Tunisia on a Holga

Posted on Dec 23, 2017 in Photography, Tunisia | 4 Comments
Ghriba pilgrimage

Ghriba Synagogue, Djerba, Tunisia

If you happened to be at the Ghriba Synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba for the annual Jewish pilgrimage this May, maybe you were overwhelmed by the variety of people there. Your eyes would follow the Orthodox women with sparkling hats that would suit a flapper, the old men chanting prayers over a shot of Smirnoff, the locals scrawling wishes on hard boiled eggs, the many members of the media scurrying around with giant cameras. Maybe you saw, tucked away on one of the dark brown benches, a girl in red leggings fiddling with a black plastic box.

That was me, reloading my Holga.

Ghriba pilgrimage

Ghriba Synagogue

The Ghriba Pilgrimage is one of those special events that I will probably only have the opportunity to attend once, so it might seem like a strange choice to document it on a blurry, undependable toy camera that only shoots 12 frames per roll. (Okay, I also documented it in writing, for the Independent.)  But it was a choice I made deliberately, thanks to one of the Holga’s best qualities: it’s really lightweight.

Ghriba pilgrimage

Ghriba pilgrimage

Ghriba pilgrimage

I was at the pilgrimage from morning to night for three days straight, and the thought of carrying my splendid and heavy Praktica all day made my shoulders spasm in protest. The Holga weighs nearly nothing.

Also, I wanted my images to be evocative, mysterious, and a little hazy– the textures of memories. I knew my experience would be well-documented no matter what; I was traveling with a brilliant photographer, and she was shooting everything with much better equipment and much more skill than I would ever have. I was there to write, not photograph. The Holga was a way of capturing the experience that was specific to me.

Ghriba pilgrimage

Mohamed Khacha, Houmt Souk, Djerba, Tunisia

Ghriba pilgrimage

Hara Kebira, Djerba, Tunisia

Ghriba pilgrimage

Djerba, Tunisia

I stuck with the Holga for the rest of the Tunisia trip, as we explored Djerba and made our way back to Tunis. The images are dreamy and inexact, postcards to remember the highlight of my year, this trip through a country I didn’t expect to go to and can’t wait to return to.

Ghriba pilgrimage

Djerba, Tunisia

Ghriba pilgrimage

Houmt Souk, Djerba, Tunisia

Ghriba pilgrimage

Tunis, Tunisia

As I sat in the Ghriba– or on the beach in Djerba, or at a cafe in the Tunis medina– I tried to observe as thoroughly as I could, scribbling notes and drafting my future pieces about all the people around me, all the rituals, all the joy. When I took out the Holga to shoot, I was preserving how the experience felt to me. The toy camera is perfect for that.

Ghriba pilgrimage

Ghriba Synagogue

4 Comments

  1. Smokie LaVern
    December 23, 2017

    This Holga makes every shot look artistic. Reminds me of the time I travelled through Spain with a disposable camera. And it doesn’t hurt that the photographeress has such an eye for composition and balance.

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      January 4, 2018

      I am a big fan of disposable cameras! I still buy them, especially underwater disposable cameras. Truly an underrated tool. And thank you for your kinds words :-)

      Reply
  2. Martina
    December 30, 2017

    That magic black box of yours ;) Love all of them especially the one with the musicians. You and your photography inspire me but I have told you that before. Can’t wait to shoot film with you one day. I have my camera and film ready. Artistic indeed! You give us another way of viewing the world and that in itself is priceless.

    Reply
    • Katrinka
      January 4, 2018

      Thank you dear Martina! Let’s go shoot soon, please :-)

      Reply

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