“The Fairy Godmother of the Holga”

Posted in Photography at 1:20 pm by Michelle

My website was featured in the November 2009 issue of Shutterbug Magazine, in the Web Profiles section, by Joe Farace (p 92):


“This month’s Reader’s Homepage belongs to Michelle Bates, the fairy godmother of the Holga who wrote the definitive book on the subject, Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity. If you don’t already have a copy of this marvelous book, the first thing you should do when arriving at the site should be to click on its link and buy a copy. Clicking on the large Holga photograph on the splash page takes you to a gallery that contains collections of both Holga and “Other Series” images made with “real” cameras. The “Quirky Holga” collection is filled with the kind of offbeat images that almost define the way most people see the Holga – as a fun house camera – but her monochrome images (don’t miss “Fried Doughboys”) amp up the fun so much it will make you smile and run out and buy a Holga today.

The “Graphics” collection shows the other side of Holga, the fine art side, with images that are subtle (“Monument, Thailand”) and complex (Javitz Center roof”) and demonstrate that it’s not the tool but the artist who makes the image. In “Urban Oases” Bates takes that concept a bit further with mellifluous photographs that blend nature and nurture to create images that are abstract and realistic at the same time. I loved all the photographs in “Nature Holga,” especially “Beach Grass, NJ” that has a definite Solaris (Russian version) feel to it while others have the wistful feel of old glass-plate photographs. The funky and clever site design is by skyhand design (www.skyhand.com).”

It includes a screen shot of my site, and is featured alongside sites of Ted Orland (featured in my book), Erin Antognoli and Michael Bryant. The section is titled “A Holga-Eyed View of the World: Optics? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Optics!”
Thanks to Joe & Shutterbug!



Connection to the Past in Portland

Posted in NW Arts, Photography at 3:10 pm by Michelle

The last weekend of September, I once again drove down to Portland, Oregon, this time with a van full of photographs, hanging tools, and other show paraphernalia.

I went early, to check out Alberta Last Thursday, which is an art walk crossed with a street fair, in Portland style. They close down the whole street from 7 til 10 or 11, and it’s full of booths, performers, people hanging out, the whole scene. And it was one of the last beautiful warm nights of summer.

On Saturday, with the help of one of my Penland students, who recently moved to Portland, I hung my new exhibition at Camerawork Gallery. And later that afternoon, we had the opening. Camerawork is a fascinating little gallery. It’s the oldest photo gallery in the country, started around 1970 by Minor White, to show work by the students he was teaching in Portland. Part of this is on the gallery website, but also, a man named Eugene Lee stopped by while we were hanging the show, and then came back during the opening, and he was one of those students. Fascinating to hear his stories of those days, and of studying with a master.

Michelle Bates & Eugene LeeIan Dobson & Julia
Eugene Lee, who showed at Camerawork Gallery over 30 years ago. Ian Dobson & Julia

The show is a combination of old and new for me. A black and white series of classic images, near and dear to me, and new to most of the people who’ve been coming in. On the other wall is a brand new series, taken last summer, of a bizarre spot I was directed to in Israel last summer. In this otherwise barren field, the remains of a collection of parade floats slowly decay. Colorful, full of artist beauty, yet crumbling and sad… It’s a strange place, but I’m in love with the photos, and can’t wait to go back another time.

Michelle Bates' exhibition
Michelle Bates' exhibition

The opening was very fun, with friends, photography folks, and Camerawork regulars coming in. I wish I could spend more time hanging out in the gallery while the show is up!

Camerawork Gallery opening

Hurray for Portland!