Michelle Bates has been making serious (and fun) photographs with inexpensive plastic Holga cameras since 1991, when she discovered them at The Maine Photographic Workshops.
Since then, she has become an expert and well-respected evangelist for Holgas and other "toy" cameras. She has just published a book, and now teaches workshops around the world, including an upcoming stint at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in New York City.
Her Holga photographs have been exhibited in galleries in New York (the ICP bookstore gallery and E3), and throughout the US, as well as shows in Italy, Japan and Israel. One photo graced the cover of a pop-music album. Newspapers and magazines have printed her editorial photographs in all of their glorious and quirky "Holga-ness".
She prints her Holga photos to accentuate the non-rectilinear vignette shapes created by the plastic lens. She does this by using a hand-cut oversized negative carrier that follows the edges of the image. Then she usually trims the edges of her prints, leaving a ragged frame of white to further emphasize the unique shape.
In her book, which is as much a how-to as it is a forum for creative inspiration, she highlights the work of 33 other artists who use Holgas (or other plastic cameras) to make their art. Michael Ackerman loves to move around to blur his moody images. Pauline St. Denis shoots with color transparency film, and only advances the film partially for each of several over-lapping exposures — and she does this using a professional strobe. The results? Wild photos that fashion advertisers just love. Others use the partially-advanced film technique to create one long series of overlapping images the length of the entire roll, which can then be printed as wall-size murals.The variety of creative pursuits inspired by Holgas seems endless.
Michelle Bates and I met in Portland, Oregon during the wonderful Photolucida Festival, and recorded this audio interview for Lens Culture in the midst of all the noise of the surrounding portfolio reviews. She's a compelling speaker, and after listening to her, and seeing some of the remarkable work that is being done with cheap ($25) cameras, you may want to run out and try one yourself.
— Jim Casper
Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity
by Michelle Bates
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Focal Press
Kent Nunamaker, creator of the Snapdragon 4x5 pinhole camera, wrote this brief review about the book:
"Without a doubt, the best all-around guide to plastic camera photography available. Well written, beautifully illustrated, informative yet entertaining. Michelle Bates has done a great job. If you're just curious, she will inspire you. If you're into the plastic fantastic, she'll motivate you. And if you've been doing this stuff for years, she'll make you feel good about yourself. It's about time somebody did it, and I don't think anyone could have done it better."
InterviewPlastic Cameras, and Toying with CreativityHolga Queen, Michelle Bates, got hooked on plastic cameras in 1991. Since then she’s had international shows, she teaches workshops, and she’s just published a new book: Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity. See some of her images and listen to her talk passionately about the utter...View Images
Plastic Cameras, and Toying with Creativity
Holga Queen, Michelle Bates, got hooked on plastic cameras in 1991. Since then she’s had international shows, she teaches workshops, and she’s just published a new book: Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity. See some of her images and listen to her talk passionately about the utter...
Plastic Cameras, and Toying with Creativity
Holga Queen, Michelle Bates, got hooked on plastic cameras in 1991. Since then she’s had international shows, she teaches workshops, and she’s just published a new book: Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity. See some of her images and listen to her talk passionately about the utter joys of inexpensive cameras.
Helter Skelter, Maine
Coney Island, NY
Dog Driver, NY
Ivy Wall 2, Cambridge
Roots, Boston Public Garden
Water Steps, NY
Shadow & Sky, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Cal Anderson Park, Seattle
Shadow & Window, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Bryant Park Ivy Pole
Ivy Wall 1, Cambridge
Palm Shadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Trees with Nests, Oregon
Coast Boulder, Maine
Raritan Canal, NJ
Pond, Portland, Maine
Wax Orchards Tree
Branches 2, Boston Public Garden
Trending this Week
Call Me Heena: Hijra, The Third Gender
“I feel like a mermaid. My body tells me that I am a man but my soul tells me that I am a woman…” A penetrating, multi-year report on a unique group of people—who fall outside of Western notions of gender—trying to carve out a...
Announcing the 2019 LensCulture Art Photography Award Winners!
Announcing the winners of the 2019 Art Photography Awards! Discover the 38 remarkable photographers who have been selected for their vision, innovation and creativity.
I Need You More Than You Need Me
Transcending the definitions of classic documentary work, photographer Edgar Martins challenges our perception of incarceration by using metaphorical imagery that pushes us to consider the social effects of prisons.
Life from a Tube: The London Underground
The world’s subway riders have inspired photographers for decades—this work stands with the best of them, capturing London’s Tube riders with humanity, humor and delight. Hear the full story behind this decades-long labor of love.
Rejecting the dark tropes we usually associate with the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, photographer Robyn Von Swank instead paints a quiet and poetic picture of the historic region and its inhabitants.
As Dhaka’s electrical circuitry advances, the tangled relics of its old infrastructure lay abandoned, forming a city-wide technological graveyard.