Thursday, January 23, 2014

Holga Feature Photographer - James Arnold

James Arnold is a small, bald photographer, graphic designer and illustrator from Northern England. He likes cheese and pickle sandwiches, composting, and holidays in Cornwall. General hobbies include cycling along country lanes, feeding garden birds, playing the ukulele, and starting small fires.

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

I was given a Holga by my wife as a birthday present in August 2006 and have carried it around with me ever since. I didn't know anything about toy cameras at the time and hadn't been remotely interested in photography since leaving art college in 1992. I'm a graphic designer by day, designing to make money, making money to pay the bills. I enjoy designing, but as soon as money enters the equation, being creative can lose some of its pleasure. I began to find that with Holga photography, I was enjoying being creative again. There was no pressure to create anything for anyone but myself. I was my own client.

Beach house, Shellness, Isle of Sheppey, England

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

I've always been interested in anything old and obscure, strange or quirky. The Holga is all of those things and more. I was immediately struck by it's chunky, but lightweight feel. It's boxy. It looks like a camera should. With new technology, it's possible to carry an amazing quality camera around in your pocket (and still take terrible photos). The Holga sticks its middle finger up at new technology. It's unashamedly old-fashioned. It's like the pipe and slippers of the camera world.

Also, I very much enjoy working with film. I like the fact that it's real. Light through a hole creates some kind of chemical reaction. The Holga makes a satisfying click when its shutter button is pressed. It's done, the photo is taken. Will it be a good photo? Who knows. It's not pixels on a screen, viewed then deleted, or retaken one hundred times. I send my film off to a lab to be developed and I'm still excited when the brown envelope containing the negatives drops onto the mat. Seven or eight times out of twelve I'm disappointed with the results, but that's part of the Holga's magic.

Bruto the pug, Via Nazionale, Cortona, Italy

cow tuesday number 1

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

I enjoy cycling along country lanes and more often than not take my Holga along in my saddlebag. I'm always on the look out for old caravans (trailers). I'm fascinated how what was once an optimistic tow-along vehicle, used to house a family on a fun-packed weekend away, once abandoned, quickly becomes a musty smelling static room of forgotten memories (Caravans - a set on Flickr)

old blue caravan, leashaw wood, holloway, derbyshire, england

.Recently, I've been struggling to take photos for the 100 Strangers Flickr group (100 Strangers - a set on Flickr)

Stranger #58

remembrance sunday 2007, church street, bicester, england

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

I've learnt what I can and can't do with my Holga. The Holga obviously has very limited focusing controls, so I don't worry too much about focusing. I just guess. I don't shoot inside. I don't really do anything exciting. Other people do great things by experimenting. I'm pretty boring.

Uffington white horse, Oxfordshire

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

Don't spend hours looking at other peoples Holga photos on the internet. Forget about what others are doing. When I started taking photos with my Holga, I didn't set off with any goals in mind other than to take photographs that I liked to look at. That hasn't changed. If other people like looking at them, then that's a bonus. Don't get me wrong though I'm thrilled when people contact me to say they like my photos (hint, hint). Just try and enjoy taking your photographs and don't get disheartened when your first ten or so rolls turn out rubbish. Mine were.


Two Cypress trees, Andalucia, Spain

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?

I had a very brief fling a couple of years ago with a Leica D-LUX 5 digital camera. Not something I'm proud of and it left me with a bad feeling. We all make mistakes and we shouldn't be afraid to admit to them. At the moment, it's the Holga or nothing.

Favourite photo film(s)?

Kodak Portra.

What inspires you?

I can't answer that. Maybe nothing does any more. That's sad.


Please visit James' links for more information:

Bigtop Design

Check out James' new book!

For when the internet breaks, I recently collected my favourite Holga photographs into a book, Holga Photography 2. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy looking at blurred, square photographs of trees, snow, bicycles, cars, pugs, pylons, people and much, much more.

Car crash in a wheat field


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