After a career as a New York Fashion Editor, Aline Smithson is currently represented by galleries in the U.S. and Europe and published throughout the world. Aline founded the blogzine, LENSCRATCH, has been the Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, and a contributing writer for numerous publications. She reviews and teaches workshops at photography festivals across the United States, is a juror for a various organizations, and has been teaching at the Los Angeles Center of Photography since 2001. In 2012, she received the Rising Star Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community. She lives and works in Los Angeles.
How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?
I was first exposed to the world of toy cameras around 1997-1998. One of my teachers worked almost exclusively with the Diana Camera and I soon became hooked on the kind of effects that toy cameras produced and the sense of memory and nostalgia they created. I bought my first Holga in 1999 and was truly inspired by the camera.
In 2001, I began teaching classes in the Toy Camera, specifically the Holga—at that time, there were only one or two websites that were dedicated to toy camera imagery, places where to learn how to alter the Holga and demonstrations on how to create a variety of effects. I am really grateful to those early adoptees as they taught me a lot. Over the years, the whole Holga landscape changed, with books, a ton of different models and options and a new community of toy camera lovers came into being. I worked as a Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, a publication dedicated to toy camera imagery, and loved being part of that community.
|Skipping Stones, from Regarding Henry|
What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?
What I love about the Holga is the simplicity. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles and it allows you to really consider the subject in front of you. I also like that the results are always a surprise—sometimes successful and unexpected and sometimes disappointing, but that’s part of the process.
I started shooting with toy cameras because I wanted to create work that had a sense of nostalgia and were artful, but it also the camera fit with my lifestyle, allowing me to carry it with me wherever I went.
|John in Longpond, from Paradise|
|The Tallest, from Paradise|
Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a toy camera
For my series, Shadow and Stains, I use both Holga and Diana imagery. It’s a series where in response to the closure of my community darkroom, I wanted to make a series that shifted how we see the “perfect” darkroom print—I cut negatives, overlapped images, added text in the darkroom, and finished it with washes of oil paint. It was completely liberating and exciting to be creating something different.
On a recent trip to China, I shot a lot with toy cameras, hoping to do a series similar to Shadows and Stains in approach, but with a different intent. I still haven’t had time to get going on that project.
|Owned by Stieglitz, from Shadows and Stains|
|Not as Interesting, from Shadows and Stains|
|Moving Through, from Shadows and Stains|
|Look Both Ways, from Shadows and Stains|
What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?
Well, obviously the biggest challenge is to remember to remove the lens cap! And that took me awhile to learn! I was once at Dodger Stadium, shooting my daughter in the middle of a baseball game wearing a gold hat from Thailand and as I ran around the bleachers thinking I was so cool, a man tugged on my sleeve to tell me that I still had the lens cap on! I slinked back to my seat and that was a mistake I never made again.
But probably the biggest challenge is not know exactly what you are getting, especially when you are trying out things like double exposure or overlapping images. I think if you go into the process knowing that perfection is out the window, you will be less frustrated by the various results.
|Girl, from Inside out|
|Mother, from Inside Out|
What is your biggest piece of advice for someone just starting out with a Holga?
Expect to be surprised! Also, if you have never shot film, there is a learning curve to loading and unloading film and to realizing that what’s on the negative is only half of the creativity…the darkroom print can really shift from the original negative.
|Lego Hollywood, from Unreal Reality|
|Lego Rhino, from Unreal Reality|
What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?
I have a gazillion Holgas, several Dianas, two Hassleblads, 4 twin lens Rolleiflexs’s (not all are operational), a Mamiya 6, a Mamiya 7, and my old friend, a Pentax K1000.
I still only shoot film.
Favorite photo film(s)?
For black and white, Ilford HP5…for color, Kodak Portra 400.
|Lego Lipstick Building, from Unreal Reality|
In a word, everything. My family, my life, the world around me, movies and more movies, the poignancy of every day life—the loss and joy that we live with on a daily basis. I look more to paintings for inspiration than photography, but I am plenty inspired by how photographic image-makers are interpreting the world.
Lenscratch Blog: http://lenscratch.com
Aline's Collective, Six Shooters: http://www.sixshootersonline.com