Industrial self-portrait

Industrial self-portrait with two Nikon FE2s and a personalised hard hat from Tom's Sliver in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

Many years ago, on assignment in Java for Garuda Indonesian Airways, I went to photograph silversmiths at Tom’s Silver in Jogjakarta. I saw a craftsman applying his skills to an aluminum hard hat. It seems that oil-rig workers commissioned them and, amongst others, Tom”s Silver had made them for a couple of US Presidents and at least one Pope.

I just had to have one!

After paying my $US50, spelling out my name in pencil on the back of an envelope, specifying that the design should include a Nikon and some Australian elements, I left the silversmiths to do their work. A month later the hard-hat arrived in the mail. It was fantastic! An incredible photographic artefact.

There were Australian plants, a kangaroo and an emu, flowers and animals embossed all over the hat and a map of the continent on the back, in the most flamboyant array imagineable. Of course, I only ever gathered up the nerve to wear it to parties and then only when drunk. Too Village People!

But then one day looking at it on a shelf in the studio, I came up with this promotional still life with two Nikons, I called, Industrial Self-portrait….

For the amusement of my friends here’s a shot of me modelling my chapeau:


What every well-dressed industrial photographer should wear...


Filed under art, Australian, Photographer, Photography, portraits, Rob Walls, travel

15 responses to “Industrial self-portrait

  1. A delightful story and hard hat, Rob!

    Roel Loopers

  2. Maybe I should wear it to lunch in Perth on the 28th or would that be OTT?

  3. Like a I (Eye) robot. Nice picture Rob.


    • Thank you Guido…still not sure what particular motivation led me to see this particular picture in the way it came together; ambition? Drink? Drugs? Maybe just the sheer fun that comes from looking at the relationship between objects. In reminiscing, have resolved to wear this hat (sober) to two events in the next few weeks.

  4. i like the way this image is put together

    • Thank you, Ksevereny…sometimes things just seem to fall into place…it’s as though, as a photographer, the recognition of possibilities right under your nose is the toughest part of the job. I’m grateful that I have been fortunate enough to be in the position to recognise those possibilities occasionally. Hopefully for me, there will be more such instances.

  5. Irene Walls

    Yet again, great shot, great blog, and Sulyn’s post inspiring .

  6. beautifuly indonesia…the equatorial emerald

  7. I remember you shooting this – was always deeply envious of that hard hat! Deserves a beautiful big print.

  8. There used to be a large print on the wall of John Swainstone’s office at Maxwell Photo Industries, Simon…but now they no longer handle Nikon it’s probably been “retired”.

    Maybe I should do an up-to-date reshoot with a pair of digital Nikons under the helmet. The original was shon on Ilford Pan F, I think, with the Mamiya RB67 (another of Maxwell’s products at the time).

  9. RG

    Hi There! Great story. In fact we just got an NYC Metro Show art piece: 26 Indonesian hard hats from 60’s and 70’s. They are in excellent condition. Do you have any more photos available of the engravers or yourself? Here is more info on the item we got: Quite Spectacular!
    They are no longer $50!!!

    • Not sure how these helmets fit in the context of a ceramics fair, but it’s great to see the art of those talented Javanese silversmiths getting recognition. I do have some pictures somewhere of helmets being made at Tom’s Silver. I’ll see if I can locate one and post scan. Thanks for sending that link.



  10. RG

    The hats were a hit at the art show! It wasn’t quite a ceramics show so I don’t know why that was on the link. There were many vintage pieces there. Do you have any photos of workers wearing them? There seems to be nothing online about them at all. They were featured on the show storage wars, where they found 2 old hard hats in an old storage room. There was a very beautiful one on ebay that sold for $1,050 last year. Please share the photos if you have them You seem to be the only person online with any solid info on them!! Thanks.

  11. RG

    I just checked and the New York Ceramics Show was a mistake. They meant to call it the Metro Show.

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