Category Archives: Cameras

Bob Shell: The Digital Era

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Photo: Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

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The Digital Era

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Many of you reading this came of age in the digital photography era. Most likely you’ve never used, maybe never even seen, a film camera. My girlfriend Marion was like that. The first time I handed her a film camera she took a shot and then looked at the back of the camera to see the picture – which, of course, was not there! People who grew up with digital photography can’t imagine having to wait to see the pictures. When I first got started, unless you had a darkroom and developed and printed your own, you had to wait days to see your photos. When I had my first camera shop in the early 1970s we had our photofinishing done by a big commercial company called Colorcraft. Their courier picked up film from us every day and delivered the finished photos. As I recall, it took three or four days to get your pictures back. A bit later in the 70s came the innovation of next day delivery. People were amazed to get their pictures that fast. Next came the minilabs that pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount stores installed. Suddenly you could get your pictures back the same day! Some places even offered one hour service. The race was on to be the fastest, but quality was often lost in the rush. People got back poorly exposed or otherwise flawed pictures, and assumed it was their fault, never knowing they could have gotten good pictures from a better lab.

Today those big photofinishing companies are long gone, as are most of the smaller labs. The last lab in my area, run by an old friend of mine, closed at the end of 2018. People who still shoot film pretty much have to develop and print their own unless they live near one of the few labs still in business.

Kodak Alaris has just reintroduced Ektachrome 100 Professional in 35mm rolls and Super-8 cartridges. They must think there’s a market for it, but that leaves open the question of where to get it processed. (kodakalaris.com)

The Lomography people have recently introduced black and white Potsdam 100 and Berlin 400 films. These come in 35mm and 120 roll film sizes, and are “cut from old stocks of a cinematic emulsion, produced by a legendary German company.”. Available online from Lomography (www.lomography.com)

I don’t know much about the current Lomography company. I know they got their start selling a compact camera made by LOMO, Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Works, in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad in Soviet days) and turned that little camera into a cult object. They’ve expanded to selling a wide variety of photographic products. I’d guess that the “legendary German company” they refer to is Agfa. Apparently Agfa had large stocks of film on hand when they went out of the film business. Rollei was selling rebranded Agfa black and white film under their name for some time. In cold storage black and white film will still be good for many years. In a bit of sales hype, they say, “Steeped in a rich past and prestige, this mighty monochrome is not just a tribute to history — rather a part of it.”

I used to collect Soviet era cameras and lenses from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. While the little LOMO point and shoot, the LC-1 was nothing special, LOMO also made the only Russian-built professional camera, the Almas (Diamond in Russian). During the Cold War days, Soviet photographers were cut off from the Japanese professional cameras the rest of the world used. LOMO was tasked with the job of producing a camera for Soviet professional photographers. Superficially, the Almas looks like a Nikon F2, but on closer inspection is revealed as a unique camera. The removeable prism housing is styled like Nikon’s, as are the interchangeable focusing screens. The camera body looks like a Minolta and has a shutter that looks like a Copal, but is a unique LOMO design. To carry on the hybridization, the lens mount is Pentax K mount. The camera is very robustly built and most samples I’ve seen show considerable use. There is a connection on the bottom for a motor drive, but as far as I have been able to determine, that motor drive was never produced. The 50mm lens on my sample is excellent. It’s too bad that this noble experiment vanished when the Soviet Union collapsed and photographers in former Soviet republics gained access to cameras from the outside world. My Almas has no light meter, but there was a meter prism available in small quantities that is rare today. My Almas is the star of my collection of Soviet cameras.

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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 here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-musical-instruments/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Engineering, Film, History, Light Table, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Science

Bob Shell: A Stitch in Relative Time

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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A Stitch in Relative Time

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What really is photography? I think it is an outgrowth of our inability to revisit moments in time. The old tentmaker wrote:

The moving finger writes, and having writ,

moves on, Nor all thy piety nor wit

can lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out one word of it.

We move through time headlong, like a boat with no rudder, and must follow the current wherever it takes us. When we die, all the moments of our lives are gone, “like tears in rain.”

That, at least, is the viewpoint of most people, who never realize that they are projecting a Newtonian viewpoint onto external reality. But since 1905 and Einsteinian Relativity we should have realized that we actually exist in a Relativistic reality. Time, that we seek to capture slices of, is not something that flows. It is the fourth dimension of reality that Newton simply took for granted as being the same everywhere. But Einstein showed us that time is not absolute, that it varies depending on the position and motion of the observer. Most of us haven’t integrated Einsteinian Relativity into our daily worldview, we’re stuck back centuries ago with old Isaac Newton.

