Category Archives: Book Reviews

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #12


Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Letters From Prison: Part 10, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


One thing that always comes up when people talk to me about Marion is our age difference. When I first met her in April of 2002, she was eighteen and I was fifty-four. Some have been highly critical of me for having a relationship with such a great age difference. In 2002 I had been working with models since the sixties, and the only reason I can say with certainly that I’d photographed over two hundred women is that I have signed model release forms from all of them (minus some the police took and never gave back!). You may not believe me, but I swear it’s true that in all those years with all those beautiful young women, I never had a romantic relationship with any of them. The opportunity was there, but I was a straight arrow, keeping business and personal life totally separate. As any woman I ever photographed will attest, no matter how sexually suggestive the poses, I was always completely professional and respectful. That’s just me. Sure, there has to be a sexual tension – a spark – between photographer and model to produce good images, but it works best when this connection is sublimated, kept simmering below the surface. Anything else and the sexual tension gets in the way and you might as well forget photography. Now I know I speak only for myself here and other photographers may have a different philosophical approach, but I learned over the years what works for me. And it worked very well, so much so that the federal judge in a suit I filed in 2005 (that’s a story for another time) called me “a renowned photographer with a long-established reputation.” Although I didn’t have romantic relationships with them, many models I worked with became good friends. Five of them write to me here regularly, and one even sends me money.

The point of this is that the Radford police and prosecutor knew nothing about me, and instead of learning the truth as the federal judge had done, they created a fantasy Bob Shell. who was nothing like the real me.

When Marion first walked into my studio that day in April of 2002, something happened that had not happened to me since 1967 (that, too, is another story.). It was like a lightning bolt shot between us. We both felt it as Marion later told me. We shot a lot of still photos that afternoon and about twenty minutes of video. Marion was simply a natural model. Although she’d had minimal experience, doing her first modeling earlier that year, I hardly needed to direct her at all. She moved from pose to pose fluidly, and seemed to just know what looked good to the camera. After that first test session I couldn’t wait to bring her back. Problem was that she was living in Boone, NC, more than four hours away, and her old Subaru wagon wasn’t in the best of shape. But we made do and I brought her up for sessions as often as I could. That summer she was living with a tattoo artist, and she told me that he tied her up for sex. She liked being restrained, she said, but complained that he tied the ropes too tight. She brought some Polaroid photos one time that a former boyfriend had made of her tied up. The photography was amateurish, but it was clear that she enjoyed it.

By late summer I was forced to admit that I had fallen for her – hard! We had begun spending time together in the bed in my studio after shoots, but there was no sex because I was still very conflicted about the idea of a relationship with a model, and did have concern about the age difference.

Marion had taken to my studio quickly, and began assisting me when I was working with other models. In October I offered her a full-time job modeling and assisting me in my studio and office. I found her an apartment one block from my studio and she moved to Radford. The apartment was owned by the same people I rented my studio from, and was half the ground floor of a large old building. It had two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and the usual kitchen and bath. Lots of room. We set about furnishing it with trips to factory outlets in Southside Virginia, where there are furniture factories. Ended up with some nice stuff at very low prices.

So, we spent the rest of 2002 and the beginning of 2003 in a frenzy of work, doing photo sessions almost every day, some in my studio, and some in my “outdoor studio,” forest land I owned about a half hour’s drive away. Marion loved the outdoor shoots. She was a country girl at heart and felt completely at ease in the woods. Frequently I had to end the shoots because I was worn out, or she would want to stay until the light was too dim for pictures. After the shoots we’d usually lie around for a while on a blanket and talk just as we did in the studio bed.

I still feel that some of those outdoor photos are the best in my career. Some of them, though not bondage images, are featured in my book Erotic Bondage: Art Of Rope. I put them in as counterpoint to the bondage images. (At this time in late 2002 and early 2003 I was transitioning from film to digital. Some of the book’s images are from film, some from digital, and I don’t believe anyone can tell which is which. I’d worked since the 80s with Canon EOS cameras, so it was natural for me to take to the EOS 10D when it came along – all my lenses fit! But Nikon had invited me out to Colorado in 2002 for a product introduction, and gave me a Nikon D100 and accessories to evaluate, and so some of the photos for the book were taken with that camera, and those taken on film were shot with a Rollei 6008i, a Minolta Maxxum 9 and a Leica M7. So much for brand loyalty! All major camera brands are capable of professional results in the right hands.)

To be continued…..


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 at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here

Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Anisha Arora: Shoes


Photo: Anisha Arora, Copyright 2018


Photography and Text by Anisha Arora, Copyright 2018








When talking about Lewis W. Hine, one of the photographers included in the book, the author writes that “he conceived of the medium as a means of studying and describing the social conditions around him”. That is also how I aim to use the art of photography- to bring to light difficult truths that we often want to forget.

