PowerShovel makes toy cameras which makes you look at the world differently. They are so much fun that you just have to get one.
PowerShovel was started by Hideki Ohmori in the mid 90s. He started customizing Russian toy cameras and sold them on the Internet. When Russia stopped making them, Ohmori decided to make cameras himself. He now runs two companies, SuperHeadzINaBabylon and PowerShovel.
Or is it perhaps, one company with two names?
Like the photos that come out of Ohmori’s cameras, this is a bit ambiguous. The company site has this to say:
SuperHeadz is one of the most radical creative teams in Tokyo, where we design, edit and plan to collage fragments of this city. PowerShovel is our corporate name and it is used for our more-business-oriented part. They are like two sides of a coin. They never face each other, like light and shadow, but they reverberate in unison as flower and water do.
When I shop for a camera and lenses, I look for sharpness and fidelity. PowerShovel cameras are the complete opposite.
“We never wanted cameras as precision machines,” the site explains, “rather we imagine the camera as a sort of sketch book, something with which you easily record bits of your life.”
One of their main cameras, the Blackbird, fly is just perfect for this kind of sketching of life. And it looks really cool, too. This is something you’d almost buy as a fashion accessory…
One of my own favorites is the Digital Harinezumi (hedgehog). It is a tiny digital video camera that sells for around JPY 20,000 (USD 222.00†). It fits inside the palm of your hand. It is actually so small, that you can carry it in your pocket and zip it out whenever you see something that catches your fancy.
It not only shoots video, but also photos, and it is wonderful fun to use. You can’t help but use it.
This camera perfectly exemplifies POWERSHOVEL’s philosophy of a camera for sketching life.
Sometimes you get lucky, and you can find some Digital Harinezumi being offered on eBay. At this very moment, there are actually some listed in our eBay affiliate store. The eBlackbird, fly is also being offered.
Amazingly, PowerShovel does even more than making cool cameras. They also organize events, exhibitions, publish books, produce music CD’s, produce film and do graphic and web design.
PowerShovel’s exhibitions are just as much fun as their cameras. One time they showed no less than 10 million photographs in a single show!
Someone who makes cameras, naturally likes to shoot, too. Between 2000 and 2008, Ohmori took thousands of photographs of young Japanese women which he regularly showed in sold out events. The site for this project is still live, as well as this video presentation:
Ohmori’s photo shows touched people deeply as can be seen on the site’s feedback page. One person writes:
“I really liked their facial expression. The show was awesome. Showing pictures of nude, fashion, kids and grandma with best timing and music. After seeing the show, I felt so happy like pleased that I’m alive.”
It is a comment that must have made Ohmori happy. In an interview with Wired, Ohmori once said, “We do not always want a faithful representation of reality. Sometimes we yearn for a dream.”
If you would like to dream a little, too, plan a trip to PowerShovel’s camera shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya. Called Camera Cabaret Grand Shop it is like a treasure cave full of unexpected and mysterious finds.
Name: Camera Cabaret Grand Shop
Address: 1-15-2 Jinnan, Hidejima Bld. 2F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0041 (東京都渋谷区神南1-15-12 秀島ビル2F)
Hours: AM 12:00- PM 8:00
Access: Walk towards Yoyogikoen Park from Shibuya Station.
† Today’s exchange rate: 1 USD = 89.9800 JPY