Yoshi Fixes Cameras
The story of Hiroyoshi Nagami. A camera repairman working out of a small workshop at his home in outer Melbourne, Yoshi is one of the few remaining film camera servicemen left in the industry. His in-demand skills are helping to revive analogue photography across the country.
My parents moved to a smaller house a couple of years ago. The idea was to downsize, but they had a lot of trouble throwing stuff away. Some of it was trash – a bowling ball for when I was a league bowler in 2004, for instance (high score of 221, ahhh thank you) – but a lot of it was good stuff.
One of the treasured items my dad had held onto was a Rolleiflex 3.5 Medium Format Film Camera. It was hidden neatly away in a leather case. On the surface, it was unblemished, but it had an issue with the shutter mechanism. If you took a photo, the shutter would open and then not close for about 3 minutes. This, would you believe, is not a good thing for cameras. I decided to surprise my dad and take it to Melbourne to get someone to fix it.
I assumed there would be more chance of having it repaired in Melbourne than Albury-Wodonga. Technically there was more of a chance, but not really. Repairing analogue cameras is a pretty niche business, and there’s only a couple of places you can get it done. There was an old school website I found that was for a company in eastern Melbourne called ‘Nagami Camera Repairs’. I decided to give it a burl and rang the number. At the other end of the line was a voice asking me what I wanted. It was Yoshi.
Yoshi runs a small camera repair business out of the back room of his house. It is just him. He is 70 years old and has been doing it for 40 years – starting in Japan, then in the Netherlands, South America and now Australia. I drove out to his workshop and handed my dad’s camera to him. He took it and said he’d get back to me.
Yoshi’s backroom was stacked with old cameras, and naturally, I started asking questions about his history in this profession. As we talked, a few more people came and dropped off their cameras, young people, a good 50 years younger than Yoshi.
I asked him what he thought of the number of young people coming through his shop. He said he didn’t know why they were interested in old cameras, but he was busier now than ever before.
Yoshi said he’d have a look at Dad’s camera and get back to me. We said our farewells and left it at that. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about this Gepetto style character, hidden away in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, working on all these analogue cameras for a new generation. What an interesting person and an interesting angle on life.
I emailed Yoshi and asked if I could possibly make a small documentary about him and what he does. He agreed and let me come out, hang with him for a few days and film what he did.
And that’s how ‘Yoshi Fixes Cameras’ came to be.
Yoshi and his wife, Shoko, were incredibly generous to let me come out and film. We would have lunch at 1pm each day and then drink VB’s for the next few hours before working for 30 more minutes and then calling it a day. It’s as much fun as I’ve had to film anything.
Yoshi is kind, skilled and has a great heart. He believes that people should be put in front of profit and that fixing cameras is not to make money but to enjoy photography.
I like that.
I hope you enjoy Yoshi Fixes Cameras.