In 1981, a camera was invented that would win the hearts of photographers and artists from around the world. Although it would never fulfill the purpose for which it was created, the Holga would be rapidly elevated to cult status amongst those who appreciate the aesthetic potentialities of a camera that produces completely unpredictable results.
Designed by T.M. Lee of Universal Electronics, Hong Kong and first released outside of China in 1982, this small camera had large aspirations. With its minimal design and largely plastic construction, the aim was to make medium-format photography affordable for working-class families across China. However, the rapid adoption of the more consumer-orientated 35mm format made the camera largely obselete before it had even left the drawing board.
Rather than fading into insignificance however, the Holga found a new audience of visual artists that would guarantee the production and development of the camera until 2015. It is the unpredictability of the Holga that so excites the creative mind. Light leaks, mis-focusing, warped film, internal reflections, wild vignetting and point-and-pray exposures all create unique results with every shutter actuation.
This project is a celebration of the unlikely success story of the Holga. Thirty years from it’s invention, Leeds-based photographer and educator Tom Jackson has returned the camera to it’s birthplace, assembling a collection of images that represent the diversity of the region. The results are dream-like and atemporal, half-remembered and hypnagogic. The camera reveals itself to be an unreliable narrator, producing images that could have emerged at any time since the advent of colour photography.
The images shown here represent a small sample of a much larger collection that is currently being developed into a book.