I’m a big fan of technology, and it’s easy to get swept up in the shiny new toys that the big camera companies roll out every year. I love the fact that I can now record video as well as stills from the same camera bodies, for example, and that the low light sensitivity of those bodies can produce amazing results without the digital noise we once had to work around.
But a few weeks ago, I read a quote that I thought applied well to photography: “It’s the archer, not the arrow.” I took that quote to heart, and decided to take a step back from my arrows and focus on the archery itself.
Shooting with a Holga
Here’s what I did: I got a cheap, plastic Holga camera and two rolls of film and conducted a fashion shoot on the rooftop of my studio.
From the moment I started photographing my model with 120 film, I felt a sense of excitement, and a bit of pressure. With each roll of film, I only had 12 shots, 12 chances to make it work, 12 frames to fill — without the ability to see through the lens.
That’s a lot different from an 8 or 16 gig compact flash card that might hold 800 raw files, and the ability to review every shot after you’ve taken it.
I dropped off the film and had to wait overnight before I could get my negatives and proofs from the shoot; I had forgotten that sense of anticipation. As soon as my film was ready, I went back to the lab to pick everything up. I felt a little giddy waiting to see what was captured on the emulsion. In the end, I thought we created some unique-looking photos.
Film was and still is an amazing tool, but the point is that a photographer is more than the sum of his tools.
Try something for me: think about something you have been wanting or meaning to shoot. Now, go and do it — not with your go-to camera and lenses, but with an old 35mm body or a pinhole camera, something as different as you can find from what you normally use.
I guarantee this exercise will make you rethink the way you approach a shoot. At the very least, it will force you to slow down and think more about what you’re doing, versus shooting and chimping to see the results.