“Physics itself recognizes no special moment called ‘now’ — the moment that acts as the focus of ‘becoming’ and divides the ‘past’ from the ‘future.’. In four dimensional space-time nothing changes, there is no flow of time, everything simply is…It is only in consciousness that we come across a particular time known as ‘now’ …It is only in the context of mental time that it makes sense to say that all of physical space-time is. One might even go so far as to say that it is unfortunate that such dissimilar entities as physical time and mental time should carry the same name.”. — Russell Stannard, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Open University.

“Particles themselves do not even move, being represented by ‘static’ curves drawn in space-time. Thus, what we perceive as moving 3D objects are really successive cross sections of immobile 4D objects past which our field of observation is sweeping.” — Roger Penrose

So if the time we perceive and the motion we perceive are illusions, what is the point of photography? I’ve been wrestling with that question. Will we one day be able to get outside time and revisit “moments from the past”? I’d be very surprised if we don’t.

Years ago, in the early 1960s, my father came home from his job as a TV news reporter one day very excited. He showed us a press release from the U.S. Navy in which it stated that the Navy had developed a “time camera,” which could take photographs of a scene as it was hours before. The example they used was to photograph an empty parking lot and get images of all the cars that were parked there earlier in the day. We were all wowed by this announcement, and I remember anxiously awaiting more news about this “time camera,” but none was ever forthcoming. Nor was there ever an official denial — nothing. If it was a hoax, I’d have expected some official denial. Periodically over the years I’ve tried to find any information about that camera, but have never found a thing. I’ve always suspected that the information was released to the press by mistake, and quickly withdrawn behind a veil labeled “Top Secret.” Just imagine what a powerful historical research tool that would be!

In a very real sense we always photograph the past. Say you are photographing someone twelve feet away. Light falls on that person and some is reflected to your camera, but it takes time for that light to come from your subject and reach your film or digital sensor. Light travels at a rate of one foot per nanosecond, so if your subject is twelve feet away, you are photographing them not in the present instant when you trip your shutter, but twelve nanoseconds in the past. Your subject is always younger in your photographs! Your camera is always a time machine. However, until that light strikes your film or sensor the image is in the future relative to you.

Now twelve nanoseconds is pretty small potatoes, but what about when you hook your camera to a telescope and point it at the moon, which is one light second away, or at the sun which is eight light seconds away, or even at Alpha Centauri which is 4.3 light years away. You’d be photographing respectively 1 second, 8 seconds, or 4.3 years into the past. From the perspective of someone on the moon, the sun, and Alpha Centauri, you are 1 second, 8 seconds and 4.3 years in their future. So you see their past, but their “present” overlaps with your past so from their perspective they see your past. Clear? Relativity can be confusing!

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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 here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-why-radford/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Women

Rongrong Liu: Light

 

Video and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2019

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LIGHT

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This video art project is all about light. I started thinking of using light as my main subject when I saw the disco ball installation recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art. What’s most interesting about it is that what I am able to see with my eyes is different from what the camera lens can see, which is iridescent.

There isn’t a strict plan for this piece. Starting from the first clip, each clip is what I associated in my mind with the previous one. The blurry night traffic scene ⇒ the micro bokeh light ⇒ disco ball ⇒ glass light ⇒ underwater light ⇒ projector light ⇒ smoke. After this clip are my interactions with the light, playing with the shadow and the time lapse of traffic. Light is everywhere, and it is different depending on the way we look at it (from a macroscopic or a microscopic view), how close we are, how focused we are, etc..

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Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

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About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/rongrong-liu-me/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Light Table, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, Women

Diary: Theresa. A Visit to Alcatraz

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Theresa: A Visit to Alcatraz. 1980

 

 Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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Diary: Theresa. A Visit to Alcatraz. 1980

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I first laid eyes on Theresa as she excited a cable car on a side street next to the Fairmount Hotel where I was staying in San Francisco on assignment in 1980.  She walked directly towards me as I was standing on the sidewalk next to the hotel waiting for the concierge to have my car delivered from the garage on my way to a photo shoot.   I said hello and she said hello back with a flirtatious smile.  Low and behold she was an employee of the hotel as she motioned to open a side door I noticed for employees only . As she opened her purse to get her pass key,  I commented that I was a guest at the hotel and mentioned how satisfied I was with the accommodations.  She said she would pass the compliment on to management.  We exchanged phone numbers.  Later that day we met for drinks at Donatello, her favorite Italian restaurant just off of Union Square. 

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Theresa at Donatello. Union Square. San Francisco, 1980.

Theresa at Donatello. Union Square. San Francisco, 1980.

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One thing quickly led to the next and so began a brief but romantic relationship. One of the highlights of our time together was a trip we took to Alcatraz Island where I captured this very beautiful moment with this Mexican beauty!

