The origin of the species
Hong Kong 1982. The manufacturing and production hub of the world is burning at a full flame. As with their neighbors in Japan and China, photography is an intense national hobby and obsession. New camera designs and productions are churned out daily, feeding the huge domestic and import markets. From within this world of manic creation and innovation comes the Holga, a distinctly un-modern and somewhat prehistoric throwback to the early days of camera mechanics.
The concept is simple - a minimal and inexpensive camera using medium format 120 film. It would contain only the bare necessities for photo mechanisms, and provide a cheap and accessible alternative for students and enthusiasts to dip their toes into the otherwise very expensive world of medium format photography. Reflecting the shining landscape around them, this new camera is named after the term "ho gwong," meaning "very bright." After throwing a European spin onto this phrase, the moniker "HOLGA" is minted. This dead simple camera is met with a warm welcome, establishing a strong yet small base of Holga aficionados. Birth, death, celebration, ritual, and everything in-between is caught on lo-fi medium-format emulsions - amplified and focused through the plastic lens of this bare bones, oversized camera.
The cult phenomenon
Over the next 10 years, Holga enjoys a popularity explosion. 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. Teachers and professors actively employ the Holga as a training tool - simultaneously teaching their students the fundamentals of photography while opening their minds to new and unexpected techniques. The very features that many would consider to be fatal defects in a "normal" camera have become the most treasured assets of the Holga new school.
Today, the Holga movement is expanding every single minute, with new devotees, organizations, and online sites spreading like wildfire. Photographic exhibitions are held in some of the most prestigious galleries on the planet; showcasing the work of one of the most unlikely artistic tools ever employed. Competitions, interactions, and communication are tossed around the online & offline communities, encouraging and amplifying the excellent work of the Holga obsessed. Ironically, as camera design becomes more technical, automatic, and sophisticated, Holga's low-tech appeal grows stronger and stronger for us; those who relish its quirky and unpredictable nature. While designers around the world are racking their brains to create increasingly more advanced and complex cameras; the Holga will continue to grow as a steadfast counterculture item, taking away the complications of technology and simplifying the equation to four critical elements - your eye, the lens, the film, and your subject.