Book: Holga – Life Trough A Plastic Lens

Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

Random Holga picture. Holga 120 CFN and Fuji Provia 400 film.

In the series of books that come with Lomography cameras, I have the book Holga – The World Trough a Plastic Lens. I got it when I bought Holga the First from the Lomography Shop. I got Holga the Second from a diffrent shop, so no book with that one. The book is not a publication of the Holga manufacturer. It was written/compiled by Adam Scott, a Holga enthusiast who got Lomography to publish his book. It is more or less the same book that comes with all Lomography cameras: lost of photos in bright x-pro colors, tips on tricks that you can use with the Holga, and mini portraits and testimonials of Holga users from the Lomography community.

It’s all not terrible exhaustive. It’s a nice little book if you’re not yet familiar with toycameras and Lomography. However, the seasoned lomographer does not find much news in the book. These are the same tips I have read in half a dozen other books: multiple exposures, colored flashes, endless panoramas… That a lot of tips appear in the book several times (first ‘officially’, then repeated in the chapter with tips from Holga users) does not really help either.

Still, it’s nice to browse through the book for the pictures. It can get a bit tiresome, all those hysterical colors and extreme points of view, but hey. It does contain some really nice pictures. So we probably just shouldn’t look the gift horse too deeply into its mouth.


Book: Gulag

Norway, Lyngen, Diana Mini with Lomography Earl Gray 100 film.

This picture has nothing to do with the Gulag, but at least it was taken on the same latitude as where many camps were. Norway, Lyngen, Diana Mini with Lomography Earl Gray 100 film.

After reading Kamp, a semi-autobiographical book about a doctor in the Gulag (by Angela Rohr, worth the effort), I read the book Gulag. This huge slab of a book gives a good picture of life in the Soviet concentration camps. In grainy black and white you can see the prisoners and guards at work, in hospital, on portraits. Beautiful pictures of characteristic heads and spartan living conditions.

The book is organized by camp or labour project, and 7 camps/projects are discussed. By camp, first a short history of the camp is given, followed by historical pictures, if possible with names and explanations in the captions. Then there are fragments from diaries and history books about the particular camp. And finally another photo report is given, of how the former camp looks today. Often, the camps seem to have merged with or transformed into local villages, partly populated with ex-prisoners or their descendants. Some of short biographies of the camp survivers or their descendants are given as well.

For me, these present day stories really add value to the book. It places the historical photographs in context, and makes it clear that with the closure of the camps, the Gulag did not magically become the past. History just goes on.

The beautiful pictures help, of course.


Gulag – Life And Death Inside The Soviet Concentration Camps 1917-1990
Thomasz Kizny
Firefly Books, 2004
ISBN 9781552979648