It’s Hip to be Square?

Holga - Fuji Velvia 100F

I’ve just recently upgraded my ancient mobile handset to an iPhone and have been downloading various photography apps just to see what they can do.  Photosynth is quite good fun, but my computer is so ancient that it won’t talk to the software for viewing the images online. I downloaded another one, the name already forgotten, which was totally useless, and then downloaded Instagram a few days ago and have been messing about with it a fair bit.  It’s good…but it’s not quite right.

See, I’ve been watching people uploading their Hipstamatic and Instagram photos onto the Internet for some time, and have on occasion felt rather uncomfortable about the whole thing.  Uncomfortable, not because I’m a die-hard Luddite who swears only by film, but because I think shooting with film is a completely different experience to shooting with digital. Something is missing…

Now, don’t jump down my throat just yet!  Digital photography is great.  I would not be able to do the things I do without a digital camera. My camera has earned it’s cost back twice in the amount of money I’ve saved in developing, and has afforded me the luxury of being able to make errors without incurring the monetary cost of experimenting.  In fact, I’ve learned more about photography through my digital camera, than I ever did with my old 35mm SLR.

But, what came before my DSLR, and what saved me from photographic ennui, was my Holga.  I was bored to death of my SLR.  There were various reasons for this: frustration, finances – and the sheer weight of that beast had quite a lot to do with it too.  Then one day, I got (deliberately) lost in Tokyo and ended up walking past the old Lomography store tucked away in the back streets of Aoyama (it’s now in Harajuku).  It being winter and early evening, the shop was lit up, and so from the street it wasn’t hard to get sucked in to a store full of cameras.  I’d heard about Lomo before, but it wasn’t until I wandered in that I kind of got hooked.

A month or two later I bought a Holga 135 (with multi-coloured flash) and then the fun began.  As expected, my first few rolls of photos were pretty rubbish, but it was fun to experiment with different medium-format films, settings and picture sizes (there’s something quite satisfying about a square photo).  Most importantly, I had to learn both how to slow down and take a photo again, and simultaneously “shoot from the hip”.  I got back a feeling for composition, and for paying more attention to what I was photographing.  Perhaps the biggest change was going to pick up the photos once they’d been developed. I actually looked forward to it, and though I still came away disappointed sometimes, other times I’d be taken aback by what I received.

I’ve read comments recently suggesting that film “limits your creativity”, or disparaging Lomography for being “trendy”, but for me it was a nice shake up and encouraged me to get back into photography when I was starting to lose my enthusiasm.

The photo above is a happy accident.  I was hiking up a hill in Gifu city, near Nagoya, with a friend and on the way up was shooting this and that with the Holga and my SLR.  When we got to the top I realised my film was almost finished, so rather than changing it on the way down, I took a photo of one of the castle buildings at the top and then popped the film out.  Yes, I know you shouldn’t do it in full sunlight, and I almost lost the roll because it wasn’t wound tight enough, but had that not been the case this picture wouldn’t have happened.

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One thought on “It’s Hip to be Square?

  1. Great shot, mixing old mystical Japanese architecture with those industrial 14’s, almost like the rooftops are exhaling the labour that went into building them.

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