Holga, My Honey
My boyfriend also ached for a minute of peace. But he had been daydreaming for only a couple of moments when one of his aunts ambushed him with an unwrapped Christmas gift. The box, boasting a Rainbow Brite color scheme, was a perfect cube. A big picture of a camera filled up one of its shiny faces. The word 'Holga' declared itself in blocky orange print.
Taking it, my boyfriend glanced at the box and then passed it to me.
“Oh, thank you,” he said to his aunt, “But I think she'll get better use out of this than me.” He chuckled as his aunt laughed, nodded, and waved her hand.
“I have some silly little things for her, too. Just some silly little things.”
She removed a couple cases of sparkly stationery from the plastic bag dangling on her wrist. I smiled and thanked her as I ran my fingers over a glitter dragonfly.
My boyfriend turned to me after his aunt had moved on to attack another nephew. “This camera's perfect for you,” he murmured.
I rotated the box to inspect all sides. Everything about the packaging hinted at a combination of 1980s toy marketing and anime: speech bubbles, Japanese translations, rings of indigo, mauve and cherry red set against black. Yet the camera took medium format film—a professional medium. I thanked my boyfriend and placed the box alongside all the other gifts I had received that day.
Months passed before I would touch that box again. Spring was quickly fading into summer. I was perched upon my bed in a cotton tunic, knocked out by the heat but itching to be productive one Sunday morning. My eyes scanned the room before landing on that black and neon box. My mouth cracked into a grin. That day, I would not laze about in bed. That day, I would discover Holga.
I began by opening the box, which was no simple feat. Its flaps reisted my efforts to pull them out. In fact, I almost ripped the box. Once I managed to open it, I perused the sight before me. The camera resembled a child's plaything in its chunkiness. The books could have been album covers or 'zines. I sighed. Compared to most other camera kits, this kit felt so informal. I relished the thought of being able to click and go.
I laid out everything on the bed and began poring over the accompanying literature: a photo book, an instruction manual, and promotional materials. The muscles in my back relaxed when I learned how few settings the camera possessed and when I flipped through pages of samples showing what the camera could achieve.
The Holga, famous for its light leaks and soft-focus, had originated as a cheap novelty camera, the sort of gadget you might win at a carnival in the early '80s. For the past few decades, it has been revered for its affordability, accessibility, and low-tech aesthetics. I was enchanted.
I immediately ran out to shoot a roll of film, seizing glimpses of the tiniest scenes and most insignificant moments. Garden ornaments became monuments. Backyard sheds became temples. The Holga had transformed my neighborhood into a holy city.
Now that I'm waiting for my roll of film to be developed, I cannot wait to go through the photos. Each one will be unique, more of a product of chance than of my skill. But I'm even more so excited about shooting my next roll of film. The Holga promises the antithesis of digital perfection—a welcomed guarantee of streaming shades and hues for a nostalgic girl like me.