Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Multi-talented Jamie Foxx caught in a multiple exposure that reflects the singing side of his musical career.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

John Densmore, left, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger of the Doors in a triple exposure made with a Holga camera in Beverly Hills They were photographed separately.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

British director Mike Leigh casts a playful eye behind a cactus. He was photographed at the Chateau Marmont.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GENARO MOLINA / Los Angeles Times

Ian McShane plays the character Bishop Waleran Bigod, who's far from angelic, in the Starz miniseries "Pillars of the Earth." He was photographed in Santa Monica.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Academy Award-nominated actor Will Smith spends time in the shadows the movie "I Am Legend."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Jason Schwartzman co-stars in the movie "The Darjeeling Limited," which he co-wrote with the movie's director, Wes Anderson. Schwartzman has starred in the movies "Rushmore," "Shopgirl" and "Marie Antoinette."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Director Steven Spielberg peers from the shadows at his home in Los Angeles. This portrait was made to accompany an interview with the acclaimed director about his film "Munich."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Acclaimed record producer Daniel Lanois, left, does the driving on the new album by Neil Young, right, titled "Le Noise." They are in Young's 1959 Lincoln which was converted to an electric car that Young calls the "Lincvolt." They were photographed at the Mountain House Restaurant in Woodside, Calif.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Multi-talented "Golden Girl" Betty White, 88, winner of six Emmy Awards, continues to contribute to film and television. She was photographed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica. The multiple exposure photograph was made with a Holga camera.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Actor Owen Wilson in reflective moment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Music producer Rick Rubin looks out from a triple-exposure made in the front yard of his Malibu home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Robert Knepper of the television show "Prison Break" has a role in the upcoming film "Transporter 3."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Author Glasgow Phillips appears in a multiple-exposure image in Venice, Calif.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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Still playing with toy cameras

Some of his subjects make multimillion-dollar blockbuster movies or have sold records by the truckload, so what does Times staffer Genaro Molina use to photograph them? A $29 plastic camera loaded with film. No bells and whistles here. Here’s Molina’s take on it and be sure to check out the photo gallery above:

It was once written that as adults we are supposed to “put away childish things.”  Well I beg to differ, especially when it comes to using toy cameras.  I enjoy getting in tune with my inner child when photographing with plastic Holga and Lomo cameras. As we strive to embrace all things digital, I find it refreshing to sometimes go low-tech.  These cameras aid me in my quest for the imperfect image.

When possible, I like to set my sights on celebrities. The best part about using toy film cameras on celebrity shoots is that  they can’t ask to see the image.  When told I’m using film, I get the occasional, “How antiquated.” But most celebrities appreciate the camera, and some even use them for fun.

Photographing director Steven Spielberg with a $50,000 Hasselblad digital didn’t impress the famed filmmaker. “Now that looks like a real camera,” Spielberg said when I pulled out my $29 plastic Holga to make his portrait.  The plastic camera is a real icebreaker sometimes.

The Holga and Lomo cameras have one shutter speed – approximately 1/100th of a second.  Holga is the cheapest medium-format camera you can own.  It comes with a fixed lens that’s set at f8. Exposures can only be controlled by the ASA of the film.  So if using one of these cameras in direct sunlight, you may want to use lower-speed film.  If it’s an overcast day you may want to use higher-speed film.  The Lomo is best used when you are physically moving the camera while shooting or when the subject is moving. This camera uses 35mm film.  I prefer the Lomo Action Sampler that features four lenses.

The results are varied when using these cameras. It’s like firing a piece of pottery.  As famed potter Beatrice Wood once said, “My kiln treats me like a battered wife.”  It’s the same thing with these cameras – sometimes you do take your lumps and bruises.  But being a professional, I always shoot backup with my digital camera.

The most wonderful aspect of using toy cameras is the variety of effects you can achieve with such a low-tech device. I have three Holgas.  Each camera has its own  personality and quirks.  One has a built-in flash, another has a hot shoe and my final Holga is just the basic camera. The basic Holga is my favorite because the light leaks are completely unpredictable. Each camera is similar to using different paintbrushes to achieve a variety of results.  I also like that I’m able to create multiple exposures with the Holga.

When photographing Academy-award winning actor Jamie Foxx  for a story about his upcoming record, I wanted the picture to convey something about his singing career.  This was my third time photographing Foxx, and he gave me a great deal of time and energy on the shoot. Two hours to be exact. I photographed him at his home and after scouting his property, I decided the tennis court would be the best place for a Holga shot.  The court was in full sunlight and the shadows in the background could add a nice texture in a multiple exposure.  I discussed the shoot with Fox, and that I was hoping to make a series of expressions that illustrated the posture of a singer. I asked him to give me another pose every time he heard the click of the camera. Fox, who is not only an amazing actor but a nice guy, was incredibly accommodating. The negative film was processed for normal and then flatbed-scanned. The image ran five columns on the cover of Calendar. I had shot many multiple exposures of celebrities for the paper, but this was the first that saw its way into print.

