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Category Archives: History
Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #20
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
In my travels I always kept an eye open for interesting things to photograph. Sometimes it was people, sometimes animals, sometimes street scenes, and so on. One thing I saw almost everywhere was signs, sometimes official, more often hand printed. Among the official signs, one of my favorites is a bronze plaque set into a sidewalk in Germany. It reads something like:
On this spot on February 16, 1539,
Absolutely nothing happened.
I’m sure I got the date wrong, but you get the idea. That was either in Munich or Wetzlar.
One time in Germany, Peter Moore took s picture of me next to an arrow sign pointing at me, saying EIN FAHRT. Of course that means “ONE WAY,” as any German speaker knows!
A sign I saw in South Tyrol, the German-speaking part of northern Italy, was in multiple languages, but totally incompressible in any. I think it warned of flash floods, but that didn’t come from the text, but from the little man panicking in rushing water in the pictograph at the top of the sign.
Seen in the American Midwest on the side of a big white building:
Makes you want to walk right in, eh?
On a large factory in Hong Kong:
HUNG FAT BRASSIERE COMPANY
And in a hotel in that same city, on a plaque on the inside of the room door a number of suggestions for hotel guests, including:
HOTEL GUESTS ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MAIDS
The intent comes through, but a native English speaker would have phrased it differently! You find lots of butchered English in the far east, one of the best sighted in a shop window:
ENGLISH WELL SPEACHED HERE
Yeah, sure it is.
In a Chinese restaurant window in, I think, Kuala Lumpur (which itself means “Muddy Junction”) was this:
BLOODY GOOD CHINESE FOOD AT FAIR DINKUM PRICES
That one got me to go inside. I don’t know if the prices were really “fair dinkum,” but the food was really good.
Closer to home, driving up Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley through picturesque little towns I spotted this one on the roadside:
BOX SPRING & MATTERS FUR SAIL
Gets the point across, I guess. Not far along the same road, this one:
BLAN KETS $ 4.00 PA URD
Took a while to figure out that this person was selling blankets for $ 4.00 per yard! They were actually very nice home made blankets at a reasonable price.
And on the side of a barn in New Bern, Virginia:
WE DONT RENT PIGS
I think they stole the idea for that one!
A friend recently sent me this one:
THIS IS GOD’S COUNTRY
PLEASE DON’T DRIVE LIKE HELL THROUGH IT
I like that one.
I have a large collection of photos of odd signs in my archive, some of which made money as stock images.
Which leads into another topic, stock photography. Unfortunately, the days when a photographer could earn a nice second income from stock photo sales are pretty much over. I used to get regular checks from the licensing of images I had with agencies. Then along came tbe Internet, and my stock payments lost two zeros on the amount payable line. People used to ask me what’s was the most I ever got paid for a single image. I’d smile and say 78,000. After the shock wore off, I’d clarify that it was Yen, not dollars. It was for the use of one of my images on the cover of the Japanese edition of a Danielle Steel romance novel. Actually, the Japanese editions of several of her books bear my photographs thanks to a real whirlwind of an agent I had in Tokyo. Tony knows who I’m talking about.
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://tonyward.com/2018/08/bob-shell-warning-environmentalist-rant/
Bob Shell: Letters From Prison # 18
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
MY YEARS AT SHUTTERBUG
My history with Shutterbug began in the mid-70s. I don’t even remember exactly when I wrote my first article for them. The magazine was founded by Glenn Patch as Shutterbug Ads, and was originally a tabloid printed on yellow paper (although the very first issue, which I still have, was printed on white paper), and was a buy/sell newspaper made up of classified ads for photo equipment and supplies. Editorial content came later, and originally wasn’t of very high quality. At some point, once editorial content became more important, I was hired as Technical Editor, to bring the accuracy of the adticles up to a higher standard to compete with the major photo magazines. But the magazine needed an editor, and I didn’t have the time to do that job and run my studio. Glenn asked me to find one, and I called my old friend Norman Rothschild, who recommended George Berkowitz, former Editor of Popular Photography magazine, then retired. We contacted George and he took the job. But he hated the Shutterbug Ads name and got it changed to Photographic News. It was published under that name for a year or so, but circulation declined, George left, and the magazine was renamed Shutterbug, still in tabloid newspaper format. I continued as Technical Editor. The next Editor was Jack Naylor, prominent photo historian and owner of the largest camera collection in private hands in the world. Jack lived in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and had no interest in moving to Titusville, Florida, where Shutterbug was based, so he flew down one week a month to put the book together (in the magazine business magazines are called books). Jack was independently wealthy from a major auto parts manufacturing business with factories worldwide, and so he took the job out of love of photography. He certainly didn’t need the money. Eventually he got bored with the job and quit. For a while the magazine drifted along without an editor, but I kept being given more responsibility, and in 1991 I was offered the job of Editor. I accepted, but on the condition that I could work from my home office in Radford, Virginia. I ran the magazine, going down to Titusville several times a year for staff meetings, using FedEx to get my material there, later going to fax, and still later to email attachments and upload to their server.
