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Plastic Camera Exhibit Features Chicago Artist's Work

By Jackie Kostek | October 12, 2012 4:41pm
 Holga public relations manager, Christine So, checks out the "Chicago Does Holga" exhibit.
Holga public relations manager, Christine So, checks out the "Chicago Does Holga" exhibit.
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DNAinfo/ Jackie Kostek

LAKEVIEW— Chicago artist Jerry Cargill said after photographing hundreds of landscapes with his plastic Holga camera, he felt like he'd exhausted his options. So he turned to portraits — nude portraits.

"Nude portraits are really the ultimate portrait because they're so intimate and direct and primitive, in a way," Cargill said. "There's no pretense. You're nude, you know?"

Some of Cargill's nude portraits (and landscapes) will be on display, tonight at 7 at the Chicago Photography Exhibit, as part of the Chicago Does Holga Exhibit. Holga is the brand of plastic camera used by all 11 artists featured in the exhibit. In the early 1980s, a Chinese inventor named T.M. Lee developed the Holga, a simple and affordable film camera accessible to the masses.

Christine So, public relations manager for Holga, said the Holga had captivated both professional and amateur photographers for the past three decades because of its magical quality.

"The Holga is like a fingerprint, no two are alike," So said.

So added that the Holga was unpredictable, so if a photographer took a similar shot multiple times, there may be a different shot each time; exposure, blurriness, grittiness and other factors would create a unique image each time.

"Some people might look at the image and say, 'There's a lot of errors,'" said Cargill, "but that's because the mistakes aren't eradicated by the camera."

Cargill said what might be "mistakes" by some people — soft focus, blurriness, dark and underexposed images— were what made the Holga appealing to experienced photographers. And the Holga's $30-$90 price range doesn't hurt, either.

So stated that another of the Holga photographers whose work was featured in the two-week traveling exhibit was a photojournalist who had covered the Middle East. On a shoot in Pakistan, he was in a 'deadly car crash that killed his driver. All of his professional cameras were destroyed, but "the Holga was fine," she said. "It's plastic."

Jerry Cargill and ten other artists' work will be featured at Chicago Does Holga at the Chicago Photography Center.