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|| News Item: Posted 2007-08-20

Holgamania Challenges Students
By Troy Harvey, Brooks Institute

Photo by Alexander Manning

Photo by Alexander Manning

Dale Jacobs poses for a portrait during the Memorial Day proceedings at the Los Angles National Cemetery in Los Angles Calif.,on Monday,May 28,2007. Jacobs and his friends do Civil War re-enactments almost year round.
A boxful of donated medium format film, a challenge made to student photographers and HOLGAMANIA was born during the spring term at Brooks Institute of Photography.

The officers of the Brooks NPPA Student Chapter presented the Brooks Institute of Photography Visual Journalism students with an opportunity to shoot a photography contest using only 120 film, donated by Santa Barbara based photographer Randy Leffingwell, and a Holga. They thought that it would be an interesting way to challenge students to focus on the picture and not the mechanical aspect of the modern day digital camera.

Alexander Manning simply put it "I think that we have a tendency to sometimes get way to caught up in the technical aspect of photography and forget the fun of just simply taking pictures". There were only two guidelines for this contest were to shoot journalistic photographs and to have the images fully captioned by June 7, 2007. As students collected their Holgas and 120 film, it was obvious that this contest would be both exciting and fun for all those who would participate.

Although this was not your typical photography contest, the pictures and the overall experience proved to be quite educational. The experiences that many students encountered were like nothing that could be found in a classroom. For example, when I would shoot with this camera I had to trust my instinct. I had to believe in my ability to take a picture without having the comfort of a LCD screen to let me know if my picture was properly exposed.

Another thing that challenged all those who participated was the fact that we were shooting film. "Unlike our modern day digital SLR's each roll of film held an average of 12 frames, which in turn made me think about the picture a lot more before I released the shutter," said Nathan Cremisino, " for example, I spent over an hour and a half at the beach following a group of children and only took six frames". Cremisino went on to say "To use this Stone Age tool that required winding after every shot was a nice reprieve from today's Digital SLR cameras that can shoot at 8 frames per second." It was clear to all students that shooting with a Holga would be more challenging than originally thought.

Although the overall camera was much simpler, it required the student to take more time in planning out the picture and in essence foreseeing the moment. Students were no longer able to take hundreds of pictures only to delete over half of them in Photoshop a few hours later. Greg A. Cooper, instructor and NPPA faculty advisor, at Brooks Institute of Photography described the overall feeling of the contest when he said that, "in the camera's simplicity of construction and function, the Holga forces the user to think PHOTOGRAPHY; composition, light and then a moment.

Since the digital version of the Holga is not out yet, these cameras could not rely on the LCD on the back of the camera to check their images, which freed them up to just make pictures. Where I was surprised was with the fantastic moments that were captured. Now that takes anticipation."

Photo by

Outgoing Brooks NPPA Communications Director Aaron Vogel displaying the aftermath of a horrible Holga accident after photographing the Memorial Day services at LA National Cemetery.
Greg A. Cooper and Leffingwell judged the final images. It was another learning experience to see everyone's work and hear the photographers talk about how they got each unique image. The highlight of that evening was hearing Brett Ziegler's story about how he destroyed his Holga. Ziegler decided to make an underwater housing for his Holga and shoot some surfing photos for the contest using an ordinarily zip lock sandwich bag carefully sealed with duck tape. Needless to say, during his shoot the bag ripped open and water flooded in, ruining both the camera and the film.

Alexander Manning explains another incident that happened to Aaron Vogel after spending a day shooting a Memorial Day Commencement at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. "We headed off back to the car. Aaron slings his Holga around his neck so that it is hanging off his back and he has his flash attached by a TTL cord in the breast pocket of his shirt.

"We made it about twenty feet down the road when I hear something smack against the pavement. I turn around and see Aaron's full day of shooting lying open on the ground. The roll of 120 film had almost completely unwound and the back of the camera was lying loosely to the side. His TTL cord had yanked the Holga off his shoulder and thrown it to the ground. Needless to say he was less than happy when he turned and looked at his entire days shoot laying exposed on the hot pavement. So the moral of the story is to not trust flimsy camera straps and always tape up the back to your Holga." Although these incidents evoked some very interesting reactions, the pictures that resulted were nothing short of amazing. "

As a result of this contest, many students realized that they understood good lighting as well as composition. The work produced by these students with simple Holgas not only captured mood and technique but personal moments. This experience was of great educational value because it not only taught students to be confident in their sense of photography but to think outside the digital box. If there is anything to be learned from a photographer's life perhaps it is the understanding of simplicity.

At the end of this experience, Nathan Cremisino said it best by saying "If you are feeling burned out and need a break from your bulky digital camera, put it down for a day and go see what you can shoot with a simple camera such as a Holga. You might be surprised at what you see when you slow down and shoot a roll of film."

To see the winning images and all the images that were submitted please visit:

To see Randy Leffingwell's work please visit

(Troy Harvey is a Visual Journalism student at Brooks Institute of Photography and is president of the school's chapter of the NPPA. You can see his work at his member page: The Brooks NPPA site can be found here:

Related Links:
Brooks NPPA Student Chapter

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