Posted on September 27, 2012
The first Holga camera was designed by T. M. Lee in 1981, and first appeared in 1982. The concept of Holga is simple - a minimal and inexpensive camera using medium format 120 film. The Holga had no true aperture selection and one shutter speed; the focus dial was marked with figures in place of numbers. The Holga was intended to record family portraits and events of working-class families in China. However, the rapid adoption of the 35mm format due to new foreign camera and film imports virtually eliminated the consumer market for 120 rollfilm in China. Seeking new markets, the manufacturer sought to distribute the Holga outside mainland China.
Within a few years after the Holga's introduction to foreign markets. A global community of photographers, students, creative types, and generally fabulous individuals see the simplicity and ability of Holga, and fully embrace it. This cult following organizes around the Holga, praising its insane characteristics, unpredictable effects, and stunning results. Some photographers began using the Holga for its surrealistic, impressionistic scenes for landscape, still life, portrait, and especially, street photography. These owners prized the Holga for its lack of precision, light leaks, and inexpensive qualities, which forced the photographer to concentrate on innovation and creative vision in place of increasingly expensive camera technology. In this respect, the Holga camera became the successor to the Diana and other toy cameras previously used in such work. A Holga photograph by David Burneet of former vice-president Al Gore during a campaign appearance earned a top prize in a 2001 White House News Photographers' Association Eyes of History award ceremony.