The Death of Holga and the Resurgence of Film
I read some sad, but not entirely surprising news during the week. It seems that the company that makes Holga cameras is shutting down. I'm not hugely surprised by this. The Holga craze of a few years ago was pretty much killed by Instagram and the iPhone. I only noticed recently how many of the places that used to sell Holga cameras had stopped selling them (in lieu of Fuji Instax cameras). I do own a Holga camera. It is one of the original medium format ones. I only used it a few times, as it was very expensive to process medium format film here, and it just wasn't worth it for the kind of experimental arty images (i.e. not very good) I got from it. It's kind of ironic that the company is ceasing production now, as film photography is enjoying a renaissance at the moment, and I cant help but think that Holga was at least partially responsible for that.
When Holga emerged into the mainstream consciousness of photographers, everyone was writing film off as dead. The toy camera brought a new appreciation for analog-ness. The poor quality was somehow beautiful, and it got people thinking about film again. While many derided this trend as being just for hipsters, it gained a lot of traction. There's no doubt that without it, Instagram probably wouldn't have existed it it's current form. (you can argue whether or not that is a good thing). The side effect of this was that it got people looking at film again.
I think that many people who saw the potential here went on to get hold of second hand cameras and began shooting film properly. Slowly the Holga craze was killed by the iPhone and apps like hipstamatic and instagram. People who wanted the distorted, blurry, light leaked filtered images that were trademark of the Holga look, were achievable for far less expense with a smartphone app.
Meanwhile, those that were enchanted by the grainy smooth analogue beauty of film went for proper cameras. This ignited a trend for second hand film cameras, and this movement took on a life of its own. There are many people who are shooting film for the first time now who may have gotten into photography either through a digital camera or a even just a smartphone and are now enjoying the process of shooting film. Im guessing some of the people who are now shooting film for the first time probably haven't heard of Holga either. This of course is all conjecture on my part, but it tracks with what I've heard from friends and colleagues.
I'm not sure whether the current resurgence in film will be just a trend or if its here to stay, but people wrote it off and they were wrong. Its interesting as Vinyl is also enjoying a major comeback too, and it too was written off many times. It seems people have an innate attraction to the analogue world after all. Even physical books are bouncing back, after many people wrote them off with the advent of the kindle and the iPad.
Having grown up shooting film, I've always had a love for it, although I don't shoot that much any more (as it's expensive to get processed properly here in Ireland) It's just a shame that there were so many casualties along the way, from companies like Holga to great films like Kodakchrome and Ectachrome. Who knows though, perhaps if the current trend keeps going, we'll start to see companies making new films again.
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