Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The Plastic Military-Industrial Complex

Plastic toy soldiers have been around since the late 1930s and soared in popularity during the 1950s plastics boom. Photographer Luke Sharrett visited J.K. Manufacturing Co. in Kalkaska, Mich., the only plant in the U.S., says its owner, Jody Keener, that manufactures the legendary Tim-Mee soldiers. Then Sharrett drove home to Shelbyville, Ky., where he got a little carried away.

  1. 1

    A factory worker at an injection molding machine on the factory floor at J.K. Manufacturing Co. 

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  2. 2

    Bags of plastic granules.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  3. 3

    The granules before being melted down inside the injection molding machine.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  4. 4

    A factory worker checks a bin containing plastic granules on top of an injection molding machine.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  5. 5

    Tooling used to manufacture plastic soldiers inside a plastic injection mold machine.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  6. 6

    J.K. Manufacturing also makes customized soldiers in colors other than green.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  7. 7

    Green plastic toy soldiers move down a conveyor belt.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  8. 8

    The average price is 15¢.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  9. 9

    A factory worker catches the green plastic toys as they move down a conveyor belt.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  10. 10

    They cool off in a cold-water bath.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  11. 11

    A factory worker holds a handful of toy soldiers.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  12. 12

    Drying off a batch.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  13. 13

    Inspecting a figure.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  14. 14

    The Tim-Mee Toys logo.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  15. 15

    The soldiers range in size from 2 inches to 6 inches.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  16. 16

    After the visit, Sharrett drove home to Shelbyville, Ky., with some of the plastic soldiers. "I got a little carried away. Shooting them was the most fun I've had in a while," he e-mailed a few days later.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  17. 17

    Sharrett used a tilt-shift lens at home to achieve a shallow depth of field and blur the lines of fantasy and reality.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  18. 18

    Search-and-rescue operation outside a gingerbread house.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  19. 19

    A sweet obstacle course.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  20. 20

    A jarring battle.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  21. 21

    Wading through a sudsy sink.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

  22. 22

    Fighting a brush-fire.

    Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg