When is a toy not a toy?

The words Holga, Lomo and Lomography are to most people, just meaningless  odd, slightly Eastern European sounding words.  But to those “in the know” they are synonymous with a world of inventive and endlessly creative film photography.  The cameras are basic to say the very least, simple plastic boxes with plastic lenses and a primitive spring operated shutter.  Most use 120 roll film – not the easiest medium to source in the days of the 16mpxl digital smartphone camera!  Still, it can be bought at reasonable cost and there are still specialist laboratories who will process it (and even burn your precious images to CD).

the holga

My Holga 120CFN

I have been dabbling about with photography in various forms for years, and my Dad was a professional photographer.  Strangely,  several years ago I even bought a Lomo camera as a toy for my children to play with, that one took 35mm cassette film but inevitably it finally gave up the ghost.  I didn’t realise what it was at the time, I thought it was just a £5 cheap plaything which took real photos and was fun for kids.  It seems that since those days (some 15 or so years ago) that a whole Movement has grown up around these quirky cameras, so much so that early examples now command serious money.  Generally though a Holga or Lomo camera can be purchased for less than £100, which might seem a lot for what is essentially a toy, but everything is expensive these days, although some start at about £30.

After reading a couple of interesting books about Lomography (this is what the whole toy camera movement is known as; the name derived from one of the manufacturers of these strange little cameras) “Plastic Cameras, tying with creativity by Michelle Bates and Holga Lomography,  the world through a plastic lens by Adam Scott – both available from Amazon, I was hooked and knew I had to have one!  It was my birthday recently and I asked my husband to buy one for me, which he did (breathing a sigh of relief I suspect, as this is undoubtedly the cheapest camera he has ever bought me!)  Because it is all made from plastic you can “customise” it quite easily.  A friend had given me a scrap piece of fabric with a camera print on not so long ago and I realised that it was the perfect thing to jazz up the plain black plastic body on my Holga.

2015-08-21 13.18.06

Newly “jazzed up” Holga

2015-08-21 13.18.18

The back

Now I love it even more!  I also made a little draw string bag from the remains of a length of fabric I had designed and screen printed and used to make a roller blind for my studio (it has birds and leaves on and a sort of vintagey feel).  Now I am all set to just drop it in my handbag and it can go anywhere.

One of the many things which make the Holga (or other Lomo camera) so appealing is the light leakage which taints the film giving ghostly effects and enhancing the blurry vignette which appears at the outer edges of images.  This blurriness is caused by the plastic lens.  Of course, if you are after perfection, Lomography is not for you; but if like me you are interested in the ‘chance’ image it is perfect.  Incidentally, so popular is Lomography that many well known professional photographers carry a “toy” camera with them as well as their ‘proper’ cameras.

My first film came back today and I am very pleased with the results, my favourite four are here…

house 1

Strawberry Hill House

priests garden

The Priests Garden at Strawberry Hill House

and now my absolute joy and delight…

crying girl double

Crying Girl at Strawberry Hill House (double exposure)

ghost priests garden

Priests Garden double exposure

I am completely hooked on Lomography and love my little Holga!


About paisleypedlar

Artist, Sewist, sometime Cyclist and Arm Chair Activist
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