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To access additional diary entries, click here:http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/diary-a-fashion-shoot-at-the-jersey-shore/

 

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Film, Glamour, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Bondage?

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #31

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photographs by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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BONDAGE?

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Why are “straight” people so freaked out over bondage? That’s a real puzzle to me. Here in the enlightened Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), all bondage photos/videos are classified as “violent.”. That would come as a surprise to the thousands of couples who employ bondage as part of their sex play, and buy their bondage gear and sex toys at the local shopping mall or on line. In England the big Sainsbury’s supermarket chain just announced that they will begin selling a selection of sex toys.

Sure, restraining an unwilling person is a violent act, but when both people, Dom and Sub (or Top and Bottom in today’s terminology), are voluntary participants, where’s the violence? Only in the eye of the beholder. And who else’s business is it, anyway?

I can attest to the fact that there was no violence in the 100+ bondage photos I shot for my bondage book. The only violence was violent fits of laughter that the models and I sometimes fell victim to. We laughed until we cried.

Not long ago I had an issue of Vogue confiscated as contraband. You heard right, Vogue, the 126 year old fashion and culture magazine. Why? Bondage. One of the advertisements showed a full page photo of two young women playfully wrapping stockings around one another. That’s bondage? Yep, in the eyes of the VDOC it is. Even though the mailroom censors approved the magazine and gave it to me, I still got a “possession of contraband” charge for having it!

At the same time in the buildup to Halloween this year several cable channels that we get showed movies in which involuntary bondage, usually of nubile females, played a part. I don’t even have a TV, but just passing by the big pod TV put these images before me. Talk about violence! The old “damsel in distress,” (Little Nell tied to a railroad track by Snidely Whiplash, waiting for Dudley Doright to come to the rescue), still attracts viewers, and if she’s mostly naked, so much the better. I’ve got news for the VDOC, I’ve never tied Little Nell, or anyone else, to a railroad track! And seeing two women playfully wrapping stockings around each other only brings a chuckle from me. It never even occurred to me that anyone could look at that playful image and see violent bondage

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If people want to tie each other up, and there’s no force or coercion, whose business is it besides theirs? Even if for sex? So fucking what?!!

For some time the Fifty Shades of Grey books were on the VDOC’s disapproved publications list, but after a while and many complaints, the Publication Review Committee (PRC) changed that and now our libraries can have them. Out of curiosity I read all three books. They’re awful! How they became best sellers is beyond me. But, awful as they are, they should never have been disapproved for anything other than bad writing and saccharine plotting!

Even having something like a publication review committee strikes me as very un-American. You know, the old First Amendment and all that. The current disapproved publications list is many pages long in small print! And they pay people to be on the PRC!

My first bondage photography was with a beautiful young woman who modeled as Elkie Cooper. She’d been referred to me by a photographer friend in DC, and had just turned 18. She says I was her first real photographer. I photographed her for years. I loved her sense of humor; Her website said, “Elkie Cooper, The Other White Meat,” parodying the pork industry’s slogan. I hadn’t even thought about bondage until she sent me some bondage photos of her that another photographer had made. So we tried a bondage session, and got some good images. The only photos in my bondage book made on film are the photos of her. She also appears in the Rotovision book Erotic Photography, to which I contributed several images. A little later that year I booked Maria Shadoes for a shoot, not realizing she was heavily into bondage. She brought her friend Heather along, and I made a bunch of light bondage photos of the two of them. I wanted some of them in my bondage book, but the publisher didn’t like them and they were cut. Maybe someday I’ll do Volume Two and include them.

Then along came Marion and changed everything. I’d never before had a romantic relationship with a model. Of course there is always a measure of sexual tension between photographer and model, and that, in my experience, energizes the session and the resulting images. Some of the best nude photographs ever made are those of Charis Wilson that Edward Weston made, and, of course, they were lovers off camera. Weston’s best are full of erotic tension, even when they’re just bell peppers! I like to think that a similar tension inhabits my best photographs of Marion, bondage or not. To me, and I believe her previous boyfriends, Marion was sexual energy personified. She was like a runaway generator, shooting sparks to anyone nearby, male or female. She couldn’t have turned this off, even if she tried. Only one model I’ve worked with even came close, Tina Marie. Put her together with Marion, as we did, and the energy took over the photo shoot and comes through in those images.

I feel like I was at the peak of my creativity and craft in those bondage and fetish photographs I was making from 2002 until 2007. Then the state shut me down. Maybe one day I will be able to pick up where I left off. I’ve still got a lot of ideas for new images. Just set me free and I’ll go to it!

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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 here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-the-evolution-of-photography/

 

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