Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brian Schiele is "The Holga Master"

Recently Brian Schiele posted a few photographs on the Itinerant Angler forum that caught my eye. I was even more intrigued when I found out he was taking these photos on Holga cameras which to some is nothing more than a toy.

I thought it would be neat to introduce Brian Schiele to T.F.M. readers and sent him a short interview that I really appreciate him taking the time to answer.

How did you get introduced to Holga cameras and where has the journey taken you?

I was first introduced to them back in college, in the early 90’s, at Weber State University, here in Utah. I wasn’t very receptive to them at the time, because I was on a very different path with my photography at the time, a photojournalist/documentary one. I gave in so to speak, on my second to last quarter of school, when my son was born and I needed a project for the quarter. It would be a few years after that first use of a Holga that I really got into them.

Fast forward to 1999/2000 I had gotten divorced and had these series of dreams about mountain biking which were extremely vivid, so vivid that I had to recreate them in photographs, which I did using a Holga. Using the Holga I was able to recreate those dreamy visions I had, you can see these photographs in the “Singletrack Dreams” section on my website. I enjoy the challenge of making photographs with such a rudimentary camera, I think it makes me a better more creative photographer. Life is fast paced enough, when I am out photographing, I want to slow down things and really take in the scene and experience I am photographing, using a Holga I am able to just that and make interesting and creative photographs at the same time.

When I go fishing I have at least two with me, one that I do my straight photographs with and a second that I am trying do some double exposures with. In the latter camera I am using a slower film, Kodak Plus-X in this case, whereas I normally use Kodak Tri-X.

I think there are some similarities with using a Holga and fly fishing as far as equipment goes anyway. Both are pretty simple, yet challenging to use in order to get really good effects, once you master it though, the results can be incredible I think the Tenkara rods and the whole aesthetic with them have an even closer connection to Holgas, a Tenkara set up will be my next fishing purchase.

What type of Holga are you shooting with, modifications, and how many do you have?

I have six Holgas, all of which I have bought or have had modified from www.holgamods.com. Half of them are the original “S” version and the other half are the newer “N” version. Randy at www.holgmods.com got so good at doing what he does with them the factory in China that makes Holgas must have gotten a hold of one his modified “S” models that they put a lot of the things like the bulb shutter option and the tripod hole on the “N” model, the mods he does are better than what’s on the unmodified ones. Two of the "S" versions have the bulb and tripod modifications, while the third is a PinHolga, a pinhole Holga that has the lens taken off; the "N" models just have the standard modifications. All six cameras have the inside painted black, it helps increase image contrast.

I have painted four of my Holgas, red, yellow, green and blue. I do it for two reasons, first because it’s a fun way to personalize and add a little character to each camera, and secondly I do it as a way to know what film I like in the different cameras and/or the purpose of an individual camera. In the red one I put color slide film in, in the yellow one, I put color print film in, the green is the one I do the double exposures in and have the slower black and white film in the blue one I am going to use as a macro camera.

What does a Holga do that other cameras don't? How does a Holga change the game up especially when using it photography fly fishing scenes?

I think Holgas are a fun camera, I think everyone who does photography should have one, and they are that fun and different. Using a Holga or another toy camera is a different aesthetic, in that the results you get from using one are more about the beauty of the imperfect. The results you get with using one aren’t all that sharp, and you’ll often get light leaks, which in my opinion have a way of either enhancing the composition of the photograph or adding some other element that you never even thought about.

I also think that Holgas, are very versatile cameras, you can put 35mm film through for some great effects and you can do panoramas, or as they more commonly known as to those that use them “Holgaramas” and doing double exposures are extremely easy to do too.

I think what I am doing as far as fly fishing photography goes is unique in that, it’s black and white, and in the square format and not to mention that I am using a toy camera. I have seen something similar, but it wasn’t done with a Holga or another toy camera.

You might think that you can get the same results using a digital camera, and Photoshop, which you can of course, but what’s the fun and challenge in that...

It didn't take more than a week or so of looking through his website and Flickr site before I had to order my own Holga which arrived last week. It's time to delve back into the realm of film again.


CoreyK said...

Brian does some good stuff! Nice post Cam!

swampfox741 said...

Really cool interview! I also dabble in photography and the mighty Holga. When I started fly fishing it was to be in conjunction with photo trips. I find it increasingly difficult to get good film processing with out a darkroom of my own. So fly fishing and fly tying have been my most recent Hobbies. Your interview and Brian's work is inspiring me to return to my Holga, or a least carry my digital while fishing. Also you might want to check out www.toycamera.com
If your into Holga work thats place.

Tight Lines and Under the influence of light

Cameron Mortenson said...

CK...the photo of you is one of my two favorites that Brian has done.

David...search out a good photo shop in your area. I recently found on in Columbia called "The F Stop" where I can process and print and it's reasonably cheap.

I am looking forward to messing around with film again after shooting digital for so long.