Holga Inspires Massachusetts

Posted in Photography at 12:22 pm by Michelle

For the past month, the Holga Inspire exhibition has been at at the Hallmark Institute Gallery in Turners Falls, MA. Since I love Boston and western MA, I took the opportunity to head across for the opening. The town is north of Northampton, MA, close to Vermont, in a gorgeous part of the world. The Institute is on the outskirts of town, but the gallery is in the cute little downtown area. I hope I have the chance to visit again and interact with more of the students.

This show was put together by Holga Limited, the makers of the Holga camera. They pulled several people from my book and a few others for the first show, in Bangkok, Thailand, where it was viewed by Princess Sirindhorn. It went to Texas and New York City next. The show is beautifully laid out – actually, I hadn’t seen the show in person before, so it was exciting to see all the prints. Lisa Robinson runs the education programs at the institute and Paul Teeling runs the gallery. It was great to meet them and all the other people who came through the gallery for the opening.

The other photographers in the show are: David Burnett, Pauline St Denis, Rebecca Tolk, Teru Kuwayama, Susan Bowen, Harvey Stein, Annu Matthew, Tammy Cromer-Campbell and Taiju Fubuki.

More photos of the show.

Hallmark Gallery Holga Inspire show

Hallmark Gallery Holga Inspire show
Me and Lisa Robinson

Hallmark Gallery Holga Inspire show
Me and Paul Teeling

We’re hoping to keep touring the show; please let me know if you have a space in mind.


Workshop Fun!

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized at 12:40 pm by Michelle

This is a year for branching out and trying new teaching formats.

Last summer, I did a two-week long workshop at the Penland School of Crafts, which was loads of fun, and let me have enough time with the students for them to actually get used to the cameras, play with subjects and techniques, and really create some work.

Trying to bring that experience to more students, I taught a four-week class at Photographic Center Northwest last month; 4 Tuesday evenings to play with Holgas and lots of time to review the work. In the end, even 4 weeks wasn’t enough, but it was a great start for the students to really learn what the cameras do, try out different ways of shooting in a variety of circumstances, and even experiment with different films.

PCNW student
Students at the Photographic Center NW class put up their images for critique

In January I did my intro toy camera class at Newspace Photo in Portland once again, and we’re introducing an Advanced Toy Camera class in May. This will be a great opportunity to dive into camera modifications, play with other cameras (including the instant backs!), and really get into the advanced darkroom techniques that toy camera negatives often call for.

At the Society for Photographic Education National Conference in Philadelphia, I had over 150 people at my presentation, showing off the work of many fabulous photographers working with plastic cameras, including several who will be in the second edition of my book! It was a great time and I heard from people the rest of the weekend who were inspired by all the great work! A video of the talk will hopefully be available at some point.

SPE national talk
Part of the huge crowd at the SPE talk, which was sponsored by Freestyle Photographic Supply

I’m in discussions with PCNW to try even more new formats, and the new Workshops West in Pismo Beach, CA, and Project Basho in Philadelphia, about bringing the toy camera love to even more places around the country!

PCNW student
Students at the Photographic Center NW class put up their images for critique



Shows, shows & more shows!

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:04 pm by Michelle

This has been a really fun run of having my work out and about for people to see.

At the beginning of 2009, I dusted off one of my favorite series, “After the Fire,” and hung them at Office Nomads, where they looked great hung against the funky brick walls. They were last shown many years ago, perhaps 2001, and I would love to get them out again.

Thanks to the fabulous work of Christine So, with Holga Limited (the company in Hong Kong that makes the Holga, also know as Tokina), I, as part of a group of 10 Holga photographers, known as Holga Inspire, have been able to show photos in several places over the past year, starting in Bangkok last March, then Longview Texas at TCC Photo Gallery over the summer, and finally in New York at Umbrella Arts in December & January. Next stop is the Hallmark Institute Gallery in Western Massachusetts in May!

In September, for the first time, I made prints of a group of my digital images to show at a benefit for the Circus Project in Portland, OR. I printed up 15 images of aerialists, mostly taken at the Moisture Festival, but some other shows as well. It’s quite amazing to start looking at masses of photos that I have and realize that there are cohesive bodies of work there (this happened dramatically for me when my friend Mik Kuhlman pointed out that I had more than enough images of fire performers and fire art to do a show in 2001, which became “Celebration of Fire“).

A little later in September, I was back in Portland for a solo show at Camerawork Gallery. This was very exciting, as I combined an older series of images with a brand new exhibition, printed just for this show. “Exquisite Decay” is a group of photos taken all together one hot afternoon in July 2008 in Israel. The setting was a field outside a small village, where a local artist was storing parade floats he had created, which were in varying states of decay. See the blog entry for that show here.

A great surprise in November was the opportunity to hang the “Exquisite Decay” series at Benham Gallery, to be up for the SPE NW conference, and as part of the last show before the gallery closed its doors to morph into Benham Fine Art.

November also brought another new opportunity, this time to print more digital photos, of many of the images I’ve taken over the past 5 years for the Moisture Festival. John Cornicello, Mark Gardiner and I made up prints, and created a display in the lobby of Hale’s Brewery, our home base. It was celebrating the release of the Moisture Festival Book we created with the help of Corey Scheerer and Ron Bailey.