During my years as Editor the magazine grew every year, and the classified ads became less and less important as a source of income, displaced by the Internet, so editorial content became more and more important. In 1997 Glenn, who’d declared for years that Shutterbug was never going to be sold, sold the magazine to a media conglomerate in NYC called Primedia. I was very upset by this because I’d said many times that if the magazine was sold I wanted a chance to put together an offer. I pretty much knew my days were numbered when they said, “We’re not going to change anything,” and promptly proceeded to change everything. They knew less than zip about the photography business, and put a man in as Publisher whose ideas of where the magazine should go and mine were like oil and water. After photokina 2000 I got a phone call from this guy telling me he was replacing me with someone else as Editor. He really didn’t have the authority to do that, and when I went up to NYC to talk to the Primedia people it became clear that they had been told that I wanted to retire. I could have dragged the whole sordid mess into court, but that might have hurt the magazine I’d devoted my life to, and made it impossible for me to continue as Editor anyway, so I chose to bow out gracefully. Many advertisers contacted me with offers to protest by pulling their advertising, but I told them not to. I didn’t want to hurt Shutterbug. The last thing I wanted was to damage the magazine, so I negotiated a quiet settlement that allowed me to continue as Editor At Large. It hurt me badly financially, because it paid less than half what I’d made as Editor, but at the same time freed me to write for other magazines, so I contacted my friend Bill Hurter at Rangefinder. I’d given Bill work when he was between jobs and he reciprocated by giving me work writing for Rangefinder, which he was then running. I had friends worldwide in the photo magazine world, so I was soon writing for Zoom (Italy), Color Foto (Germany), Photo Answers and Amateur Photographer (England), Asahi Photo (Japan), Asian Photographer (India), Photomagazin (Russia), and some others I’ve no doubt forgotten, as well as for Photo Techniques, Photo Electronic Imaging, Professional Photographer, and Digital Camera in the USA. I was also the Photo Guru for BestStuff.com and their short-lived print magazine. I couldn’t write for other magazines while still Editor at Shutterbug — my contract didn’t allow it — but my new contract allowed me to write for anyone who wanted me. Soon I was bringing in more money than before the double-cross. Of course, I was still writing my obligatory two articles a month for Shutterbug. And I was writing two or three books a year.
Then in June of 2003, disaster struck. My young girlfriend Marion Franklin died of an apparent drug overdose taken while I was out getting dinner and I was accused by the Radford Police of causing her death. I was thrown in jail and it took 30 days for friends to arrange my bond and get me out. My mother had died a month before Marion and left me money, or I wouldn’t have had the bail money. When I got home I found a letter from the NY office waiting for me saying that “due to the accusations” my contract was terminated. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? But even though Shutterbug let me down, Joe White, then Editor at Photo Techniques, kept me on writing lighting articles and Digital Camera gave me the job of Technical Editor, so I had work. Plus I got contracts to write books for several publishers, so the wolf was kept away from the door.
After writing the above I received some terrible news. Earlier this year Shutterbug was sold to a British media conglomerate. Their first move was to lay off our best people, including the Managing Editor. Then, in the June issue they announced that they were taking the magazine bimonthly, beginning with the July/August issue. I’ve just learned that the July/August issue will never appear. They’ve shut the magazine down. Buying a successful and profitable magazine only to shut it down makes no sense at all. I feel like my best friend just died. R.I.P. Shutterbug 1973 – 2018. Dead at age 45.
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-dead-cats-in-the-studio-yikes/
Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2018
Illustration by Thomcat23, Copyright 2018
For me, this quote below was truly the kicker that set my head spinning! You can’t make this craziness from his lips up. Unbelievable!
Standing in front of the VFW Convention last Tuesday, he actually said this:
“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” – Donald J. Trump, President of The United States, Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, July 24th, 2018
70 years ago a work of fiction was written, but reality is always stranger than anything one can come up with in their imagination:
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” – George Orwell, “1984”, published 1949
By George, He’s Got It!
Happening now, is not what you see
Happening now, is not what you hear
Pay attention only to the billboard on the wall with the one of tiny hands and mind that is so small
Pied piper he may never be
But, leader is the only one he is as you can see
Free press is the enemy
Stenographers are the friend of He
We must praise the leader, for He is law
Truth and justice cannot be something we saw
By George, he’s got it!
He is ever so wise
Controlling the masses with his lies
Look at the shiny orb he holds in his hands
It glistens with xenophobia and shimmers with manufactured rage
All he does hypnotizes the senses
The takeover of the muddled mind is going as planned
This is his moment
He is the CHOSEN man
Pay attention to the wall of division
Your neighbor is not your equal
Report them in accordance to the leader
Speak only of the agenda repeated like parrots
Never step out of line or think for yourself
Isn’t it better to let the leader of the state take care of those little agitations, formerly known as rights and freedoms?
