Holga: The Accidental Genius

I get it. I’m not breaking any new ground here by telling you about the Holga. You have one. Your friend who’s a graphic designer–the guy who wears denim cutoffs and oversized ironic sunglasses–told you about it and you bought one on Amazon. Maybe Urban Outfitters. But here’s the thing: hipsters aren’t always wrong, and trends can be fun to follow. I was certainly seduced by this particular hipster trend, and I’m not sorry about it.

For the uninformed, the Holga is basically a very cheap, plastic camera that takes poor pictures in an unpredictable way. Meet Holga:


It’s the unpredictability that’s fun. A digital camera, by contrast, is like a meal at a chain restaurant. You know exactly what you’re going to get. And yes, most of the time, that predictability is great. But one of the forgotten pleasures of shooting film is the mystery and sense of anticipation that lies between shooting and developing. The Holga takes that mystery and turns it into pure chaos.

These are the few (barely) salvageable images from my last Holga roll, which goes all the way back to our famous road trip. They all have the Holga’s characteristic vignetting, one of its more charming tendencies. But they also have an odd out-of-focus look, which may be due to some sort of double exposure. Or maybe there’s something wrong with the lens. Could’ve been light leaking into the camera, too. Holga is known for that. I can’t tell exactly. This is the first time she played this particular trick on me.

Also, you can also clearly see the effects of double exposure in the light vertical strips on the sides of the images. I had the camera on the wrong setting and wasn’t advancing the film far enough after each shot. Check out the right side of this photo:


But the more time I spend with these photos, the more I like them. I am a fan of the accidental. This entire blog, after all, is dedicated to my love of aimlessness. And what represents that better than photographs that are accidentally blurry, grainy overlap with each other, and yet for some reason are oddly intriguing?


I snapped this just after seeing Funny People at the Alamo. Great movie, by the way.


I suppose it’s fun to screw up when there are no consequences. It’s fun to stumble. You see the world in a new way when you’re falling down. And for some reason, when the picture is blurry you spend more time looking for the details. Maybe there’s something there worth finding.


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