What I found truly intriguing while reading the book was the variations between photographers. Variations in their purpose/objective behind photography, as well as, variations in what they found worth capturing on camera. While some find fashion photography to be their calling, some find it interesting to capture the mundane routines of common people. Among all the photographers, I could most relate to Lewis W. Hine.

Hine wanted to use photography to drive social change, and his pictures were a celebration of people who had nerve, skill, muscle, and tenacity. He captured the common people. That’s what I want to achieve through my photographs. His picture of little children on the streets, reminded me of a picture (attached as a jpeg) I happened to click while walking on a street in Ethiopia in the town of Harar. The picture is of a small 7-8 year-old boy splashing water over his face to cool down in the terrible heat. This water is generally used to clean people’s shoes. This boy, like many other 5-12 year-old boys, is a “shoe-shine” boy. These children leave their homes in Ethiopia’s rural areas to work in the big cities as shoe-polishers. They stay in deplorable living conditions, often beg for food and money, have never seen a school classroom and are most likely physically and sexually exploited. They save a part of their meagre incomes to support their families back in the rural areas, who make next to nothing from agriculture. What I find beautiful about this picture is that the boy seems so happy splashing the water on his face. This is normal life for him- he has forgotten his miseries and adapted to life on the streets.

I lived in Ethiopia for a year before school, working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Prime Minister’s Office on strategy and policy projects aimed at improving incomes of smallholder farmers. I’m hoping that some of my organization’s projects can raise agricultural incomes, so that more children don’t have to leave their families and can have a normal childhood.


About The Author: Anisha Arora is enrolled in the Graduate program, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Anisha Arora, click here


Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Health Care, History, News, Photography, Politics, Travel, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

George Krause: Lunch With a Legend


Martha Gibson. George Krause. Lunch at the White Dog Cafe, March 8, 2018. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018.



Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018




I first met my friend and mentor, George Krause in 1975 at Photopia Gallery on South Street. The Philly based gallery was located in the same neighborhood where Man Ray was born and where Ray K. Metzker, also a legendary photographer and friend of George, lived by converting an old 19th century fire house into his studio. Metzker’s studio was located just around the corner from where George Krause lived for several years before relocating to Wimberly, Texas, where he currently resides with his girlfriend, the artist, Martha Gibson.  Photopia was the place to see fine art photography during those days and George Krause was amongst the finest artists to exhibit at the avant-garde exhibition space.  A couple of years earlier,  Krause had  published GEORGE KRAUSE-1, his first book of groundbreaking photographs, which became a visual bible for anyone interested in photography as a fine art at the time. Toll & Armstrong of Haverford, Pa. published the monograph with forward by Mark Power, in 1972. I have a signed copy proudly displayed of GEORGE KRAUSE – 1 in my personal library. 

Before I was informed George would be visiting Philadelphia this year to install his latest exhibition, Introspective 1957 to 2017 at the University of the Arts, I had already introduced his work to my photography students at the University of Pennsylvania. In September, I assigned the class a book review of John Szarkowski’s classic, Looking at Photographs.  George was  selected by Szarkowski to  be represented in this  iconic representation of the history of photography published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1973.

Needless to say, my students were thrilled to learn that the legendary, George Krause would be visiting their class during his visit to Penn’s campus.  When I showed the students the signed copy of his first book, I completely forgot that it contained personal letters. I  shared with the class, that I had received letters from George during the 1970’s when we corresponded while he was working in San Miguel, Mexico or at the American Academy in Rome. I was a graduate student studying photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology where many of Georges contemporaries lectured at my graduate seminars including: Ralph Gibson, Emmet Gowin, Duane Michals, Susan Sontag and Peter Bunnell. The list would also include George Krause after he accepted an invitation that I forwarded to him on behalf of the masters program at R.I.T. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

George was thrilled to see an exhibit of the students work at the Clutter Gallery in Addams Hall.  The class had the good fortune of reading about photographic history and then to meet a living embodiment of its history made for an amazing learning experience for the students. George mentioned during his talk that it was the first time he had been asked to speak about his work by accessing his web site:  George also mentioned that he may have been the first photographer in photographic history to cut a beveled mat window to present his photographs. After his talk we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the White Dog Cafe on Penn’s campus with his girlfriend; the artist, Martha Gibson.



George Krause: Exhibition Announcement. UArts.


George Krause with Photography Students at UPenn

George Krause with Photography Students at UPenn. Photo: Martha Gibson.


George Krause and Tony Ward at Introspective opening reception, UArts. March 28, 2018.

George Krause and Tony Ward at Introspective opening reception, UArts. March 28, 2018.


About The Author: Tony Ward is a fine art photographer, author, blogger, publisher and adjunct professor of photography at the University of Pennsylvania.  His published works can be accessed here


Editor’s Note: Tony Ward used the new Sony RX100V to make the portrait of George Krause during lunch with an ISO setting of 320, White Balance: AWB, Shutter: 1/30th, F-Stop:1.8.


Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, UPenn Photography

Wenjia Guo: Architectural Gift


Photo: Wenjia Guo


Photography and Text by Wenjia Guo, Copyright 2018


Book Review


John Szarkowski:  Looking at Photographs


When I first got this book, I was wondering why we need to look at such a “history” book to learn photography. The book I rented from Cornell University first surprised me with its date due list, whose first reader rented it in 1984, ten years before I was born. This magical feeling seemed to have nothing to do with photography technique, but related to the most important thing I absorbed from the book — the historical significance of photo selection, which I understand as real important.

The first time I read Looking at Photographs, I just focused on the pictures without tasting the articles, the first time, portraitures mainly caught my eye. The eye contact, the hairstyles, the clothes, even the gestures showed the harmony with the environmental background of the time. But after reading each picture’s introduction, I found even gestures are more vivid, needless to say landscape photography, architecture photography and other genres have come to my awareness. The historical background is quite charming. When you see a man with his hands crossed holding his head chatting with others, the situation that farmers in those those years with not much work to do, instead had plenty of time for conversation is reasonable but a little bit surprising. 

However, what inspired me most in the book is the staircase photo, which was created by Tina Modotti when she lived in Mexico in the years 1923 through 1926. Pictures of architecture definitely shows the combination of materials, the wood, the metal, the concrete all have diverse brightness, and even it is a picture of black and white, I could feel the different temperature when sun light heated them. What’s more, the powerful straight lines created a wonderful geometric pattern, the perspective of the stairs as well as the handrail created a spiral of beauty.

The light in this picture that I created is also attractive, it comes from the back and forms a different kind of depth. So, during my travel week in Miami, I paid a lot of attention when I visited different buildings, trying to find some contemporary characteristics of architecture and how the light and materials played in the view. When I stood in the hall of New World Center by Frank Gehry, I see the flow curvature, the prefabrication technique, the slowly rising stairs, the elegant boundary of windows and walls, as well as the light gently irradiated from a particular distance. 


About The Author: Wenjia Guo is a Graduate student in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Wenjia Guo, click here


Also posted in Architecture, Contemporary Architecture, Current Events, Engineering, Environment, Health Care, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Women

Mu Qiao: Builder


Montage: Mu Qiao


Montage and Text by Mu Qiao, Copyright 2018


Book Reviews


Jerry Uelsmann’s “Poets House” and John Szarkowski’s “Looking at Photographs”


After reading JERRY UELSMANN’s “Poet’s House”, which is in the book of “LOOKING AT PHOTOGRAPHS”, I am quickly drawn into the idea of ​​synthesized photographs. I really appreciate the point that photographs can be constructed to produce an assembled effect, which the photographer wants the audience to see instead of showing the audience purely realistic photography, which may mis -convey the photographer’s points of view.

One of the examples that I used most for the synthesized photographs is montage.

Montage is a manifestation of freedom. Making good use of montages or collages, in the early stages of design, we architects can get many ideas and inspiration. The essence of collage is the creation of relationship between things. This relationship is not just a juxtaposition of two nearby elements, but also a spatial affiliation. In composition, the height of each collage element, before and after cover, material color, size and so on all related to their hierarchy in the entire collage works. A good collage or montage can portray a less clear story.

For example, Richard Hamilton’s very famous pop art collage “Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?” (1956). This work is composed of images tailored from American magazines. There are many representatives of elements such as the explosion of multimedia information and the popularization of electrical appliances at that time. The elements create interest and conflict while expressing the author’s ideas. For example, the photo of the earth at the top of the room was taken from the cover of Life Magazine. Although it appears on the ceiling as an irrational phenomenon, it is indeed the result of the development of science and technology at that time. This shows that collages are often humorous.

In the procedure of synthesized photographs, there are many tips. Collage is to construct an order, what is new, what is old, what is important, what is secondary, and what is the role played by people in the scene character of. This information is generated by, but also the audience need to think about.

Appropriate to add some lines to help collage to form a complete space. Simply use the background pattern and white space to distinguish space outside. Another common practice is to use a natural scene or material texture as a material to create a silhouette of people or things. Such silhouettes will carry the emotions and atmosphere of the pictures they contain or reflect some of the characters.

The montage also breaks the perspective and combines the building with a flat map. The two parts interact to show the geographical orientation and at the same time add a visual texture to the map area.

In the model, people are used to represent the scale, while people in the collage can increase the sense of substitution and let the audience see the content of the painting from his perspective.

For the “Builder”, I used several photos of famous architects, who are working at a table. The table becomes the connection and also the center of that scene. Taking the photo of New York city view as the background creates the sense of space. The whole picture then presents a fantasy scene that architects are working together and designing the world.


About The Author: Mu Qiao is a Graduate student enrolled in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Mu Qiao, click here


Also posted in Architecture, Art, Contemporary Architecture, Engineering, Environment, History, Men, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students