One of my favorite assignments was photographing the remaining members of the legendary rock group the Doors.  The photos were to accompany a story on director Tom DiCillo’s documentary on the band entitled, “When You’re Strange.” The only stipulation was that each member had to be photographed separately and not as a group. So I set up lights and photographed each member separately in a hotel room. I set up one black backdrop outdoors in open shade. I asked each member of the group to step outside for one photo with my Holga camera. After the picture was made I would advance the roll slightly and then take another single photograph of the next musician. Guitarist Robbie Krieger was the last photo taken on the same roll of 120 film. “I have a Doors T-shirt on with Jim Morrison’s face on it. Would you like me to wear it for the picture?” Krieger asked.  It was Christmas in March.  Krieger peeled off his outer sweater to reveal the face of the most infamous member of the group along with the name of the band. This was the accent that anchored my multiple exposure. This particular Holga of mine has unpredictable light leaks and it’s apparent as red flare, which helped give the photo atmosphere.  The best part of the shoot was I complied with the band members’ wishes and never stepped on anyone’s toes to make a nice group portrait.

While on the subject of light leaks, there are several images that I’ve shot with my Holga that I refer to as “happy accidents.”  My favorite is that of actor and musician Jason Schwartzman, known for his Wes Anderson films “Rushmore,” “The Darjeerling Limited,” and his HBO show, “Bored to Death.”  I photographed him in the backyard of his friend’s house.  I found a wooden lawn chair that had a nice design and photographed the actor seated in it.  I try to photograph my subjects dead center with the Holga, where the image has the greatest chance of being sharp.  It also creates a nice vignette around the subject. After having my film processed, I found one frame that had a complete light leak causing the whole image to go red.

When photographing Oscar-nominated British director Mike Leigh, I used the Lomo camera with four lenses. I told Leigh that I loved the improvisational nature of his movies, so I brought an improvisational camera. He immediately became excited and asked, “What do you want me to do?”  I told him to walk away from me, walk toward me.  It’s always fun to direct the director. He started walking around me, running back toward me and eventually hiding behind a cactus and peering out occasionally.  This funny dance between photographer and subject went on for 10 minutes under the watchful eyes of other celebrities having breakfast in the courtyard at the Chateau Marmont. Leigh was so excited he said, “Let’s go down to Sunset Boulevard and see what we can come up with.” The brief 10 minutes that photographers are usually allotted turned into a nice little adventure.

There is a series of portraits that I’ve made with the Holga that I call “The 180 Series.”  These are triple exposures that illustrate the three sides of a celebrity’s face. The ones on display on this blog are of actor Ian McShane, actress Betty White and record producer Rick Rubin.  I always try and find an interesting background that will work to give the image texture. Depending on how much time the subject will give me, I can usually get a few chances at this.  With British actor Ian McShane I wanted to come up with a photo that illustrated the pious yet sinister side of his latest character as a power-mad bishop in the Starz miniseries, “Pillars of the Earth.” With record producer Rick Rubin I was hoping to make an image that was more ethereal and reflective of his mystical self. And with Betty White I just wanted to capture her playful, up-for-anything attitude. At the end of the shoot with White, I told her that our next photo session would feature her in a white leather outfit posing on a white BMW motorcycle.  Her response: “That sounds like fun. Let’s do it.”

My best advice to someone who wants to use a toy camera in a professional way is, “Practice, practice and practice.” Each camera has its own quirks. So it’s best to keep a notebook of which films and lighting situations were used to achieve a certain effect or exposure. Always carry several rolls of film with various speeds (ASA or ISO) so you’re ready to work under different lighting conditions.

And above all, just have fun and remember that toy cameras can make you feel young at heart.

Here are some other photographers who use the Holga creatively: Thomas Michael Alleman, Brigitte Dale, Lorena Villegas and Ann Texter. More of Molina’s work can be seen here.

6 Comments

  1. September 23, 2010, 2:12 pm

    Very cool stuff. Way to think outside the box.

    By: James
  2. September 23, 2010, 9:36 pm

    using the Holga in those situations is as close as you can get to photographic courage – awesome work.

    By: agarcia@tribune.com
  3. September 24, 2010, 9:10 am

    Where can we see the Doors photo?

    By: Randy
  4. September 24, 2010, 1:57 pm

    The Doors image can be found in the photo gallery at the top of the post. It's image #2. Here's the direct link http://framework.latimes.com/2010/09/23/still-pla

    By: Alan Hagman
  5. February 2, 2011, 7:31 am

    Needless to say, what a good web site and informative posts, I’ll add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards,

    Reader.

  6. May 22, 2012, 10:33 pm

    I like how you even left the Newton's rings on the photo of Jamie Foxx.

    By: joe

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