Just listen to the mantra for solace and control
By George, he’s got it!
Let the cloud of conformity mollify your soul
Obey the voice of the state and you can never go wrong
Pen scratched against history has cast a shadow ever so long
Seventy-years on, the bell tolls strong
By George, he’s got it!
Now, we are through the looking glass
About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-the-torch/
About The Illustrator: Thomcat23 is a new contributing artist at Tony Ward Studio. The owner of a hyperactive imagination, Thomcat23 creates images based on a wide variety of categories. Everything from cartoons to politics are mangled, jumbled, smashed, merged and synthesized to create colorful and interesting works of art. The pop surrealist approach Thomcat23, stems from his formal training as a graphic designer and his love of comic book-style pen and ink illustration he’s sharpened over the years. He has a wide variety of influence, which include Jack Kirby and Renee Magritte. To access more of Thomcat 23’s work, follow him on Instagram @Thomcat23. Or Facebook: The Art of Thomcat23.
Bob Shell: Letters From Prison # 17
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
Artwork by Dean Rosenzweig, Copyright 2018
DEAD CATS IN THE STUDIO – YIKES!
Some years ago my friend Steve Sint and I were eating in a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan, when the subject of discussion turned to what our personal limits were, what we would and would not photograph. Basically Steve argued for photographing anything at all, so long as the pay was good and it wouldn’t get you arrested, while I thought a photographer should have some narrower limits. Looking back on that now, I realize that my limits are pretty bizarre by many people’s standards.
Case in point: Those dead cats.
At some time in the mid-80s, Ruth Steinberger, an illustrator friend who primarily illustrates textbooks, came to me with a project. It was to illustrate an anatomy and physiology lab manual. The plan was for Ruth and the author to bring the dead cats to my studio and dissect them in stages. I was to take photos and Ruth would do line drawings to make the details easier to locate, photo on left page, drawing on right page. This project took something like two weeks with the smelly cats in my studio. I don’t know what they use as a preservative now that formaldehyde has been banned, but it sure stinks! Took weeks for that smell to leave my studio completely. Limits: they also wanted some pictures of cadavers, but I said no, no dead people in my studio!
Was I wrong? Steve would have thought so, and said go for it. But I just couldn’t wrap my mind around working with dead bodies. The cats were enough for me.
Which brings me to another weird project, dead aliens. You may remember the furor raised by the FOX TV program Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction broadcast, I think, in 1995.. As it turned out the owner of the film wanted my help in authenticating that the 16mm film actually dated from 1947. I knew that Kodak used edge marks exposed onto the film during manufacture to make dating of film footage possible. I was sent some pieces of the actual film to analyze, and the edge markings were correct for 1927, 1947, or 1967 (Kodak reuses the code every 20 years), but there was a hitch – the film was a copy, not camera original footage. This was explained because the camera original would have been a negative and copied onto another film for projection. The film was supposedly shot by an Army photographer after the crash near Roswell, New Mexico, of an unknown aircraft The film couldn’t have been shot in 1927 or 1967 because the film type (Kodak Super XX) wasn’t made in those years. So was it really filmed in 1947? I couldn’t say 100% yes or no, but my gut feeling is that it was.
While working on this project I was contacted by a producer from TF1, one of the French TV networks. Would I come to Paris to give my opinion on a live, two hour program they were doing on the film? Oui! So off to Paris I flew to appear on Jacques Pradel Presents. Pradel was sort of like the French Dan Rather, with an enormous following. They’d built a giant eye on the set with a working iris, and it opened and I walked out of it and down stairs to dramatic music to meet Pradel. We carried on a conversation that was somewhat stilted because I don’t speak French. So as he was speaking a babelfish in my ear was piping in a “simultaneous” translation. The same for him since he doesn’t speak English. Anyway, it was a blast, particularly the after party! Anyone interested in learning more about this episode of my photographic career can read the book that Mike Hesemann, Philip Mantle, and I wrote titled Beyond Roswell. My name isn’t on the book cover due to contractual problems, but I’m in there as co-author. And, no, I don’t get any royalties, that’s long since ended, so I don’t profit if you buy the book. Actually I’m still mad at the publisher. They sent me galley proofs so I could make corrections, I spent hours going over them and sent in a long list of corrections. Then the book came out without a single correction being made! These things happen and the authors get the blame. When my first book (Pro Guide: The Canon EOS System) came out, two of my photographs were printed upside-down! Of course those readers who noticed blamed me.
Is that really a dead Roswell alien being sliced and diced in that strange film? The jury is still out on that. Anyone interested can find tons of pro and con on the Internet, including an audio file of my interview with Art Bell on his old Coast to Coast FM radio program. I’ve just learned that Art died, a real loss to his many listeners over the years.
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://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-art-of-rope/