Category Archives: History

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #13

Portrait of Karen Boyle by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Karen Boyle by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Letters From Prison: Part 13, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


As promised, the story of PIC magazine. PIC, was short for People In Camera, and was started in the early 80s by Chris Knight as a sort of hobby. Captain Christopher Knight, to give him his proper title was an almost stereotypical rich English eccentric. He lived in a castle in Kent (Cooling Castle), had a full-time staff of falconers to care for his hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons, all of which spent most of their time on wooden perches in the castle courtyard. Chris was the scion of a family that owned fleets of container ships, which he and his brother had inherited. He was also a pretty darned good photographer, specializing in photos of pretty women. There was an old barn on the castle grounds that he’d had wired up and turned into an exceptionally well outfitted studio. He brought professional models from London for his own shoots and worked with a group of photographers who conducted workshops there and on the castle grounds. The photo of Karen Boyle, that year’s Miss Jamaica, that graced the splash page of my old website (and may still be up) was taken in one of the castle’s ruined towers in the summer of 1993. Anyway, I’d somehow met Chris, I don’t remember where, and was the invited up to the castle for a photo shoot and chat. Chris wanted to talk to me because PIC had been in the red for years, and as he said, was eating up all his “pocket money.”. We talked, he hired me as a consultant, and had the magazine’s books sent over to me. The problem was obvious when I looked over the books. He was grossly overstaffed, and was paying people high salaries for doing very little. I advised him to make some serious staff cuts, which made me very unpopular with those who got the axe, but in a short while the magazine was showing a small profit. Chris didn’t care if it made a lot of money, he just didn’t want it to keep on losing money.

One day I was in my office at home (I always worked from home) and got a call from a solicitor (British for lawyer) in London. It seemed that Chris had had a heart attack, and after hanging on for a week in hospital had died. But you could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me that Chris had rewritten his will during that week and had left PIC to me for a very nominal sum if I wanted it. Wow, biggest surprise of my life! I decided to give it a go even though running a magazine by “remote control” from the USA presented some major challenges. For most of 1994 I was essentially commuting between Radford and London. PIC originally had it’s offices in the grimy old English city of Rochester. I didn’t want to go up there, so I moved everything down to Hove on the south coast, and borrowed a large office from Hove Foto Books, my English book publisher, for a few months until we found a London office near Kings Cross, London. I realized at some point that trying to run a magazine in the UK while holding together my American commitments was just about impossible. Plus, we had a serious cash flow problem. On paper we were looking good, but many advertisers simply weren’t paying their bills. Not just little guys either, but some major companies were holding onto our invoices for six months or more. Meanwhile we had printing, postage, salaries, etc., that had to be paid right then. Then, real disaster struck! Over the long Christmas holiday a water pipe on the top floor burst, flooding our office and ruining things. The bottom line was that I could not go on pouring thousands of pounds of my own money in every month. Unlike Chris my resources had rather tight limits. So I had to make the very painful decision at the end of 1994 to shut the magazine down.

It was great while it lasted and I was very proud of the “book” (as magazines are called inside the business). We won an international design award for one cover, by the amazing Japanese photographer Hiroshi Nonami. The president of Olympus in the UK wrote to me to say that my cover portrait of model Nicolle Gray was the finest portrait he had ever seen. I was gratified by such positive feedback. I still own rights to the PIC name and logo and hoped to one day relaunch it. If I ever do it will most likely be as a webzine.

Having to close that magazine was like losing a child.

I did meet some very interesting people during that time period. Anyone from the UK reading this and old enough will probably recognize the name Keith Johnson, founder of Keith Johnson Photographic, later just called KJP, which was the largest chain of photo shops in the. UK. By 1994 he had sold the company and moved to his vineyards and winery in Sussex, where he was producing a very nice wine called Sussex Gold. He invited me, Michael Barrington-Martin and Bob Dove, two of the PIC writers there for a day. Keith had opened a restaurant there and had a nice big meeting room. We discussed having some photo workshops there, but that never came to pass. I had taught some workshops in London by then as well as in Germany, and was looking to expand, but things just didn’t work as well over there. The logistics were horrific and ate up any profit. Eventually, I settled down to the USA and Caribbean, where the logistical problems were fewer. My outdoor workshops were held here in Virginia on forest land I owned, in Florida on St. Pete Beach and Clearwater, and in Nevada at the Valley of Fire State Park. In the Caribbean I used beaches and private estates on St. Thomas, USVI. I had people from Europe and Japan come to these, which was easier than taking my show to them. I also conducted many studio workshops in my Radford studio, which had been specifically set up for teaching. It was big enough (35 x 80 feet) to have multiple sets active at the same time. Of course, I lost my studio when I was convicted, along with practically everything else…..


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 Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Friends of TWS, Men, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture

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, Book Reviews, Documentary, Erotica, Friends of TWS, Men, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

A.H. Scott: Who’s Trippin?


Illustration by Christopher Suciu, Copyright 2018



Commentary by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2018


Illustration by Christopher Suciu, Copyright 2018


Who’s Trippin?



