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Francois Robert

World's Largest, Biggest, Most Enormous Holga Camera

We've all seen them, those odd roadside attractions that for some reason or another are hard 
to pass by: giant balls of string; enormous frying pans; the world's tallest, smallest, ugliest, oddest,
etc. But they're not much good for anything besides making you laugh and providing a good 
photo op perhaps on a family vacation or college road trip. This giant camera, on the other 
hand, is an actual working camera.

Everyone at Photographic Works/ArtsEye gallery, a local Tucson business, loves the Holga—a 
plastic toy camera that shoots 120mm film. In fact, they love it so much, they host an annual 
photo competition that attracts photographers from around the world. The exhibit features work 
shot with Holgas and other curious cameras (pinhole, plastic, vintage, instant and cell phone 
cameras). The giant camera was originally conceived as a prop for the exhibit that paid homage 
to the Holga. About halfway through the construction process, it was decided it could be made 
into a functioning camera. All the dimensions are the same as the toy camera, only 20 times 
larger (to scale). The most challenging aspect of working with it is actually moving it from site to 
site. Luckily, the camera fits inside a two-horse trailer, though just barely.

The camera is loaded with photographic paper, either color or black-and-white. It could handle 
film, but there isn't any large enough on the market that will fit (30"X30"). Consequently, the 
paper, which comes in rolls, is used as film. A typical exposure depends on the paper's sensitivity 
to light and any necessary filtration. B&W paper typically needs an exposure of 1 to 2 minutes, 
while color paper, needs about 20 minutes.

According to Photographic Work's J.P. Westenskow, "We've done all the exposure testing, and we know how to get good results." The camera is taken out periodically, along with a photographer, who chooses what he/she wants to photograph. "Typically, we display the prints to show what we're doing with the camera." On a recent outing, photographer Francois Robert and the camera's crew took the camera to several sites and photographed an amusing oversized bull and matador sculpture; a rustic train trestle and a mysterious military storage site in the middle of the desert. According to Robert, "One of the major tasks was to select locations that would offer easy access for a 200 lb. camera, which was very crucial for this project. I also tried to find different environments with unusual backdrops and subject matter."

"The camera is available for rent," adds J.P. "You get the truck, the trailer, me, and all our expertise. 
I've never seen a more curious camera than this one. It fits well with the name; it's completely over 
the top," he laughs. "It's a lot of work to shoot this thing, but it's fun." To learn more, 
visit www.curiouscamera.com. And if you're lucky enough to encounter it in the "wild" 
(a Tucson street near you), be sure to stop and say hello—and don't forget to take a picture of 
yourself with the world's largest, biggest, most enormous working Holga camera!

 

By Lorrain DarConte, Tucson, AZ, 2012

 

Giant Holga Images by Francois Robert

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