My photos of the Flaming Idiots graced 42nd Street in Times Square, NY for December, with one photo a mind-bogglingly 12 feet high, and a series of live photos from the Moisture Festival were featured as well! Their show at the New Victory Theater was a hit!

Starting out 2010 I had a photo at Newspace Photo in Portland, as part of their Carnival show, and currently have one in the Krappy Kamera Competition in NY and another at Rayko Photo‘s Plastic Camera show.

What’s next? We’ll just have to see…


From Seattle to Times Square!

Posted in Photography at 4:44 pm by Michelle

Back in March, during the Moisture Festival (Seattle’s fabulous vaudeville/variete festival), I did a photo shoot with a group called the Flaming Idiots. They were reuniting after 5 years apart, debuting at the Moisture Fest, where I also shot them live, in preparation for a run at the New Victory Theater in Times Square, New York City. I’ve been checking out the New Vic’s website and enjoying seeing the photos there, and looking forward to getting copies of the program and flyers. What I didn’t expect though, was a call from one of the Idiots, Rob Williams, telling me there was a 15′ x 60′ banner right on 42nd Street (off 7th Ave) with a dozen of my photos all over it! I saw some snapshots of the banner, but in the end couldn’t resist the temptation, and trekked to NYC for a few days to check it out, see the show, and do all that other good NY stuff.

It was a pleasure to work with the Flaming Idiots, and I’m so glad I got to see their show!

Here are some photos of the banner:

Flaming Idiots banner NYC

Flaming Idiots banner NYC

Flaming Idiots NYC
Me and the boys: Rob Williams, Kevin Hunt & Jon O’Conner

For more photos, showing the other end of the banner and the live shots, look here.



Benham Gallery – the last show

Posted in NW Arts, Photography at 2:04 pm by Michelle

I’ve known Marita Holdaway since I moved to Seattle in the early 1990’s. It’s almost impossible to be in the Seattle photography community and not cross paths; with her seemingly limitless energy and passion for photography, she’s been making things happen for over 20 years here. Needing a change of scenery, she’s decided to close Benham Gallery, and keep working in the field through Benham Fine Art – stay tuned!

I’m honored to be part of the last set of exhibitions at Benham, with my new series, Exquisite Decay. This series was taken in Israel in summer of 2008, in a field of decaying parade floats. To me, they’re a fascinating combination of my years of parade imagery and the series After the Fire, which I took at a friend’s house to capture the transformation caused by fire.

The show is up through December 12th (possibly a few days after – call to find out).
The reception was on December 3rd, and lots of fun!

Benham Gallery opening
A clump of friends at the reception

Benham Gallery openingBenham Gallery opening
Me and Marita Holdaway

Benham Gallery openingBenham Gallery opening
Friends and visitors checking out the show and the Moisture Festival book (which includes my photos)

Come by Benham on December 20th for the farewell party!
Thank you Marita!!


Moisture Festival Photo Show & Book!

Posted in NW Arts, Photography at 11:44 pm by Michelle

Its first year, 2004, the Moisture Festival was in a circus tent in a parking lot in the middle of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I went to one show, and mostly remember dancing to the band afterward, the cold air blowing in under the tent flaps. What a long way the festival has come since then, and I’m so happy that I’ve gotten to be a part of it! Since 2005, Moisture Fest’s home has been Hale’s Palladium, a warehouse that’s part of Hale’s Brewery on the west edge of Fremont. It’s grown to 40 shows over 4 weeks, at several venues, including ACT Theatre, with partners such as SIFF Cinema (with more venues and partners coming up for 2010).

I’ve been there with my camera since 2005, as have John Cornicello & Mark Gardiner, as the official festival photographers. It takes over our lives during the weeks of the festival, getting to as many shows as we can, hanging out with all the performers, and reveling in the fun atmosphere it creates, and for weeks and months afterward, editing the photos. After all these years, but the time has come for the Moisture Festival Book!!

Working in fits and starts throughout this year, we’ve had a fun and crazy process of collecting the best images from all three of us; for the last few weeks we’ve spent days at a time camped out in front of several computers and screens laying out the photos, making sure we have everyone included, doing the layout, captions, and editing.

Ron W Bailey has been our inspiration, cheerleader, visionary and sponsorship genius, and his infectious laugh has kept us going even after our eyes started to cross from looking at way too many images. Since the idea first came up, we all have had good intentions toward this project, but it probably never would have actually happened if Corey Scheerer hadn’t stepped up to the plate to do the real work of putting it together. It’s been a fun (and OK, sometimes frustrating) collaborative process, and I am profoundly grateful to Corey for making it real! The book is in its last editing phases, and ready to be born next week, November 25th, with a celebratory exhibition and reception at Hale’s, from 7-9pm (the night before Thanksgiving). Please join us! The show will be up for a while afterwards too, so stop in to Hale’s and check it out.

The first printing of the book (100 copies) is $30, and will be available at the reception, the Moisture Festival New Year’s Eve party at Hale’s, at Fremont Place Books, and at the festival in 2010!

