Having just received her Associates of Art in photography, Erin McGuire merges her love of the natural world around her with the training she received at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco to create distinctly unique images. She has extensive experience shooting with antique film cameras, including medium format press cameras and Polaroid instant cameras that she uses to shoot Impossible Project and Fuji instant films. Erin also has experience with a wide variety of alternative photographic processes including cyanotype, Van Dyke Brown, gum bichromate, oilprints, and most recently, lumen prints. She is also a skilled Photoshop operator and has used her considerable digital darkroom skills in creating two bodies of work, 40 Something With Cats and On The Surface.
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How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?
I was first introduced to the Holga camera by a friend. I had just started shooting again, after more than 25 years away from it, and had a fancy new DSLR that I was very excited about. We were discussing various ways of shooting the event we were at when she showed me her Holga. I confess that at the time I didn't understand what I was looking at, but after seeing some of the photographs she made with the camera, I knew then that I wanted to try it. That was more than five years ago and the Holga has since become my favorite camera to use for most of my fine art work.
What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?
What drew me to the camera, and what I love most about it, are the same thing; the sweet spot focus in the center of the frame and the blurry edges. The images look like they were taken ages ago which gives them all an ageless quality. Most of my fine art work is based on the idea that photographs are memories we can hold in our hands and because our memories are never crystal clear, like an image made from a digital camera, the imperfect quality of the Holga image is the perfect way for me to share my vision.
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Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga
On The Surface is a series of work that explores my feelings of deception and abandonment. The recent discovery and diagnosis of a life threatening illness for a beloved family member, along with the realization that the illness had gone unnoticed for some time, has forced me to look at my life and my work in a new way. These images of abandoned homes are digital composites created to intentionally deceive the viewer. How the deception manifests itself is left to the personal history, emotions and imagination of the individual viewing the image.
The process used in creating the images for On the Surface is a pretty simple one. I combine a Holga landscape with digital cloud image and a dark texture to get the final image.
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What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?
I think the biggest challenge I run into with the Holga, which isn't too big a challenge and is the only one I can think of, is making sure that the image is exactly right in camera. I don't like cropping Holga images because of how it messes with the blurry, vignetted edges.
Since it is a Holga and my subject is generally center frame, all I need to compensate for is where the lens is in relation to the viewfinder. Its not a big difference and when shooting subjects that are far away it hardly matters at all. The real problem comes when shooting subjects that are nearer than 10 feet. So I frame the image how I want it in the viewfinder and then lift up and right a certain degree based on how close I am to the subject. It works most of the time, but not always.
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What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out with a Holga?
If you live in a sunny, high altitude area, use 100 speed film midday and 400 morning and evening and cloudy days. Get a cable release for long exposures because they are fun, especially at night. Learn how to develop your own black and white film. Oh yeah, and throw the lens cap away as soon as you get the camera or you'll forget you have it on and take a picture of nothing.
What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?
I have been very lucky and have had many friends and family members send me cameras. Too many to remember without pulling them all out so I will list my favorites. For film shooting its the Holga, Minolta SRT 100 35mm, Zenza Bronica, Polaroid SX70, Polaroid Big Swinger (Which I will soon sadly have to give up thanks to the end of production on Fuji 3000b film), and finally my Da Vinci large format pinhole camera by Randy “Holgamods” Smith.
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Favorite photo film(s)?
My favorite color film of all time is Kodak Ektar, both 120 and 35mm, though I have noticed that the 35mm format plays with color much more than the 120 format does. My favorite black and white film of all time was Fuji Neopan 1600 and that is very regrettably gone forever now. I find that I really like the Holga films, which are the same as the Arista EDU films from what I've been told so I buy the Arista and save money. My favorite instant integral film is Impossible Project black and white and color films and my favorite instant pull apart film is Fuji 3000b.
What inspires you?
The desert where I live inspires me a great deal. It's what got me shooting again after 25 years. Landscapes that offer me subjects that I can isolate draw me in most of the time. Abandonment, weathered surfaces, and decay offer texture and interest. The shapes of objects when shooting up close. The odd, forgotten, neglected and tossed aside offer unique perspectives. I have found that most of my images focus on either a solitary subject or idea so in the end, the greatest inspiration I have is isolation and after that, imperfection.
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Visit Erin's links below to find out more:
Website: Erin McGuire Photography
Facebook: Erin McGuire Photography on Facebook