Tammy Cromer Campbell : I Wanted to be a Rock and Roll Photographer

Tammy Cromer Campbell : I Wanted to be a Rock and Roll Photographer

Hey guys! I’m back, now I have a great chance to interview one of Holga Inspire Photographers, Tammy Cromer Campbell. She discusses a lot of thing about her carreer,her experience,and gives some quotes for you! Enjoy!

1.Hello Tammy, can you please introduce yourself to us?

I'm Tammy Cromer-Campbell and I knew at 15 that I wanted to be a photographer. After reading Rolling Stone Magazine, I wanted to be a Rock and Roll photographer. Well, I haven't become a Rock and Roll photographer - yet, but I am now a professional photographer. I was a late bloomer and decided to go to college at the age of 23 and not having lots of money I went to the local community college. Luckily for me Kilgore College had O. Rufus Lovett as the photography Instructor. O. Rufus just so happened to be an Ansel Adams' assistant. He taught us the importance of the West Coast photographers, the f64 Group, the Zone System, among other important photography techniques.

2.Since when do you first using toy camera? what was your first camera?

In 1994, important events happened in a short amount of time that lead me on the course of documentary work with a Holga camera. Before that I photographed nudes and flowers for myself with 4x5 and a Mamiya RB67 and for a living I photographed for a craft publication creating craft fantasies and home settings. It was all make believe.

First, I write in my book, "I begin this story with a profound dream that changed my life. In 1993, I dreamed I was protesting with a group of courageous people from Winona, Texas, in a grassy field."

Then, in November of 1994 I get a phone call from Phyllis Glazer asking me to photograph a child for a poster for an upcoming protest in Austin. Remembering my dream, " I said Yes, I'd love to. When do you need it." She told me she needed it immediately. I was leaving town for Fotofest early the next morning, so I asked if the child could be in the Big Sandy studio at 5pm that day. The mother and child showed up. I asked Jeremy to sit on the floor and I asked him to look sad - then I realized - this is real. And he stole my heart. I photographed him with my Mamiya RB67 and they left. I stuck his polaroid in my winter coat pocket and went to Fotofest.

While in line for the Meeting Place, there was a documentary photographer in front of me and she told me how rewarding it was photographing her project. Then while at Fotofest, I saw a body of work photographed with a Holga camera. I loved the effect. Sticking my hand in coat pocket I was reminded of Jeremy and I thought maybe I should start a documentary with the people of Winona with a Holga camera.

3.I heard you are well known of the way you modifie your holga,can you explain to us what kind of modifie you've done with your holga?

Early on in the project, I realized that I could not get as close to my subject as I wanted. I came home one evening and told my husband who also is a photographer and tinkerer. Scott said, let me see it. He went and did something and came back with some acetate on the back of the camera - this was a Holga classic - no bulb settings. Scott had taped open the shutter. He told me to look through it to see when it was sharp. We figured it was sharp at 20" after he had extended the lens about a 1/4 of an inch. Extending the lens recessed the image on the film, so I had these big dark edges on my close up photographs. Now the camera was perfect for me. He modified a couple of them to do different things. He drilled out the shutter in two for bulb setting and made one of those a close up. In my bag I had about 5 Holgas doing different things so I could use it on a tripod with a cable release or my close ups.

4.Whats toy camera for you? any great experience you have reached with toy camera?

I love the light leaks. You never know what you are going to get. I covered the Space Shuttle Columbia for the Houston Chronicle using the Holga. One image, which was the cover image had these fabulous light leaks of a woman looking up to the sky. It was the perfect effect for that story. That image also won me a Golden Light Award. I have another image that I took in 2007 of a woman in a grave yard at her lovers grave and a streak of light is going directly to her head. And of course i love the plastic lens and soft focus.

5.If i give you one photo theme "Animal Instinct" what photo will you take with your camera? what's your concept?

Today, I would photograph this Mockingbird that keeps dive bombing me and my Dalmatian. I would try to get as close to the bird as I could. My concept is to try to get interesting photograph a bird protecting it's nest.

6.From your point of view, how a photographer develop their exprience and skill? Which one is better? join the photography community or learn and become single fighter?

I think education is good. I was fortunate that I went to a Kilgore College and there was O. Rufus Lovett teaching. My husband and I continued to our education by attending workshops from John Sexton, Ruth Bernhard, Michael Kenna, Keith Carter, Arnold Newman, Kim Weston, and others.

I think it is good to be a part of the photo community. I have a gallery and that keeps me connected.

Before college, I tried learning it on my own, but for me the formal training was what I needed to succeed.

7.From your experience,How to motivate a new toy camera user if they find out their first trial/shoot isnt good as they expected before?

I tell them to keep shooting. Something good will happen. I've converted a few.

8.Do you have any plan visiting asian country? what country then? why?

I had a photo gig in Hong Kong back in 1997. Would love to go again on an assignment. I would like to see 7 Gorges Dam.

9.Do you believe everyone can use toy camera and make amazing result? Please explain me why?

I think if some one uses the camera thoughtfully, not just willy nilly, amazing things can happen.

10.Any words for all toy camera user in Indonesia (my country)?

To think outside of the box and in the wake of the recent disasters, remember that even if you do not have electricity, you can still shoot with your Holga.

Tammy Cromer-Campbell





A Green Dot Award Winner , one of 10 Holga Inspire photographers, and National Women's History Project's Honoree for Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet


  1. I read again the interview. Just want you to know, I'm one of your converts. I am enjoying so much my Holga journey as I try new things. I now have two classic Holga 120N, a Holga 120 TLRG and a Holga 120 Pinhole. The Pinhole is pretty amazing.

  2. Thank you Paul. Glad you are enjoying the Holga. I need to try the pinhole. I know I would like it... TCC