Here is the cover and a sneak preview sample spread from my section.

Cover of the Moisture Festival Book

Sample spread from MF book


Photo Plus report

Posted in Photography at 4:11 pm by Michelle

Once again this year, I made it to NYC in October for Photo Plus Expo, the huge photo trade show at the Javitz Center. The weather this year was lovely most of the time, which made getting around the city delightful, and once it started pouring rain, we were all happy to be in the other-world of the Javitz.

Freestyle Photo was there again this time, and I spent a lot of time camped out at their booth, playing with their display of Holgas, chatting with Expo-goers, and meeting with people around their little table.
One group that gathered together was from the FAB, which started many years ago as an AOL chat group. Many of the folks have known each other online for all this time, and it was great for me to meet a bunch in person.

AnnMarie Tornabene
AnnMarie Tornabene
A Clump of FABsters at the Freestyle booth

Focal Press also had a great booth, so I stopped by there often to chat about my upcoming second edition with Cara Anderson, my editor, and to talk shop with the other Focal authors who were floating around.

A couple of fantastic surprises were meeting with representatives from Lomographic Society and Urban Outfitters, both of whom are now going to carry my book! These are both places I’ve dreamed of having the book in, and I’m thrilled to work with them to further the world of our beloved plastic cameras! And I chatted more with Superheadz, the Japanese company that’s creating new hits such as the Blackbird, Fly and Golden Half cameras.

Outside of the show, I had a great visit with Gary Moyer, a fellow plastic camera fiend and toycamera.com regular, and got a tour of his extensive camera collection. I chatted with bookies Harvey Stein, James Balog & Ann Arden McDonald, and got the OK for a couple of very special additions for the second edition! I also attended the Lucie Awards, which is a fantastic combination of celebrating lifetime achievement of venerable photographers, and bringing attention to up-and-coming ones. Also a fun opportunity to get dressed up and go to Lincoln Center!

Mickey camera
One of Gary Moyer’s many toy cameras

Unfortunately, I left NY right before two parties I would have *loved* to attend: Superheadz had their whole staff in town from Japan and had a big shindig, and Lomographic Society had an opening reception at its store for its display this month of Alan Deitrich’s collection of Diana cameras and clones.

Next month my photos will be up in NY, as the Holga Inspire exhibition makes it third stop at Umbrella Arts Gallery. Opening is December 9th, and it goes through January 16th, when Tammy Cromer-Campbell is teaching a Holga workshop. Stop by and check out the show!

That’s all for now!


“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!


Circus Heaven in Oregon

Posted in NW Arts at 9:37 pm by Michelle

This past weekend I had a full complement of circusy fun on the road in Oregon. Two days included a New Old Time Chautauqua performance, a killer benefit for Portland’s Circus Project and the classy Cirque de la Symphonie. Awesome!

Starting off, I trekked down to McMinnville, Oregon to meet up with the New Old time Chautauqua. It was a lovely little reunion of some of the tour folks from this summer with other old-time Chautauquans. We roved through a little town park, did our parade (yes, I played my clarinet) and two half-hour shows in the September heat.

The Circus Project, started by my dear friend Jenn Cohen, wowed everybody who was lucky enough to attend the Animare benefit night on Saturday at Disjecta in Portland. The night was long and the weather hot, but I’ve never been to an event so well designed, that kept everyone happy, entertained, engaged, and reached their fundraising goals.

We started off outside with a performance by the Sprockettes, the audience happily lounging on comfy couches.
Inside was a silent auction as well as gallery shows, one up in Disjecta’s gallery, and my showing of photographs of aerial performers from the Moisture Festival, as well as Solstice Parade photos made with my Holga camera.

The night of performances featured several sections, each with one of Portland’s best circus acts (Kazum, Bellini Twins, Nanda & March Forth Marching Band), and one of the Circus Project’s graduates premiering their pieces. Each of the Circus Project acts blew the audience away, not just because we knew they’ve only been working on these acts for 8 months (or, in one case, two), but because all three acts were superb and the performers confident and beautiful. Jenn was the proud leader of the group, but the magic was in seeing the students shine, and hearing their stories in the video (produced by one of them) that left not a dry eye in the house.

Nicolette Render, Jessica Dennis
Jessica Dennis

This project, which teaches circus arts to homeless and at-risk youth, brings together several elements that create magic: use of the arts to give people focus for their energies, the caring of a dedicated mentor, the opportunity to perform for their communities (and eventually, for money), and accountability to earn their place in the group. Circus Project is a non-profit organization which is looking for a new home to host aerial and circus arts classes in Portland, and can always use financial and other assistance. See www.circusproject.org for more information.

Petra de la Rocha

Aaron & Nicolette
Aaron Guerrero & Nicolette Render

The group!
Jenn Cohen & the Circus Project graduates

As the crowning glory of the weekend, the Circus Project and a few of us who volunteered were treated to free tickets to Cirque de la Symphonie. I love the melding of worlds, and seeing the aerialists twirling away high over the symphony orchestra and the clown messing with the conductor just made me smile.

Another fabulous Portland weekend down.

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