I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jennifer Henriksen (AKA HolgaJen) of London, Ontario about her interest in photography, the inspiration behind her use of the plastic Holga camera, and to discover more about HolgaWeek – the event she founded that begins Monday, July 21 and ends Sunday, July 27.
TP: Can you tell us about your background and the origins of your interest in photography?
JH: I always enjoyed creative pursuits as a child (drawing, writing etc) but didn’t start taking a serious interest in photography until I was in my 20’s. I had recently purchased a point and shoot style film camera and was starting to enjoy making photographss and playing around with the camera’s (limited) settings. I remember fiddling with the exposure trying to create a dreamy, artistic look to my images.
TP: What got you interested in using the Holga?
JH: It was around this time (my 20’s) that I first saw Holga photographs posted online through a friend who was sharing another’s work. I was instantly drawn to the dreamy, vignetted world that was revealed in the images. I instantly began researching the Holga and soon purchased one. I had some initial success with (the Holga) and black and white film – and it motivated me to keep going to make more photographs.
TP: How does the use of the camera enable your artistic vision?
JH: Soon after I purchased my Holga I found it to be a great outlet for creating self portraits. The first roll I shot was an experiment and I recall feeling uncomfortable with the results. I realized that I was viewing some of my own very raw emotions and it took me a little while to develop the confidence to share them. I love the outlet my Holga provides for self expression and it’s the best way I’ve found for conveying my feelings in a creative way. And this, in turn, has greatly aided my artistic development. Using the plastic Holga has given me a whole new outlook on photography and my (creative) mind. I love experimenting and pushing the boundaries of the traditional and technical aspects of photography.
TP: How and why did you decide to create Holga Week?
JH: I had recently become aware of a few other events such as Polaroid Week and Pinhole Day, and since I love the Holga, I thought why not have a Holga day or maybe even a week dedicated to this simple plastic camera? I thought Holga Week allowed more time for more participation (and had a better ring to it) and since there is already a World Toy Camera Day, I decided to go with a full week long celebration! I asked around online to see if people would be interested, and got a huge and very positive response!
JH: The only “rules” are the submission rules, located on the Holga Week website as well as the Terms and Conditions. But in essence you need to make photographs with any Holga product, not digitally alter or manipulate them in any way (other than scanning for uploading). Digital Holga products do qualify as long as they are not digitally manipulated.
TP: How many plastic cameras do you have? (Holga and not-holga) Which are your favorites and why?
JH: I have at least 6 or 7 Holga. I also have a Diana, a Vivitar Wide and Slim, a Lubitel, a Brownie, a Polaroid, and a bunch of other really old cameras. My Holga 120N is my favorite, I have gotten some nice shots with the VUWS as well. I enjoy collecting old film cameras – I even have a few movie cameras. I haven’t tried them all to see which ones work and which ones don’t. A big shout out to my aunt Nancy who loves flea markets and yard sales and has found a lot of these for me!
TP: Do you have any tips for those using their Holga next week?
JH: Shoot every day. Use more than one Holga if you have a few, use all of your accessories to the fullest. Keep different film speeds on hand for the weather conditions. Experiment. And most of all have fun and keep notes so that you can share how you created your stunning photographs.
TP: Do you have any long term plans for Holga Week?
JH: I would love to have it return as an annual event, but that will be predicated on this years turnout. If we have a nice number of participants, I will definitely do it again next year!
TP: What are your feelings regarding the multiple ways – online, phones, prints, books, in a gallery, etc – the public consumes images today?
JH: I am all for anything that helps foster the art of photography whether it’s online, in a book, on a phone etc. I love photography as a whole and how images are able to render emotions without saying a word. The online photo sharing world has really exploded over the past few years and I really love mobile photography in addition to my Holga work.
TP: How do you prefer to look at images – and why?
JH: I love seeing prints in person, especially from film and alternative processes. It’s something tangible that you can hold in your hands and you can almost feel the object’s texture and the artist’s personality shine through in the photograph. These days, like most, I probably do most of my viewing online. I like the accessibility and ease of sharing that the viewing online enables. I also love the way we can (instantly) share images with people around the world.
TP: What drives you to do this work?
JH: For me, shooting with a Holga fits with my creative vision. I always feel inspired when I am shooting with one. I am grateful for the way the Holga inspired me to start creating a body of work and it will always be my first love. Because of this, I like to promote the Holga and encourage others to shoot with it. This is why I developed my blog and Holga Week. The Holga and Toy Camera community is a great place and it’s always inspiring to share work and see what others are doing with their plastic cameras.
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