Tripped, tricked and mentally flipped

Hold on, hang tight

Everything is catapulted in a callous haze and diabolical sight



Myths are truths and truths are myths, as lovers and haters clash with pith

On the way forward, history has been

Roped into a lavish can, we are in for a Hellbound ride

Our future is in someone else’s hands, but too small to hold us all

No bell coming your way, cuz’ the only ringing in your ears and brain is from the wicked games you play



Instinct of the invincible is the armor he places on

No bad weather of storms or tears of despair for him



Tip-toeing through the tulips ain’t the way to go

Here comes a damned steamroller eviscerating daisies

Earth’s survival on the scales takes a backseat to insanity




Wising to go back to decades past, when linen was color so pure

Heils replacing hails are becoming the normal fare

In over our heads, we are cluelessly led

Time is a thing that’s never down for a king, for he thrives on platitudes that you sing

Easing along with obliviousness as a he’s hitting his stride



Hands to the heavens in a sinner’s cynical prayer

Over yonder, the contempt for the frog is ever so clear in the cracked melting pot

Under Old Glory, hand to chest in allegiance

Status quo under a Novocain drip of demagoguery

Ease into a coffin of chaos



Who’s trippin’?

First letter holds all the cards, for it is who he is by a million miles and yards

Where ya’ crown be?

He is King of the Swamp Creatures

What’s his delight?

Reality bites!!



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


Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Friends of TWS, News, Poetry, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #11


Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018


Letters From Prison: Part 11, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


As an observer of the world and all its wonders, I am very concerned that we are such poor stewards of this “jumpin’ green sphere.” (as Lord Buckley called it.). Annyone who persists in denying climate change is just not paying attention. The Arctic ice cap is melting! Now people seem to think that only concerns polar bears and Eskimos, but it should seriously concern us all. All of that ice is FRESH WATER, man! Once enough fresh water floods into the Laurentian Sea and desalinates it, this will seriously affect the temperature differential of the Atlantic that drives the major currents (to say nothing about what it will do to the fish). The only reason that northern Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, Iceland, etc., are habitable is the North Atlantic Current, which pumps warm water (and air) up from the tropics and warms things up for the people there. Take away that current, have it loop farther south, or greatly weaken it, and you have Siberia! Sure, people do live in Siberia, but they can’t grow their food there. Shut off the North Atlantic Current and most of Europe becomes too cold for crops. Keep the current shut down and you have a new Ice Age (this same effect causes all ice ages) and it will come to that if the Arctic keeps melting. It’s probably far too late to stop the melting, if we even could.

All that being said, I’m not convinced that we caused this. Many blame us and our addiction to burning fossil fuels, but ice ages are cyclical, and we weren’t around in significant numbers before the last big one, and most likely not around at all for most of them. So I doubt we’re the sole cause of the coming one; but we may well have nudged it sooner; it would have. happened regardless. Of course what’s happening in the northern hemisphere is also happening in the southern, and probably with similar effects. I know a lot less about ocean currents in southern oceans. But the truth, as illogical as it may seem at first, is that global warming at the surface causes and precedes ice ages. And we should be preparing ourselves for this. Most scientists who study the past are “gradualists” who believe that all earth changes take a long time. Their opposites are “catastrophists” who believe that some changes can be sudden. There is evidence accumulating that the last big ice age may have arrived pretty suddenly, perhaps in just one season. Maybe even faster. The mammoths found in the permafrost of Siberia show signs of being flash frozen, and scientists from Japan believe they can extract viable sperm from one and use it to artificially inseminate an elephant to produce an elephant/mammoth hybrid from which they can breed a new herd of mammoths. The famous Beresovka mammoth was killed and frozen so fast that it was still chewing on its last meal. That didn’t happen gradually! Slow freezing allows ice crystals to form inside cells, and those crystals tear up the complex cellular machinery and burst the cell walls, basically reducing tissue to mush. Flash freezing, as Clarence Birdseye discovered, preserves cellular structure, so your frozen foods aren’t mush. Mammoths have been found so fresh that people have dined on mammoth steaks! Gradualism be damned!

The movie The Day After Tomorrow used this idea to good effect, and it was based on Whitley Strieber’s book The Coming Global Superstorm, where I first encountered these ideas. I’ve since read much on the subject, and I’m convinced.

What’s this got to do with photography? you may ask. Well, I didn’t only photograph unclad females. In fact, the majority of my stock photography sales have been of landscapes and nature pictures. As I mentioned before, I’m (through Shutterbug) one of the founders of NANPA, the North American Nature Photographers Association, and was Technical Editor of Outdoor and Nature Photography magazine. I care about the natural world deeply. If I’m wrong about the coming ice age, and I truly hope I am, I’d like to see the natural world be around for future generations to love, and photograph. Weather isn’t the only threat to the natural world, we are destroying it at a ridiculous speed. There is nothing more absurd than cutting down forests to raise more cattle for our hamburgers, yet we’re doing it at an alarming rate. Those forests make the oxygen we breathe! Do we want to eat our burgers while sucking on a tube from an oxygen tank?


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 Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Science, Travel

Upcoming Exhibitions: Stanek Gallery


Scene of the Crime on Exhibit at Stanek Gallery



A picture entitled, “Scene of the Crime” will be part of a group  exhibit entitled: People, Places & Things at Stanek Gallery, 242 North 3rd Street in Philadelphia. The opening reception is  this coming Friday, May 4th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.  This picture is part of a series of tableaux vivants created by Tony Ward between the years 1993 to 2000.  This will be the first time the artist exhibits this particular body of work in Philadelphia, where the pictures resulted in his second monograph, Tableaux Vivants, Edition Stemmle. Zurich, Switzerland, fpublished in  2000.  There are very limited editions of these vintage silver prints available and are now being offered for the first time to collectors at Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia.  In 2005,  “The Figure” another picture from the series sold (modern print 42″ x 62″) at an exhibit in  Paris to a collector from London for $18,000 dollars, the highest price paid for a single work by Tony Ward to date.


The Figure


To learn more about Tony Ward’s tableaux vivants, click here: visit this page


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