Slit-Scan Modified Holga Camera

Russel Kwan

Click here for Russel Kwan and Wendy Kwan Black and White Fine Art Photography Home Page

For a long time, I’ve looked for a way to impart a certain gesture that mimics head movements into my photography – and slit-scan photography may be an answer.  Once again, I am indebted to a colleague, Sheelah Urquhart, for introducing me to the concept of slit-scan photography.  This technique has very old roots, used by Robert Doisneau among others, and has been adapted for Hollywood movie effects, including the star-gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

For my initial experiments, I needed a simple, cheap camera.  Enter the Holga.  The Holga camera is an amazing thing.  On the one hand, it’s a crappy toy camera with a plastic lens and no control, other than a cheesy “guesstimate” focusing system.  It has only one shutter speed (which varies from sample to sample – mine measures about 1/125 sec, while Wendy’s measures 1/140 sec) and “B”, one aperture (despite the claims of Holga, the aperture control thingie on my sample just flips a little metal hole inside, but the effective aperture doesn’t change at all), and one focal length (60mm, a moderate wide angle on 6x6cm film).

On the other hand, because it’s cheap and very simple, the Holga is an engineer’s paradise for modifications – the worst thing that can happen is the loss of a $40 camera.

My very simple variant for slit-scan is to install a cardboard slit inside a Holga camera.  I then set the shutter speed to “B”, open the shutter, and while the shutter is open, I advance the film while panning the camera to make pictures.  It takes a bit of practice, and the waste of quite a bit of film to get the hang of it, but it’s possible to capture gesture while making pictures.

Stay tuned for further developments….

March 2009

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experimental photography techniques


A Holga Camera. 40 bucks. Whee!

Back View, Film Door Off. I've installed that slit made of cardboard at the film plane. It is crudely taped into place with electrician's tape, and that's about it. Loading and unloading film remains unchanged.

To see more slit-scan photographs, click here for our gallery "Hard of Housing".