Several weeks ago, a company called Zavi Traders sent me a 35-millimeter film camera — a funky red model called the Holga 135BC — and some lomography-style film. I was so excited. I slapped a roll of film into the camera (or tried to) and started shooting.
I imagined that shooting with the Holga, which is made of plastic and 100% manual with a fixed aperture and focal length, would be much the same as shooting with the battery-operated, point-and-shoot Vivitar that my dad gave me for Christmas in 1992.
I was wrong.
I won’t go on too much about the many mistakes I made in this first round of analog photography. But let me just say that out of the five rolls of film I was given, only two produced actual pictures and the majority of the pictures are pretty bad. I ruined the other three rolls completely.
This shot, for instance, didn’t turn out exactly as I’d planned. It’s hard to tell but that’s my friend Ruth and my coach James at the Hillbrow Boxing Club.
Blurry cats outside the Bounty Hunters Charity Shop in Melville.
Not really sure what I was up to here.
People I met in Kliptown. Either that girl is giving me the finger or I wasn’t holding the camera steady enough. Or maybe both.
As it turns out, using a camera like this requires some thought. A roll of film is nothing like a digital memory card; the number of shots is limited and you can’t look at every shot on the back of your camera right after you take it. When shooting analog, especially manual analog, you must think carefully before clicking — about the light, what your subject is doing, what kind of depth of field you’re dealing with, and the type of film you’re using (especially the ISO).
Most importantly, you have to think carefully while loading and unloading the film. It makes no difference what you thought about while shooting each picture if you ruin the whole roll before it’s developed.
Shooting with my Holga is forcing me to actually think about photography. Imagine.
My Holga and I are getting to know each other better. (Photo courtesy of Tim Van Rooyen)
Fortunately, in addition to the mistakes, I also managed to get some interesting photos out of the film I shot. And nothing beats that feeling of excitement while looking through the pictures for the first time after they’ve been developed. (FYI: They were developed at the RGB Pixellab in Morningside.)
Kids in Kliptown.
Graffiti piece by Bias.
Melville car guard. I like this even though I nearly cut off the top of his head. Another lesson learned: The view through the viewfinder is not identical to the view through the lens.
Downtown Harare, Zimbabwe. Also not perfectly cropped but I like the old-school feel of the photo, which matches the old-school feel of the city.
Boat on the Knysna Lagoon. I must have accidentally had the lens on portrait setting, which explains the dark vignette around the edges. I like it though.
Tim shooting the portrait of me shown above.
I accidentally double-exposed this frame of my friend Mark in the Knysna Forest. I clicked twice without rewinding the film. This was my luckiest mistake of all. I might try to make it again.
I’ve got a new roll in the Holga and I’m looking forward to more lucky mistakes (and hopefully not so much ruined film). I’ll keep you posted on my progress.