When you think of Wedding photography, Holga is probably not the first camera that comes to mind. Jose Villa, one of California’s most sought after wedding photographers is looking to change that. Not only does he shoot all film in a business usually ruled by Digital SLR’s, but he takes frequent trips around the world to shoot with his Holga. Jose was kind enough to share a bit of his story with us.
You are one of the most sought after wedding photographers, whose primary tools are usually digital. How much of your work is created on film, and how much is done in camera vs. post production?
Yes, I am a wedding and portrait photographer based in Solvang, California, and went to Brooks institure of photography in Santa Barbara. I have been shooting professionally for seven years now, and shoot 100% film. I do as much in the camera as possible so that I don’t have to come back to the computer to finish off any images. I’m old school when it comes to all of that, and for me there is no reason to go back to the computer if I get it right in the camera. I shoot mostly with the Contax 645 film cameras, manually focus everything and shoot with the 80mm f2.0 lens- always at f2.0!
Your Toy Camera work is beautiful, and has natural documentary style. What attracted you to the Holga, and how has it influenced your Wedding photography?
I love square format for landscape photos and for documentary images as well, and since I am not a fan of shooting with a heavy Hasselblad for landscapes, I picked up a Holga about eight years ago while in school. I was always on the search for the coolest and most simplistic cameras out there, and the Holga just seemed to be the best at the time. I quickly fell in love with it as I started to really shoot more and more with it. I loved it so much that I actually shot a bunch of my homework assignments with it.
Do you have a certain Toy Camera ‘process’ in creating images, and does that differ from the way you would handle photographing a Wedding?
Well it’s all sort of the same to me. I compose in camera for both my wedding and Holga work. You really have to make sure you think about your images and you really take the time to get it. I love creating beautiful images and I’m not afraid to ask people to position themselves in a certain way rather then just capturing the shots on the fly. Although you really have to work quickly during a wedding.
On your blog you have a great post displaying some super saturated back lit images, which you challenged your readers to figure out the process. What is your feeling about photographers who fake these Toy Camera looks in photoshop instead of taking the time to do it analog?
I’m not opposed to this process at all, but for me I will always love the organic way of creating images, and for me making it all happen after the fact in the computer is not really the true way. It’s funny because I have so many photographers asking me how I get the soft colors on my images and I say with film. They say “Well I am trying so hard to make my digital files look like film” and my resoponse is: Why not just shoot film!
Speaking of that post, where you shot Kodak EPP with a very interesting formula for exposure, do you have a favorite type of film? And do you shoot fresh film or experiment with some older and expired film?
I really love all the Fuji films out there, the black and white have a true contrast that is right on. The grain on the 1600 ISO films is amazing and unbeatable, really a stunning film. I also really love the 400 Pro H that Fuji has out. I love the soft organic look that this film provides. I will mention that I shoot all of my film at ½ or I overexpose the film by 1 or 2 stops depending on the light. With a Holga, of course, I just let it do it’s think at the manufacture’s suggested ISO.
Your image of ‘Pret a Manger’ in London is one of my absolute favorites, and you say that you never travel without your Holga. What about the Holga’s feel compels you to use it for your adventures?
Since I shot more then 40 weddings a year, I always make an effort to travel outside of the country to shoot for myself. Something that even I have to do more often. What I love about Holga is that you really have to take your time to shoot it, you have to have patience and really love the camera. It’s also really light and I love the square format with the vignette. It has a very vintage like feel to it that really love. My most favorite place to shoot Holga is Mexico, I can shoot for years down there with just a Holga.
You refer to your style as “Fine Art Wedding” could you describe that in a few words?
Composing, having full control in camera, hand printed wedding images in the dark room.
Have you ever shot a wedding using Toy Cameras?
Yes, but not a whole wedding.
When you shoot just for yourself, what’s in your camera bag?
3 Holga’s, 1 Rollei, and my Contax 645 Camera.
Our readers are primarily Toy Camera photographers, what words of advise would you have for them the next time they load up their Holgas?
Don’t be afraid to use high speed films with it, and make sure you use the Holga in pretty well lit situations unless you use the flash.