2000 was the year I graduated from high school. It was also the year I packed my bags and left my small island home in the Pacific Northwest, waved good-bye to the Space Needle and moved across the USA to Savannah, Georgia to go to art school. It was here I was introduced to my very first Holga camera, back before they were sold at Urban Outfitters, were produced in bright colours, or had rotating colour flashes. Heck, in 2000, you could barely just find a Holga with a built-in flash. And they only had one shutter setting, so if one wanted to set their camera to “bulb“, one would have to break the thing, at which point there was no way to set it back to an automatic fast shutter speed. I fell in love instantly, and have since procured a collection of Holgas, including pin-holes, Holgawoods, and a 35mm BC. But the original Holga S holds a very special place in my heart. The sort focus procured by the cheap plastic lens, the process of throwing away the lens cap and the film masks the second the camera is pulled out of the box in hopes of catching a soft vignette on the final images, covering the insides of the camera with electrical tape to help block out light, and folding up small pieces of cardboard and shoving them between the edge of the spool of film and the camera case to hold the film tight are all just part of the process that make the Holga so rudimentary and magical.
A trust develops between the one that holds the camera and the equipment. When the fancy settings and expensive equipment and complete sense of control fly out the window, all we are left with is ourselves, our eyes and ideas. And we have to trust in chance, roll the dice, and see what comes out when film is developed. Sometimes the results are complete shit. Sometimes an award winner pops up. But it’s always worth the chance.
One of the first excursions the Holga and I had was with a group of friends and a box of costume clothes at Fort Pulaski, near Tybee Island. The air soaked us with it’s humidity, and the heat oppressed us, but we spent hours running around the fortress and the surrounding hills. At one point, I laid down in the grass, looked up at the sky, and decided I needed to burn the image onto film. With the help of a friend, I set up and took the shot. Later, in the darkroom, when I developed my film and set about printing the photo, I knew I would be shooting with Holgas for years to come. The self-portrait was not only my first best Holga picture, but twelve years later, it remains one of my favorite photographs I have ever shot.