A Holga-Eyed View Of The World; Optics? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Optics!

Back when I was a wee lad, I got my introduction to professional photography by shooting weddings. I remember one of my first when the bride’s uncle introduced himself while carrying a brand-new Hasselblad loaded with more accessories than a new Cadillac. He looked at my used and battered Mamiya C33 and just smiled. Can you imagine shooting weddings with a Holga? Well kiddies, that’s what Erin Antognoli does. And she is not alone in her passion for this plastic fantastic camera. Join me this month for a Holga-themed stroll across the web and afterward if you decide you just gotta own one of these addictive cameras, you can get yours by searching the web for various outlets. I bought mine at Adorama Camera (www.adorama.com) by plugging “CZHN” into their website’s Search function. It’s the most fun you can have with photography for $27.99.

While equipment snobs may be surprised that Erin Antognoli photographs portraits and weddings using a Holga, she trumps them with her images and a considerable amount of creativity and talent. The bride doesn’t put a photo of a camera in her album, she puts images of people and Antognoli shoots wedding photographs bursting with life and delivered with such gusto and style that you don’t care what kind of camera she uses. The Portfolios section contains three collections: “Weddings,” “Portraits/Fashion,” and “Gelatin Relief.” Her monochrome wedding images have the loose, carefree look the Holga encourages, but it takes more than a camera to make photographs and Antognoli’s photographs seem to have one foot in reality and the other in a fantasy world that’s well suited to capturing weddings.

© 2009, Erin Antognoli, All Rights Reserved

Her weddings include romantic, sweeping panoramas made using Holga’s unintentionally built-in double-exposure capability that, for purely emotional content, exceed anything made by less talented wedding shooters with more expensive equipment. Antognoli’s black-and-white portrait and fashion work features powerful images made unique with her control over these same techniques but are totally different than her wedding photographs because of the power of her vision. The “Gelatin Relief” images add splashes of color that combine to reach viewers on an intellectual plane as compared to the visceral level of her wedding and portrait work. If you want to learn more about gelatin relief click on her Blog (and keep scrolling), but along the way you’ll see an incredible range of images demonstrating that Antognoli is a genuine talent blessed with insight into the human soul. Her website is powered by liveBooks (www.livebooks.com) and while all their sites tend to look alike, Antognoli’s sensitive photography transcends the low-key design, making it a must-visit destination.

To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, I know art when I see it and so will you when visiting Michael Bryant’s site. Collected into six galleries, four of which have a geographical bent, you’ll see what the lowly Holga can do in the hands of an artist like Bryant and will forevermore end the camera club discussion of “I could take a picture like that if only I had his camera.” For less than $30 you can have the same camera Bryant uses but his vision is truly priceless. In his European gallery he has collected monochromatic images of many familiar subjects and treated them in a formal, stylized manner that when combined with the Holga’s visual idiosyncrasies rise above mere tourist photos. All of you would-be artists who want to sell your work on the web should take note of what happens when you click on these large thumbnails. Sure, you get a bigger photo, but more than that you get everything you need to order a print, including frame type and suggestions for creating a triptych. Never has art and commerce been married as well on the Internet with neither suffering in the process.

© 2009, Michael Bryant, All Rights Reserved

In the other collections he applies magic to photographs of America’s Midwest, this time using the Holga’s double-exposure techniques to create Escher-like images as in “Milwaukee Art Museum.” In “Botanicals” his work turns to sensuous color images of flowers made in the studio using Polaroid 55 film with a 4x5 view camera. Contrasted with the warm-toned palm trees shot on a Holga, these images appear to have been made by two different photographers but are merely two aspects of the same photographer molded by the gear that he uses. And that’s what’s so wonderful about Bryant’s work; you never know what he’s going to do next.