Photography With A Toy Camera Called A Holga

I shoot 120mm black & white film using a Holga camera. The Holga is a plastic camera of poor quality first produced in China in 1982. It was cheap in order to be the camera for the masses.

Each Holga is different and its imperfections affect the film in an individual way. Light leaks are common, although I wrap my camera in Velcro to minimize them. The film spools are often loose, creating out of focus images because the film doesn’t lie flat on the focus plane. Since the lens is plastic, the image edges are distorted and sometimes a double “ghost image” is seen near the outer edges. Light falloff from the plastic lens causes a darkening of the edges in most images.

The Holga is not a single lens reflex (SLR) camera (SLR means that when you look through the viewfinder, you are seeing through the lens). The Holga’s viewfinder is simply a hole near the top of the camera that doesn’t line up with the lens. This causes an image shift that varies depending on how close the camera is focusing. There is no built-in light meter, so good exposures depend on my knowledge of light and film.

I often shoot multiple exposures on a single 2-1/4 inch square negative. The film does not automatically advance -- it must be done manually by turning a knob on the top of the camera. The shutter is operated by a simple spring that exposes the negative as many times as I trip it. Only the lighting conditions and film speed limit how many exposures the negative will withstand, before becoming too overexposed to print. I experiment with rotating or moving the camera position or location between exposures. Mostly the experiments fail, but occasionally they result in an incredibly unique image that can be almost abstract.

I scan my negatives in a negative carrier that has been filed out to show the whole image with the film code and image numbers sometimes visible. I print my work using an Epson 7890 on photo paper or on a watercolor paper that I first painted and metal leafed. The resulting Archival Pigment Images are acid-free and rated to last at least 100 years. I make my own frames (from raw wood, paint and metal leaf) so that I can float the images without glass, but with a protective coating like a crackle paint, acrylic gel medium, polyurethane or a clear epoxy.

The overall effect of my technique is an image that utilizes but doesn't record what I saw in the viewfinder. The source of my work is in my head, not in my camera. It is my own personal version of the truth.



Michael grew up in Albany, Georgia. He later moved to Atlanta and graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta. After spending most of his life in the capital of the New South, Michael considers himself a native of Atlanta - a city that has the best of everything he loves.

As a child, Michael lived for a time in Kent in southeastern England. While living in Europe he was exposed to the rich history of art which inspired him to pick up a camera. He continues to experience this inspiration and education during his travels to the great galleries, museums and other history rich sites in Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Mexico and Canada.

When the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996 and adversely affected the photography studio he managed, Michael decided it was time to create full time. Since then he has been juried into the best Art Shows in the country, collected by patrons internationally and is featured in corporate collections around America.

Michael is constantly experimenting with materials and pushing the boundaries of his medium. "There is nothing more exciting than being surprised by how the next piece turns out."


Festival of the Arts, Glen Ellyn, IL
    2015 Best in Show
Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa, FL
    2015 Award of Merit
Art Fair On The Square, Madison, WI
    2015 Best of Show-Photography
Atlanta Arts Festival, Atlanta, GA
    2015 Best In Photography
    2012 Best In Photography
Gainesville Downtown Art Festival, FL
    2015 Award of Distinction

Boston Mills Artfest, Peninsula, OH
    2014 Best In Category
Peachtree Hills Arts Festival, Atlanta, GA
    2014 2nd Place Overall

Ridgeland Arts Festival, Ridgeland, MS
    2013 1st Place Photography

Beaux Arts Festival, Coral Gables, FL
    2012 2nd Place Photography
    2011 1st Place Photography
Gold Coast Art Fair, Chicago, IL
    2012 Best Of Category
    2006 1st Place Photography                                          Art At The Glen, Glenview, IL                                              2012 Best Of Category

Festival On Ponce, Atlanta, GA
    2011 Best In Show
Winter Park Sidewalk Art Fest, Winter Park, FL
    2011 Award of Merit
    2010 Award of Distinction
    2007 Award of Merit
    2005 Award of Merit

Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami, FL
    2010 1st Place Photography
    2008 1st Place Photography
Disney Festival of the Masters, Orlando, FL
    2010 1st Place Photography
    2008 3rd Place Photography
    2007 2nd Place Photography
    2007 Purchase Award    
    2002 Purchase Award
Images Festival Of The Arts, New Smyrna Beach, FL
    2010 Award Of Commendation




Artishpere, Greenville, SC
    2009 3rd Place Overall
Brookhaven Arts Festival, Atlanta, GA
    2009 Best In Show
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver, CO
    2009 Merit Award
Des Moines Art Festival, Des Moines, IA
    2009 Best of Photography
Historic Shaw Art Fair, St. Louis, MO
    2009 4th Place in 2-D
    2008 2nd Place in 2-D
    2004 4th Place in 2-D
Roswell Arts Festival, Roswell, GA
    2009 1st Place Photography

Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis, MN
    2008 Best of Show -Photography

Bethesda Row Art Festival, Bethesda, MD                    2007 Best in Category
    2005 Best in Category
Inman Park Festival, Atlanta, GA                                  2007 Best of Show
Midwest Salute to the Arts, Fairview Heights, IL
    2007 Best in Category
    2004 Best in Category
Summer Art Fair, Ann Arbor, MI
    2007 Best of Show - State St

Bethesda Fine Arts Festival, Bethesda, MD                2006 Judges Choice Award 2-D

Artscape, Baltimore, MD
    2005 Best in Show
Sandy Springs Festival, Sandy Springs, GA
    2005 Best in Show, 2D

Dogwood Festival, Atlanta, GA
    2003, 2002, 2001 & 1998 Poster Artist
Birmingham Fine Art Festival, Birmingham, MI
    2002 Poster Artist
Bayou City Art Festival, Houston, TX
    2001 (Fall) Best of Category, Photography            Fiesta of Arts, Boca Raton, FL
    1998 Best of Show