.  Her winning image "The love locks horseman" was a great example of a perfectly executed double exposure Holga photograph.

The love locks horseman

How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?

A few years ago I bought a Diana F+ and got back into film photography after a long time of not shooting film. A friend of mine then showed me his Holga 120GN, and I liked it so much I decided to buy one too. It has been one of my favourite cameras ever since. A while ago I also bought the Holga 120PC and 120WPC because I also like pinhole photography.

Poulnabrone Dolmen (pinhole)
What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?

I enjoy the look of the camera itself. It looks sturdy and toy-like at the same time. The glass lens on my 120GN gives my photos a look I like very much, with soft corners and a very sharp center. Nine out of ten times, if I go somewhere I have my Holga with me. Besides that, it's a very lightweight camera, and it doesn't mind getting a bit wet when it rains (and it can be quite rainy in the Netherlands).

No title

Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga

I keep taking pictures of statues on cemeteries. Cemeteries have always fascinated me, especially old ones. I really like the big statues of angels and mourning women. Although I didn't plan it, I now have a whole series of statue photos. Another subject that I photograph a lot is street art. It started with just local graffiti, but now I try to look for interesting pieces when I'm on holiday or visiting other places.

Silver flow (pinhole)

What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?

A Holga needs quite an amount of light and I'm not very comfortable using a flash. It can be quite difficult to take low light or indoor pictures. I usually end up taking those pictures with a different camera, like an SLR. Occasionally I will use a tripod and do long exposures to get a nice low light picture. Also, don't forget to take the lens cap off and focus.

Dream man

Ferris wheel

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out with a Holga?

Take time to get to know your Holga. It looks like a simple toy camera (and it is), but you do need to learn how to shoot with it. Experiment with it: do double exposures, try different types of film and different variations of ISO (like 100 for sunny days and 400 for cloudy weather) and see what fits you. Don't toss your Holga aside after just one roll. I've shot loads of rolls, and I still end up with bad rolls and bad pictures. It also might help to look at other people's Holga shots at Flickr or other sites to get some inspiration.

Lined up (pinhole)

What do you consider "must-haves" when shooting with your Holga and why?

Different types of film. I usually have plenty of film with me, both colour and black and white. If you plan to do low light photography, a tripod is recommended. Lots of people have problems with light leaks or with the back falling off. I only had that once or twice, but a roll of tape (painters tape or black tape) can be very useful too to avoid these problems.

Astronomical clock (HQME)

Foxglove (macro)

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?

Plenty! I have several pinhole cameras, a few SLRs that I really like (the Olympus OM-1n is my favourite) and a few small cameras that are easy to take with you, like the Olympus XA or the LC-A+. The Diana F+ is a fun camera as well, but for some reason I prefer the Holga.

Friendly ghost

Favourite photo film(s)?

Fomapan or Tri-X for black and white and Kodak Ektar or Fuji Provia 400 cross processed for colour.


What inspires you?

Usually I get inspired by what I see, I guess. Cemeteries and street art are always inspiring, but it can also be small things in the street, or a really nice photo book. I'm not the kind of person who thinks up projects and then executes them. It's more a "let's go somewhere and see what we come up with" thing that works for me.

Radio Kootwijk (pinhole)

Twitter: @Frau_Inga
Facebook: inge.vanleipsig

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Holga Feature Photographer Ross Togashi

I am pleased to bring you (finally!) another Holga Feature Photographer in my interview series.  Ross was one of the winners of Holga Week last year and I think all of us were blown away by his lovely Holga images!  With Holga Week coming up in a couple of weeks, I thought this would be a perfect time to feature his awesome work.

Self-portrait, from the series Homebound Pinholes
Ross's winning image from Holga Week 2014 entitled "Paradise Seat"

I was born in Kea‘au on the island of Hawai‘i, and spent my early years wandering about Pearl City, O‘ahu. I've photographed since I was a youngster, documenting my family life and travels with a Kodak Instamatic. 

