As an undergraduate studying photography at New York University, I experimented with a number of alternative processes.
One of my favorite projects involved taking black and white images that I’d shot of some of the power plants in and around New York City and subjecting them to copper toning baths that were hours longer than they were supposed to be.
By the time I pulled the prints fromthe toner, they were just sheets of paper covered in copper. I then used rags to scrape off some of the copper and expose the image that was still beneath.
It was a commentary on the smokestack scrubbers power plants were being mandated to install at the time to remove pollutants from the exhaust they were emitting.
I also worked with several different types of medium format cameras.
I fell in love with the 6×4.5mm format and went so far as to purchase my own Fuji6x4.5 rangefinder. It was with that camera that I shot many of the documentary projects I worked on as an undergraduate.
I loved that small completely manual camera that was almost completely silent but that produced negatives twice the size of a 35mm camera and allowed me to make much larger prints.
After graduating from NYU and finding a job as a photojournalist, however, much of my experimenting with photography came to an end and I fell into the day to day of shooting 35mm film at photo assignments around Southern Utah.
A few years into my career, in an attempt to recapture that sense of experimentation I decided to buy a couple of Holgas.
In my career as a photojournalist, I was always concerned with exposure, focus, proper developing, shutter speeds, apertures, depth of field, all the technical aspects of the craft. But with a Holga, almost none of that matters.
There is only one shutter speed on a Holga. There are no f-stops, just a switch that has one picture of clouds and another of the sun. Focus is done by guessing. Holgas are one of the most basic means of capturing an image on film.
That simplicity really intrigued me.
I wanted to find a simple way to photograph and to explore the most basic elements of the image.
So I ordered a few Holgas and started to contemplate what I’d do with them once they arrived.