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.
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.
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.
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: