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Bob Shell: Old Age and Taxes

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

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 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #25

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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OLD AGE AND TAXES

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Taxes: we all hate ’em, but we all pay ’em. Right? I’ve recently read an article about Sweden, where they’re getting rid of property taxes. They’ve reasoned that as long as the state can force you to pay property taxes, and take your property if you don’t pay them, no one can really own property. I’ve always felt that way. Once I buy and pay for something, it should be mine, period! Well, now it’s darned nice to find a country’s government agreeing with me.

I’ve watched too many poor rural people forced to sell homes and farms that have been in families for generations because of “yuppification” of rural areas and great increases in property taxes. And cities and towns are the same. Taxes on the house I bought in the early 90s are now more than five times what they were when I bought the place. To me, that’s just unreasonable. Of course, as long as I’m in prison I pay no taxes on property, but when I get out I’ll get a whopping bill for back taxes! A bill I sure won’t be able to pay.

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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The state, by prosecuting me, destroyed my thriving photography and writing business. I lost my studio and other things too numerous to count. When I get out I’ll have no business, no income. Sure, I’ll get Social Security, but that won’t be much, since I’ve been removed from the workforce for ten years. I don’t know how I’ll live, much less pay taxes. I hate to play the age card, but I’m 71 now. Maybe after a certain age people should be exempt from paying taxes. Or at least old people who are forced to try to live on Social Security and other government benefits. Is that unreasonable?

Unfortunately, the article I read didn’t say how Sweden plans to make this work. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more details.

When you think about it, property taxes are a throwback to the old feudal system where the king or lord owned everything and the serf paid dearly for the right to scrabble a living from a little plot of land. So long as the local government can take your property for nonpayment of taxes, you don’t own that property, they do!

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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I saw a more honest version of all this when I was in Malaysia. I asked one of our hosts how expensive it would be to buy property there, because I’d noticed that a lot of British retirees lived there (it used to be a British colony). She looked at me like I’d asked an incredibly stupid question, and explained that it is impossible to buy land there, because all belongs to the King. When she saw my puzzlement, she explained that you get a 99 year lease from the government or buy out an existing lease. Sounded very strange until I thought about it and realized that their system really isn’t that different, just more honest.

I loved Malaysia, and had considered retiring there before my legal nightmare began. Unless things have changed a lot since I was there, you can live well very cheaply.

In fact, I’d looked into several countries for inexpensive retirement locations. I bought two books: Living Abroad in Belize and Living Abroad in Costa Rica, and studied both. Belize has the advantage of having English as its official language, and a very English culture (it, too, used to be a British colony, British Honduras). But Costa Rica is home to a large expat American population, so both have their appeals. It would seem that I could live comfortably in either on my Social Security and the occasional writing or photography gig. If I ever get out of here, I’ll look into these options more seriously.

But back to taxes. In the years when I was running a portrait and wedding studio combined with a camera shop I was forced to collect sales tax. I hated that, because I had no desire to be a tax collector and considered being forced to a violation of the constitutional protection against involuntary servitude. One year, sick and tired of doing the state’s work for them at far below minimum wage, I sent them a bill for my services as a tax collector. Man, that got them upset! They sent me threatening letters, one after another. I just ignored them, and in time they stopped bothering me.

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttp://tonyward.com/bob-shell-car-reviews-in-a-photo-magazine/

 

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture

Studio News: Jameel Mohammed in Vogue!

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Jameel Mohammed: Khiry Collection featured in Vogue, September 2018

 

 

Studio News  by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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LEARNING CURVE

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Kudos to my former Fashion & Photography student Jameel Mohammed for being featured in the September issue of Vogue for the launch of his Khiry jewelry collection!  To see additional work by my former students at the University of Pennsylvania, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/tws-portfolio-reviews/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Advertising, Announcements, Art, Blog, Current Events, Environment, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Gifts, Glamour, History, Jewelry, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Student Life, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: The Weinstein Matter

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Images: Harvey Weinstein

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #23

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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THE WEINSTEIN MATTER

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Since the Harvey Weinstein matter surfaced in Hollywood, a number of people have asked me for my thoughts. I do have a somewhat unique perspective on the matter, being myself falsely accused of sexual offenses against my girlfriend and model, but not so accused by her. I won’t spend the time here telling my story. Anyone interested can read the whole story at: www.bobshelltruth.com, particularly the NEWS UPDATES page. Suffice it to say that I have never acted inappropriately with any model, and dozens of them will vouch for me on that. The police spent four years looking for a former model who would say anything bad about me and gave up. They had my records with model releases from everyone who modeled for me from 1969 until 2003! That’s 34 years and more than 200 models!

What amazed me when the Weinstein accusations came out was that anyone was surprised. This was Hollywood, after all, where the “casting couch” has been a ubiquitous feature since the early days. I’m only peripherally connected to the movie industry, but I’ve known about this for many years. After all, any industry that combines powerful Alpha Male type men with beautiful young women striving for their big break invites abuses. Now, as I read in the March issue of Vogue, the accusations have spread to the fashion photography world, with accusations by models against some of the top male photographers in the business. And according to the latest issue of PDN, the accusations have spread to instructors at prominent photo workshops. You get the impression that every man in a position of authority has misused that authority.

What has been lost in the current hysteria is the old American maxim of “innocent until proven guilty.”. Right now the field is wide open for people to settle old grudges that may have nothing to do with sex by making accusations of sexual misconduct. People are losing their jobs and careers over accusations that may never be proven. That’s wrong.

I’m not defending the pervasive culture in Hollywood or the fashion business, or anywhere else. Much harm has been done to many people. I’ve known a number of models and actresses, some of whom were successful in the movie business. Some have told me horror stories, but others have had positive experiences. There are some bad people in Hollywood (and in the photography business, and everywhere else in life), but there are also some very fine people. Let’s not tar everyone with the same brush.

Most of us know the sad story of Tippi Hedrin, who starred in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Hitch ruined her career after that because she refused to go to bed with him. But many other actresses launched successful careers with the support of producers and directors who respected them and treated them with dignity. Should Hitchcock have been ostracized by the industry for his despicable behaviour? Probably, but that’s water under the bridge. We can’t fix the past, but we can clean things up today.

One of the rules I always taught my workshop students is: Do not touch the model. I’ve had many students come to a workshop thinking that you pose a model by grabbing her and positioning her like a department store mannequin, and I’ve quickly disabused them of that idea. Even when working with models I’ve known and photographed for years I always observed that rule. To convey a particular pose I wanted, I’d assume the pose myself. Then, after the model stopped laughing, she knew exactly what I wanted, often improving on it by making it her own. I also kept a clip book, and whenever I saw a pose I particularly liked in a magazine, I’d cut it out and add it to the book. Show and tell rather than “grab and twist.”

The Weinstein matter has been portrayed in a one-sided manner, I think. While some industry men have been vilified for taking advantage of vulnerable young women (and men), sometimes it’s the other way ’round. I’ve had more than one model bat her pretty eyes at me and purr, “I’ll do anything to get published,” or the variant, “I’ll do anything for money.” My reply was always the same, “If you’re a really good model, I’ll publish (or pay) you. Nothing more required.”. And I’ve launched more than a few careers when they were good. The photos were satisfaction enough for me. I valued my reputation too much to compromise it. Models have a grapevine, after all, and talk to each other. I took great satisfaction from the fact that after I was arrested and charged and the story broadcast all over the Internet, I still had no trouble getting models to work with me. If they were hesitant, I just gave new models the email addresses of several of the models I’d worked with for years and said, “Check me out.”. They did, and none refused to work with me. I was able to finish my bondage book (which required a great deal of trust by the model in my total professionalism) and other books, as well as photo magazine and website articles, with no problems, using a mix of old and new models. If I could be released tomorrow, I have no doubt I could go right back to my photography without any problems finding models.

But to backtrack for a minute, being a very good artist, no matter what the medium, doesn’t mean a person is a decent man or woman. Read biographies of great artists, and you’ll find that many of them were not nice people. Some were horrible people. Artistic talent does not restrict itself to nice people. That’s as true today as ever. Should we discount a person’s art because he or she is a nasty, rotten person? To consider Hitchcock again, should we ignore the greatness of many of his films because he was personally despicable? I don’t claim to have the answer to that question. We must be careful, as the old saying goes, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/09/bob-shell-remembrances/

 

Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: Remembrances

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Photo: Bob Shell. Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #22

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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REMEMBRANCES

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One of the cruelist things about being incarcerated is that friends and family die while you’re unable to see them. I’ve lost count of how many have gone in the last ten years.

Last October I was sitting at a table in the pod with three friends on a Saturday evening. We’d just fixed and eaten an elaborate meal, and were feeling well fed and relaxed, talking about things of interest. An announcement came over the PA system, “Shell, go to the sergeant’s office.”. Now, being called to the sergeant’s office is rarely good news, particularly on a weekend evening, so I went out there in an apprehensive state of mind. When I got there a young lieutenant and several officers were there. I asked what was up, and the lieutenant told me to sit down. He said that someone named Headie had called and asked them to let me know that my sister had died. I nearly passed out from the shock. (Headie is my nephew’s wife.)

My only sister, Karen, was six years younger than me. Since I was six she was always there for me, and since I’ve been locked up she had been writing to me at least once a month. She knew that I was incapable of doing the awful things I was accused of. I knew she had been diagnosed with cancer, and had surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments. Her last letter was from the beach and she was happy and in remission, so her sudden death was a complete shock. Now, I could have gone to her funeral, but in a prison jumpsuit, with handcuffs, leg shackles, and shock belt, with two armed guards. I thought I’d just be a distraction if I went like that, so I made the painful decision not to go. I was the only family member absent.

The DOC used to grant compassionate furloughs, but too many abused that privilege by not coming back, so they no longer do this. Once you’re inside, you stay inside. Hell, just to transport me from one prison to another they put more chains on me than an organ grinder’s monkey. Those escapes during transport that you see in movies are purely fairytales.

One of the most fiendish devices ever invented is “the box”, a device that fits over the chain connecting handcuffs. and attaches to a waist chain. Once it’s in place you have almost no mobility of your hands and arms. You might just be able to scratch your nose, maybe. When I got here to River North both my wrists were bloody from this contraption.

Unfortunately the men who wrote our Constitution prohibited “cruel and unusual punishment,” and our literal-minded Supreme Court has held that it’s OK for punishment to be cruel so long as it isn’t unusual. “The box” is definitely cruel, but since it’s used almost everywhere now it’s not unusual. If every state used iron maidens the Court would probably say that was OK! Sometimes courts are just plain silly.

But, back to my original topic. Last night I received the June issue of Shutterbug and turned to Dan Havlik’s Editor’s Notes. I learned there of the death in March of Chuck Wesrfall, one of my oldest and best friends in the photo industry. Chuck was a genius, the top technical expert at Canon USA. When I needed an expert in digital imaging to testify at my trial, Chuck came down from New York and gave detailed technical testimony for me at my trial. Unfortunately his testimony sailed right over the heads of the jurors, the judge, and over the head of the reporter from the Roanoke Times, which published a totally garbled version of Chuck’s testimony the next morning. The issue was simple: could the police have accidentally or intentionally changed the time codes on my photographs? Chuck demonstrated how this could have happened accidentally and explained it in great detail. The newspaper reported that he’d said the times were correct, exactly the opposite of what he’d actually said! Even though the jury had been instructed not to read the newspapers or watch TV news, they were not sequestered and I know that some of them probably disregarded this instruction.

Anyway, I’d first met Chuck in the 80s when I was writing my first book, on the Canon EOS system. We “clicked” because we were both tech heads. Over the years I took advantage of every opportunity to spend time with Chuck because he knew how everything worked and could explain so even I could understand. Plus, he was just one of the nicest people you could ever meet, a true gentleman in the old meaning of the term. He had relatives in Roanoke, and would often pop up to Radford to spend a day with me when he was in the area, always bringing a satchel of Canon’s latest goodies to play with. We were friends, not just business friends. He told me how he met his wife on an airplane flight to Japan, and later proudly showed me pictures of their son as he grew up. Chuck will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Among other good friends who have died while I’ve been in prison are: Derek Grossmark, owner of Hove Foto Books, publisher of my first books; Henry Froehlich, Chairman of Mamiya America, and the first man to import Japanese cameras into the USA after WW II; Steve Sint, longtime Popular Photography columnist; Lino Manfrotto, maker of high quality tripods and other photo gear; Don Sutherland, writer for Shutterbug, Playboy, and many other magazines; Bill Hurter, Editor of Rangefinder, who gave me work when I lost my Shutterbug job; Hilary Araujo, long-time industry executive; and probably many more I don’t yet know about. News reaches me slowly in here.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/08/bob-shell-we-all-steal-ideas/

 

Also posted in Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Environment, Erotica, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, Men, Models, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

TWE: September 2018

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TWE: September 2018

 

 

To access Tony Ward Erotica galleries, click here. You must be at least 18 years of age to enterhttp://tonywarderotica.com/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Covers, Current Events, Documentary, Erotica, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Glamour, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women