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Eddie Ogura - A Life In The Photography Business



Hi, I'm Eddie (aka Eizaburo Ogura) and I run the camera accessory shop Oriental Hobbies in Okinawa.

First of all, congratulations on Billingham's 50th anniversary. I would like to offer my heartfelt celebrations. We are also very honoured to be interviewed for this commemorative project. I hope you enjoy the story of how Oriental Hobbies, which opened its doors in Okinawa, where I moved about 18 years ago after working as a photographer and in a camera supply shop in Tokyo, became an official Billingham stockist.


Eddie Ogura from Oriental Hobbies in Okinawa.
Eddie with his Billingham Hadley Small Pro. Photo by his wife, Mitsue.


Please tell us where and when you were born, and a little bit about your upbringing.

I was born in Tokyo in 1967 and grew up in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, a city blessed with a wonderful environment, especially the beautiful sea and historical heritages. I think my first encounter with photography was when I was in primary school, when I took my father’s camera, Minolta Hi-Matic and photographed the temples of Kamakura and the sunset over the sea.


Eddie's friends in New York.
My friends in NY.


How did you develop an interest in photography?

After graduating from Nihon University College of International Relations, I spent a year travelling around California, Maine and New York in the USA as part of my language studies. During my travels, I was impressed by a group of excellent photographic works at various museums, such as documentary photography by MAGNUM and the famous nature photography by Ansel Adams. At the end of my trip, I bought a Nikon F Photomic with 35-70mm zoom from a second-hand camera shop in Chinatown, New York City, where I stayed for a several months, and began photographing New York cityscapes and friends.


New York Cityscape. Photo by Eddie Ogura.
New York Cityscape.


After travelling in Spain for a month, I stayed in the UK for a few days and returned to Japan in 1990. I am ashamed to say that I have no photos of Spain worth showing, and I can't recall any memories of the UK, where I could only stay for a few days due to lack of money, other than a strict immigration officer and a live concert by the Psychedelic Furs, which I went with a Polish friend I met at a guesthouse.


Eddie's Polish friend at the guest house in UK.
My Polish friend at the guest house in UK.


Where and how did you train to take photographs so beautifully?

After returning to Japan, I learnt about photography while working at a black-and-white film developer and at a photo studio as an assistant in Tokyo.

In 1994 I won the Canon New Cosmos of Photography Award, selected by Nobuyoshi Araki, for my work 'Family Diary aka KAZOKU NO NIKKI', which I shot during a special day with my late wife Ryoko and children Teppei and Haruka for one year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.


Book of Canon New Cosmos of Photography (left) and KAZOKUNO NIKKI (right) by Eddie Ogura..
Book of Canon New Cosmos of Photography (left) and KAZOKUNO NIKKI (right).


'Family Diary' including 67 images which begins with a family photo taken at the port of Yokohama and ends with a photo of me and Ryoko taken during a trip to Okinawa before we were married, was published by Miraisha in 1995 and dedicated to Ryoko.


Image from KAZOKUNO NIKKI. At Port of Yokohama.






How did you come to start a shop selling photographic accessories? Could you tell us a bit more about your business?

At the age of 30, I gave up the idea of making a living as a professional photographer and started working for an import camera shop in Ginza, Tokyo. I enjoyed my job importing camera accessories, surrounded by the cameras I loved, but life in Tokyo was too busy and my head was always full of thoughts of Okinawa, the island of my dreams where I would one day like to settle.

In 2005, I moved to Okinawa with my family and founded Oriental Hobbies at Naha city. At that time there were very few shops selling camera equipment online, and even Amazon still only sold books. For the next 18 years, we continued to import and distribute top-quality camera accessories, but our mission as an official Billingham store, which started in 2022, was the biggest event since our founding. And we’d like to continue to enjoy working as a bridge between Billingham Camera Bags and Japanese photographers for a long time to come.


Image of Billingham display in Oriental Hobbies.
Image of Billingham display in Oriental Hobbies. Billingham 555 (left x 2), Hadley Digital (top left), Billingham 72 (top right), Hadley Small Pro (centre left), Hadley Pro (centre right), AVEA 7s and AVEA 8s (just underneath), Shoulder Pads (underneath again), Hadley Pro (bottom centre left), Hadley Pro 2020 (bottom centre right), Hadley One (far top right), 25 Rucksack (far bottom right).


How did you come to know about our products?

I first heard of the Billingham camera bag when I was working as an assistant to a commercial photographer in Tokyo. Billingham was not affordable for me at the time, but I think it was the most popular camera bag among successful professional photographers, along with the Tenba and Tamrac.

Ironically, the first Billingham bag I ever owned was not a camera bag, but the Thomas briefcase to carry my laptop, which I needed after I stopped being a professional photographer.


Billingham Thomas Briefcase.
My first Billingham bag is not a camera bag but the Thomas Briefcase.


What is your favourite thing about running Oriental Hobbies?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working for Oriental Hobbies is the opportunity to travel. Among the most special experiences was a trip to the imaging show Photokina, where I got to meet overseas suppliers and unknown camera accessories.

The next most rewarding job is photographing products. As an online shop specialising in camera accessories, I believe it is important to provide customers with the information they need to make a purchase decision in a clear and accurate manner with beautiful photographs. Also, the understanding of the products that I gain through photographing them is very useful when writing about them.


Do you have any tips for someone starting out in product photography? And what gear do you use for it?

In product photography, it is important to convey accurate colours and shapes, so the three basics are to use flash light (preferably two flashes) instead of natural light, to hold the camera firmly on a tripod, and to use a medium telephoto macro lens. It is also important to think about shooting angles from the customer's point of view, and for camera bags, it is important to consider variations such as carrying examples, storage examples and examples with options attached.


Billingham Compact Stowaway Khaki Canvas Tan Leather
Photo of the Airline Stowaway bag by Eddie.


Hadley Digital with Leica SL2 camera inside.
Hadley Digital with Leica SL2 camera inside.


What do you like about Billingham bags?

The Billingham camera bag is a masterpiece of camera bags, with a warm, organic design, high water resistance, durability and protection, as well as being lightweight and flexible, offering photographers the best carrying comfort. The Billingham bags are also a great choice for personal expression and all kinds of shooting environments, as the impression of the same model can vary greatly depending on the fabric colour.


The Billingham Hadley Small Pro Camera Bag with a Leica M.

The Billingham Hadley Small Pro with a Leica M.


What is your favourite Billingham bag, and why?

It is still the Hadley series. Hadley has a round and very cute face. The leather trim on the front flap looks as if it is smiling and the brass clogballs on the front looks like a pair of dull eyes.


Imperial Blue Tan Leather Hadley Pro, my travel companion.
Imperial Blue Tan Leather Hadley Pro, my travel companion.


This is true of all Billingham camera bags, but the more you use the Hadley, the more it conforms to your body and sits perfectly around your hip, making the Hadley look like a part of you after years of use.


Hadley Original in Khaki Canvas Tan Leather, around your hip.
Hadley Original in Khaki Canvas Tan Leather, around your hip.


Oh, and one more thing, my friend Nao, who appears later in this article, told me that if you adjust the straps on the Hadley well, the flexible Hadley can become a temporary camera rest and reduce the strain on your shoulders. I thought this was a good idea.


Hadley Original as a camera resting area.
Hadley Original as a camera resting area.


What’s in your kitbag currently? What is your favourite camera?

I don't always carry that much equipment in my Hadley when I travel. I usually only carry a Leica Monochrome CCD with M21mm f/3.4 for black and white photography and leave the rest of the space for my wallet, sandwiches, water bottles and any souvenirs or second-hand books I might buy on the trip. But if I want to take colour photos, I also take the Leica SL with M35mm F2.0 or the FUFJILM X100F.


Billingham Hadley Pro 2020 Camera Bag Sage FibreNyte Chocolate Leather
Inside my Hadley Pro 2020.


Billingham Hadley Pro 2020 Camera bag with Leica M
Inside my Hadley Pro 2020.


Are there any other types of photography that you like to do, apart from product photography?

The camera is always by my side, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, capturing everyday events and scenes I encounter on my travels. I still love taking portraits of my family and friends, especially when they are smiling, as I have done since I started shooting in New York over 30 years ago. And I'm even happier when they are happy to see my photos of them.


Eddie's friends in Okinawa.
My friends in Okinawa.


My wife Mitsue.
My wife Mitsue.


Do you have any particularly interesting stories interacting with customers, especially customers who bought Billingham bags?

I have a traveller friend, Nao, who spent his childhood in the UK, who was originally a customer but has now become a very good friend. His love for Billingham, especially the Hadley Original, which he has had for over 20 years, is very deep. Sometimes we call ourselves “the Hadley Boys” and go to Tokyo or Okinawa to take photos. It's hard to write in detail about Nao's travels around the world with Hadley, so I'd love you to interview him too. I'm sure he'll have some interesting stories to tell. But if you interview him about Billingham, he'll be begging you to bring back the Hadley Original, so you'd better be prepared lol.


Eddie Ogura and Naobumi Obara with their Billingham Hadley bags.
“Hadley Boys” Eddie (left – with his Hadley Small Pro) and his fiend Nao (right – with his Hadley Original) at Okinawa photo walk (Photo by Akitoshi Fujiki).


Do you have any upcoming events or news coming up that you would like to share?

From this year 2023, we would like to plan exhibitions in Tokyo, Osaka and Kanagawa Prefecture where our customers can actually hold and try Billingham camera bags in their hands. Check our Instagram account for event information.


Eddie (left - with Hadley Pro) with renowned photographer Kazushi Momoi (right - with 72 bag) at event Eddie organised recently in Yokohama. (Photo by Naobumi Obara).
Eddie (left - with Hadley Pro) with renowned photographer Kazushi Momoi (right - with 72 bag) at event Eddie organised recently in Yokohama. (Photo by Naobumi Obara).


I would like to conclude this interview by thanking our veteran worker, Yumi, and a my current wife, Mitsue, who has been always there to help me for 25 years, and my late friend and mentor, Mr. Eddy Toh and his family in Singapore who allowed me to call myself his first name as my nickname.


Eddie and his wife in front of Oriental Hobbies in Okinawa.
Me and my wife Mitsue in front of Oriental Hobbies in Okinawa.


Thanks to Eddie for his participation and thank you to you for reading. We hope to publish more soon.

Eddie’s store, Oriental Hobbies, can be found at:
Oriental Hobbies’ Instagram can be found at:
Eddie’s personal Instagram can be found here:



Featured bag from this article:

Billingham Hadley Small Pro Camera Bag - Khaki Canvas / Tan LeatherHadley Small Pro Camera Bag


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