An exclusive, vintage look at a Japanese factory

John Shingleton has been a photographer for over 50 years , now that he unearthed some old negatives, he send us an exclusive vintage look at a Japanese factory.


I am an Australian retired auto industry executive.I was born in the UK and camet to Australia for my work in 1977 and stayed here.I now live in the coastal town of Terrigal on the east coast of Australia.




I became interested in photography at school at the age of 14 when a teacher started a school camera club.The teacher had travelled extensively in the Far East before the second world war and had photographed what were then very exotic sights with his early Leica.I was totally entranced by the whole photographic process and this enthusiasm has endured for the 50 odd years since.


My interest has always been in taking photos -not collecting or talking about camera gear. I have actually become more enthusiastic about photography in the last 10 years as the internet has allowed me to see great photography and also to share my own photos with others.




Today's photographers do not appreciate how fortunate they are to have digital cameras which have made photography a much more affordable hobby than it was in the past and also to have the internet which has made the sharing of photos so easy.


I do my photography strictly for pleasure and I really try not to take my photography too seriously I have had a fair degree of success in competitions over the years but this is not at all the reason I take photos.




I do have a blog  which features an eclectic mix of photos which interest me.It was intended for friends and family but seems to have gathered a few other folllowers over the years. I have been very fortunate to travel extensively for work and pleasure and this has allowed me to practice street photography which I most enjoy.I rarely take landscapes-I much prefer people.


I have been using a Leica X1 for the past 4 years.For me it is the ideal camera.It is small and very unobtrusive.It has simple controls and menus.It has an OVF which I really appreciate and of course the IQ is stunning. And the fixed 35mm equivalent focal length lens removes all possibility of being confused by lens choices.




Last year in a moment of weakness I bought a Leica XVario but I have not yet used it much.Three years ago I decided to fulfill a lifelong ambition and become a Hasselblad user and bought a load of vintage Blad gear for a very good price.




I have been developing my own films again and have taken some good photos with it but the novelty is wearing off and I can see eBay beckoning.



Back in 1979 I went to Japan on a business trip.Japan was an exotic and mysterious destination then.In Tokyo only the main central metro stations had the station names in western script so navigating the metro unaided was a challenge.




Westerners were still very much an oddity outside the main centres.Very few people even in Tokyo spoke any English at all. Taxi drivers spoke none.

I had my Olympus OM2 SLR with me on that trip. The yen was very weak then against the Aussie dollar so camera gear was a real bargain in Tokyo and I bought a 28mm Zuiko lens for the Olympus.I took photographs in the Kawasaki small motor and motorcycle factories and Tohatsu outboard motor factory I visited.




As the light was very poor I used a very fast film,Ilford HPS-which was very harsh and grainy .I developed it at home.The photographs were taken on the run as I was on business factory visits -not sightseeing. Focussing was very difficult in the low light and even with the fast film the shutter speeds were very slow.Camera shake ruined quite a few of them.




The factories were very noisy,hot,dirty and very crowded.They smelt of hot oil and hot metal.As you can see the working conditions were harsh.OH&S was not a consideration -note the lack of ear and eye protection. It would be so different today. I am sure much of the small engine production is now highly automated or has moved offshore most likely to China and other asian countries.




Today they would be much less willing to allow you to take photographs on security grounds and just imagine trying to focus manually wearing plastic lensed safety glasses.I was fortunate to record quite literally another time.


Only a couple of these photos were printed at the time.I was too busy with work and a young family to spend hours in the darkroom and in any case they needed printing skills which were beyond me.I found them years after in a big box full of thousands of negatives in my
garage.With a scanner and Lightroom I have been able to give them their first real visibility.


About the photographer

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1 thought on “An exclusive, vintage look at a Japanese factory”

  1. Wonderful photos. I have an interest in vintage outboards. Do you have many pics of the tohatsu outboards, or any other outboards.

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