I WAS AN ART/PHOTOGRAPHY MAJOR at Allegheny College (a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania) in the 1970s, but I let my art slide; computer programming ended up being my profession. Five years ago, however, I abruptly changed direction. I give two reasons for this: one being 9/11 (I’m a New Yorker), the other being a major personal loss the year before. Both those events reminded me that life is damn short, and that I had better get crackin’. The vehicle that got me jump-started was a four-week class I took on this silly camera called the Holga (of which I had never heard). I have been going full speed ever since.
The Holga is a plastic camera that uses medium- format film. The film advance doesn’t force you to advance a full frame; one can turn the knob any arbitrary amount. My images are done by only partially advancing the film between shots, meaning the images overlap as I shoot. The composition is therefore primarily done in-camera; it comes off of the negative this way.
I enjoy shooting very fast and spontaneously, and I like the surprise element involved in working this way. A roll of medium-format film of maybe 24 or so overlapping exposures will at most give me two final images (I usually use a 7:1 aspect ratio, which is about half of the length of the roll). Occasionally I’ve printed an entire roll as one piece, but that is one unwieldy print. Most rolls will at most yield only one piece, from somewhere on the roll.