I've enrolled in a number of photography workshops and classes that have broadened my view of photography. Through my education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Art Department, I've discovered that photography can be an evocative and powerful means of expressing ideas. My artworks often reflect themes pertaining to the human condition, identity, history, and geography. 

I recently retired after working nearly 30 years for the University of Hawai‘i Library, and the last 24 years as the Map and Aerial Photograph Technician. I am looking forward to continuing my exploration of toy cameras and pinhole photography in my new found spare time.

Engulfed, from the series Pinhole Trees

How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?
I was introduced to the fun and sometimes unpredictable world of Holgas and toy cameras about 10 years ago while taking photography classes at the University of Hawai‘i. Several advanced photo students were doing compelling work with their Holgas and Dianas. It was during this time that I also learned about pinhole photography. I purchased a 3rd party over-the-counter PinHolga shortly after, although it arrived with a fatal shutter defect.

Self-modified PinHolga and PinHolgaroid

What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?

The defective PinHolga turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to take a screwdriver and fix it - something I wouldn’t have attempted with a more complex or expensive camera. The Holga’s simple design and plastic parts enticed me to “hack and glue” and create an even better and more reliable PinHolga. I’ve been making pinhole cameras ever since! I continue to use and modify PinHolgas because their ease in customizing encourages and helps satisfy my need to build new things. Also, the Pin-Holga’s potential to record images with a unique feel and look continues to enchant me.

Destiny, from the series Pinhole Trees

Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga

My pinhole photography is theme-based. I create images that frequently fall into one of five or six different series. I customarily use a variety of pinhole cameras, and there is no one series that is PinHolga-specific.

Japanese Glass Net Floater, from the series Pinholes at High-tide
Toy Car and Lighter, from the series Pinholes at High-tide

What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?

Aside from the usual mechanical shortcomings that can be fixed if so desired (loose sponges, light-leaks, etc.), the greatest challenge for me is creating artwork that is meaningful and unique. I still struggle with this, but I hope that persistence and hard work will eventually lead us on the path towards fulfilling our artistic goals.

Treehouse, from the series Pinhole Chairs
Mānoa Stream, from the series Pinhole Chairs

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out with a Holga?

My advice for anyone with a new piece of equipment, and not just Holgas: “Use it a lot, and use it often”. With familiarity, perseverance, and a bit of luck, comes successful images. Too frequently we are enticed by the next piece of new gear without even giving what we already own a good trial. I speak from experience, being a former “gear-head”!

Library, from the series Homebound Pinholes

What do you consider "must-haves" when shooting with your Holga and why?

There are three things that I consider essential when I use my PinHolgas. First, a sturdy and easy-to-use tripod is crucial for long pinhole exposures. Secondly, good metering technique is required for proper exposures. If possible, I don’t leave exposures up to chance. A reliable light-meter takes up very little space in my camera bag. Thirdly, and most important of all is keeping an open mind. Only with an open mind can one be receptive to new possibilities!

Stifled, from the series Homebound Pinholes

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?

I use regularly a handful of home-made pinhole cameras. Each camera was created for a specific purpose, different types of film, and/or focal length. I also own a few other non-pinhole cameras, but these are less frequently used in my artwork now.

Favourite photo film(s)?

I particularly like Kodak Ektar 100 (120 roll film) for outdoors/sunlight, and I am also enjoying Impossible Project’s instant integral films for indoor still-lifes.

Aiea Cemetery, O‘ahu, from the series Pinholes at Sacred Places

What inspires you?

One source of inspiration is my own life and personal experiences. I may not live a very exciting life, or see the most incredible scenes, but if I have a statement to make with my artwork, it usually comes from deep within. I think it is vitally important to photograph a subject that is close to heart. I also find the work of other established photographers and artists to be influential. I enjoy looking through photography books, visiting art museums and exhibitions, and also watching artfully done films. I strive to keep an open eye and open mind, and to also carefully examine the works of many different artists.

Circle Dance, Byodo-in Temple, O‘ahu, from the series Pinholes at Sacred Places

You can find out more about Ross and his work at the following links:


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