Now, “don’t think, just shoot” has a deeper meaning for me: As I take each shot with my toy cameras, I simultaneously let go of worrying whether I got it right. As I press and let go of the shutter button, I let go of the fear of taking a crappy shot. Read how Lomography has taught me how to breathe easy.
“Should I buy this plastic toy camera or not?” Buying my first Lomographic camera, a Holga 120 GCFN, was deliberated on for a long time. How much is the film? How many pictures should I take a month? How much is film development? Isn’t a dSLR more cost-effective in the long run?
It took me a month of researching and testing myself whether I was just being impulsive or if it was really worth it. After I decided to get it, the next big decision was which color of the Holga to get. Which color was 1) most practical; 2) most interesting; 3) most attractive and; 4) had the most resale value.
I can get obsessed with the smallest detail when I decide to get “into” something. I have been called a planner, an over-thinker, a geek and, what I hate the most, a control-freak. Such a trait could lead me into a very successful career-driven life, yes, but it doesn’t seem to me like it would be a fulfilling and happy one.
Little did I know that through this small seemingly childish toy camera would break this obsession with control and slowly form it into a perspective that was much more basic, simple and in touch with life.
As soon as I unboxed my Holga, my first thoughts were of disappointment with how plastic toy cameras… well…were really just plastic toys that functioned as cameras. Although it took a while, the beauty of its simplicity eventually swept me off my feet! It all started and progressed with every roll that I had developed.
My first few rolls were far from amazing. As a newbie, I took each shot cautiously to minimize wasting the film. And as a newbie, I failed! I had several rolls with none to only a few mediocre pictures, but something kept me optimistic, challenged even. In a way, my analytic side contributed a lot to my work. Because I was determined to take good pictures, I refused to follow the popular rule: “don’t think, just shoot.” Instead, I learned the Sunny 16 rule and all the other basic techniques of photography.
On the Path of Learning
Pretty soon, I got the hang of films and film cameras and I slowly understood the limitations of my Holga 120 GCFN and for some time, I was caught between wanting to learn photography the simplest way vs. getting a head start by using new technology. Being a control-freak didn’t exactly make me likely to enjoy the uncomplicatedness of a toy camera. But like I mentioned, the simplicity of the camera and photography just grew on me. Eventually, I got used to light leaks and the imperfect shots AND I started loving them. I used to hate how framing was inaccurate and difficult for non-SLR cameras – but now, it’s just as simple as having a cropped-head picture or having strangers in the ends of my frame. And it is perfect the way it is.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t get perfect exposures, what matters for me, is the moment captured — the event, the people, the fun, the love! In each shot taken, whether it was under or over exposed, it is life through my eyes (and technically through a plastic lens as well!). When I had a digital camera, I probably would have wasted a lot of time and opportunity reviewing the LCD and retaking shots until I thought I got it perfectly. Whereas with my Holga, I would have already taken several angles of a single place, person or event – all of which are perfect, unique and irreproducible.
What I learned from my Holga was not just the Sunny 16 rule and how to compose square format pictures. I learned to let go of a lot of thoughts and self-made rules that has kept me from seeing the simplicity and beauty of life. That, in my opinion, pretty much makes the trouble looking for expired films, the cost of importing supposedly cheap toy cameras, having to wait for rolls to be complete finished and then processed, all worth it.