excuse me while i smash some plastic

It is a common belief that a good chef, when faced with a bad dish of her own creation, should never blame her tools. Instead, she should accept responsibility for the mediocre meal and acknowledge that her cooking instruments are merely a practicality; a way to get from egg whites and sugar to meringue. I have always subconsciously subscribed to this belief and its counterparts (carpenters and hammers, musicians and guitars, lawyers and the law), but lately I have been wondering, What if her oven is inherently flawed and consistently inconsistent? Is it really her fault if a temperamental thermostat causes her souffles to fall?

In the past, I have acknowledged that the plastic cameras I use are in fact flawed, and that I must accept their limitations in order to maximise their potential. And I have tried in earnest to work with these limitations, often with significant success. But there are times, like tonight, when I pick up a new roll or two and wonder why the hell I am throwing so much of my money into something that so often disappoints me, despite my best efforts to avoid any obvious lomo traps.

Take the above photo. My lovely family and I spent a picturesque weekend in the Dandenong Ranges, taking in the towering greenery and general peace that pervades the area. This image was supposed to capture the serenity of the surrounds and, more significantly, to get my mum, dad and sister in a shot together. I know Diana has a tendency to cut people's heads off (the discrepancy between the viewfinder's view and that of the lens is significant), so I aimed higher. I knew the shade of the tree would throw the lighting out, so I opened the lens up and used a fill-in flash. Even with this considered approach, though, I ended up with the kind of murky mess you might expect to see come out of a child's first roll of film. What could I have done to avoid this?, I have been asking myself. And the only thing I can come up with is Accept that Diana can't handle shaded mid-shot portraits. What kills me is that I can see just enough to know that this photo would have been gorgeous had it been captured properly.

The detail and texture in this wall - which is made from pieces of doors - looked so beautiful as we sat in an eatery with the afternoon light pouring in through the open shopfront. There's enough light, I thought. Even though it's inside, and the Holga has traditionally done a bad job with natural light inside? Yes, look at the light, it's really bathing the whole scene. Maybe a flash would be good? No, it will ruin the way the natural light falls on the wall. There's definitely enough light.

THERE WASN'T ENOUGH LIGHT. And so much for the texture in the wall. What could I have done to achieve the desired effect? Unfortunately the only answer to this question is Use a better camera.

The scene and the colours were so beautiful, so achingly beautiful, that I put Brodie in the potentially uncomfortable position of moving seats around in public to very obviously pose for me. Slide film will make the blue of the sky sing! The red flower in her hair will be a glorious contrast! The composition will be delicate, subtle, and will capture Brodie exactly as I think she should be! It isn't often that I am so sure of a photo.

I almost cried when I saw this. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?! The sky is overexposed. This, I suppose, comes down to bad judgement on my part; I probably had the shutter speed set to "cloudy" instead of "sunny". But I'm quite sure the composition I tried to achieve had the whole flower within the margins. And I have never - never! - experienced blurriness due to camera movement. (I'm almost certain it's not just out of focus because if that were true, the background at least would be in focus.) Is this some awful new trait of Diana's? I mean, just how long did the shutter stay open for?

There is some suspicion in my mind that this is actually an OK-looking photo as it is. But there is no way for me to tell. All I see when I look at this is the perfect image that it should always have been.

I've taken photos of bands at the Birmy before, and they have almost always been successful. There isn't much I can say about this photo that can't be concluded just by looking at the thing. Too dark, too blurry, too bloody awful. Again, some may see something worthwhile in its strange imagery, but all I see is a giant fail.

At times like this, the siren song of the digital camera is never more alluring. The fact that I picked up these photos the very day before my shopping-spree work bonus hits my bank account is probably not a good thing at all.


  1. don't get disheartened greta- you'll probably grow to love these pictures for totally different reasons (or maybe for the reasons you know hate them) in a little while, after not looking at/thinking about them. say no to digital!
    (ps- my SLR offer is still open to you, and it almost always turns out nicely if you want a lomo break)

  2. the camera might be making you feel all angsty, but try to be zen about the situation... it won't make your Holga any more predictable, but it's a good skill to have in life.