Shooting Film With Holga 120GFN

My Grandfather, I, and Our Simple Medium-Format Cameras

3 min read by Justino Lourenço. Published in Film, Photography.

I still remember my early days, back in 1976, when my grandfather was taking photographs with his Agfa Click. An old, simple camera that uses medium format film. Only two settings: cloudy or sunny. No flash. Just shoot and hope for the best.

Grandfather was trying to document our family moments on black and white film. The aesthetic allured me. To this day, I look for perspectives, patterns, and facial features, which, as I imagine it, would make great black and white images. With time, I also got interested in colour, mostly for long-exposures.

Flashing Mini – Double exposure with lights in bulb shutter.

My grandfather felt disappointment whenever he got an accidental double-exposure. I, on the other hand, spend my time experimenting with my camera to get the right kind of blends.

Windy day, ILFORD 400, Holga 120GFN.

I can still listen to his beautiful Agfa click when I release its shutter. The camera is now in my home, still fully functional. But I miss the presence of my beloved grandfather.

My first personal camera was a cheap no-name 35mm thing with a flash. I exposed a few rolls on it with my grandfather and left it on the shelf, hibernating. As it stood there, I kept my interest in photography up with books and others’ images.

When the digital revolution arrived, my time to make photographs again has come. Tired of being a photo viewer, I bought Canon EOS400D and later Canon 60D, which I still take with me when I go to watch my son play football.

But eventually, I felt the need to start shooting film again. I bought a Nikon F80, then a Lomo Fisheye, an Olympus OM-10, a Holga, a Rollei 35SE, a Minolta 110 Zoom SLR, a Polaroid Swinger, Ilford Envoy 120, Lomo Sprocket Rocket, and some more from my Father in law. And finally, a vintage Polaroid Presto! and an incredible Holga 120GFN.

Holga is a basic medium format camera with two aperture settings, a “bulb” mode, and a built-in flash. Its simplicity allows me to concentrate on my composition more than anything else. A bit of mental math to ensure the film has a reasonable amount of light, frame, and click. That’s it.

Highway ride – bulb exposition.
Lights in the city – bulb exposition.
A double exposure of a famous Porto bridge – Ponte da Arrabida and the Douro river margin.
My Hand, Double exposure, ILFORD 400, Holga 120GFN