Martha’s Vineyard students exhibit Holga Heaven at Featherstone

"Untitled," a double frame black and white print by Raine Monast — Photo by Raine Monast

The Holga Heaven Show is an exhibit of photographs by seven students of Sam Hiser’s Free Teen After-School Program at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.

The students range from the seventh grade to high school seniors, and the program teaches the art of photography using an inexpensive fixed lens, medium format (120 film), plastic film camera made in China that sells for around $30, called the Holga.

Students whose work will be shown are Coco Brown, Eleah Caseau, Ben Gordon, Isaiah Rain Maynard, Raine Monast, Sadie Parr, and Tessa Whitaker.

Mr. Hiser said the group’s goals are to, “Make as many interesting six-by-six exposures in a semester as they can, photographs they feel compelled, rather than obliged, to print. Photos that are a little bit ‘window’ and a little bit ‘mirror.'” Having fun is very much a part of the class, he also said.

Members of the class got their own plastic Holga cameras and learned to make gelatin silver prints in Featherstone’s darkroom. They learned to develop their own negatives and to make traditional black-and-white proof prints on a high-end enlarger. The cameras, film, paper, and chemistry were all supplied by Featherstone.

Dark rooms are rapidly becoming obsolete. The Times turned its darkroom into a kitchen many years ago. Digital photography is the name of the game. No more film and developing or making prints or paying to have them made. Digital photography is much simpler, easier to use, and cheaper. The popularity and ease of sending digital photos by email or of putting them up on a website has pretty much sealed the deal. Or maybe not.

The Holga Heaven show seems like it must be a forced march down memory lane, but Mr. Hiser is no Luddite. His interests include a hefty involvement in the digital world, having worked for years as a computer consultant.

Just as film photography in its early days was characterized by some as marking the end of painting as an art form, many predict that digital photography will be the death knell of film. But some educators, Mr. Hiser among them, think that a working knowledge of film photography and the mechanics of the dark room is exciting and essential to understanding the intricacies of picture taking. Many artists are sticking to film and this group is one of them. At least for now.

The Free Teen After-School Program at Featherstone, which meets from 2:30 to 5 pm on Tuesdays, is made possible by a grant from The Susan A. and Donald P. Babson Charitable Foundation. The program has an eight-student limit.

And now, adults can learn the art of the dark room too. Mr. Hiser will teach Darkroom ONE for adults over 18 beginning Tuesday, March 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Students will come away with a mastery of the basic steps for developing their own negatives and independently achieving a strong print in the darkroom. Call Featherstone to register.

Artists’ Reception for Holga Heaven – Photography Students of Sam Hiser, Sunday, March 11, 4–6 pm, Featherstone Center for the Arts, Oak Bluffs. This show will be open daily from 12 to 4 pm through March 16. For more information, call 508-693-1850;