Category Archives: Men

Ed Simmons: Venice Beach Trashed

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Photography and Text by Ed Simmons, Copyright 2018

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VENICE BEACH TRASHED

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OK, like the way most things go in Venice, we should hope too that this is transitory. God only knows it ain’t normal this blight. Walk out onto the sand, step in someone’s shit, maybe get stuck by a syringe flung out from someone’s tent.  This group shows literally no respect. For half a century I’ve floated in and out of  Venice Beach, California.  LA’s ghetto on the sand. I’ve watched  it change. Every time it seems when an uproar over one group is raised and the group gets run out, something worse always fills the vacuum.  What i’m seeing today, for tomorrow is scary.

House keeping on the sand.  Yeah, thats right. Weekly maid service for the homeless. What happens each Friday, people camped out on the sand, camped out on most all the side alleys connecting the Speedway to the Ocean Front Walk.  They gather up whatever belongings they wish to keep, then move it up and out of the way, while waiting for the mess they don’t want to be taken away.  So, I wonder whether this “Every Friday Morning Venice Beach Cleanup Routine” might just be feeding a vicious cycle of co-dependency.  These kooks, not cleaning up their own mess, leaving their trash all over the side streets and sand, should be fined handsomely, then run out of town. 

Certainly what we’re seeing here is a public health problem. However, I’m guessing some of this situation could get resolved soon.  After years of blocking chainstores from occupying any boardwalk storefront space, Starbucks is helping out by contributing some decent restroom facilities.  Lord knows, the public bathrooms haven’t been able to handle the homeless load.

In other news, Snapchat employees moved in to town.  The rents went up and the price for a regular cup of coffee went up too. I recently went with a friend for some lunch. New management at an old spot set in. We ordered a couple chicken enchalada’s, each with rice and beans, no chips, no salsa, no service, no cheese, $26 bucks, yes,… $26.00 bucks! I said no cheese on the beans! With Snap Inc. grabbing up all the space on market street, acquiring so many of the storefronts/properties along the boardwalk, prices for everything, everywhere across town now seem to be double what they used to be! They ran the artists out. A  few were able to find other spaces, but Market Street was gutted, for years this Venice Street was filled with studios and galleries. Well that ended quick. Snapchat has decided maybe it be better now to move their urban campus to the Santa Monica Airport. It goes without saying things are really hurting here in this little gem of a beach town. I’m praying for life to get better, not continuing to get worse.

Ya really gotta watch your bike in Venice Beach.  Seems a lot of wrenching goes on down by the Ocean Front Walk. One could lose a wheel or a seat as fast as a blink of an eye. Early in the morning, right after the first of the month, out on the boardwalk riding, you see signs that people out here been spinning in circles all night, all sprung, so much random stuff flung everywhere. Its sad. Seems anymore all of this is just accepted as normal. ITS NOT!

 Please don’t let me be misunderstood.  I’ve at times come back to Venice homeless too.  Almost anyone can be chopped off at the knees. The Venice Beach community has always had compassion for the down and out. A diverse community of locals, some of whom I’ve known near 40 years in Dogtown  all have a home. I know this guy, this old friend is a savant. I was hanging with him just the other day. We were talking about all this mess left out all around his home. You don’t see any tents pitched anywhere near his spot. His oasis. He keeps it clean. So we were talking, I told him my birthday was coming up in a few days. That I was turning 66. He said “your a Dragon”. I said yes, a Water Dragon. His eyes lit up.  He said “interesting you know that, I  then said my Mother was an Earth Dragon”. Then we started talking about the order of elements in the  Chinese Astrological Chart and how it represented a cyclical world, then “The Boy” took off on an oratory  of both Chinese Astrology, the Zodiac,  then finished up with a Miles Davis primer.  That old friend I admire. He ain’t letting go of his Venice Beach.  Much respect for him! 

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http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/ed-simmons-jay-adams-local-hero/

Ed Simmons: Self Portrait. Copyright 2018

About The Author: Ed Simmons is a documentary photographer and assistant to Tony Ward, based in Los Angeles, California. To access additional articles by Ed Simmons, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/ed-simmons-jay-adams-local-hero/

Also posted in Affiliates, Announcements, Architecture, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Engineering, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Travel

Bob Shell: Family of Photographers

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #29

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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FAMILY OF PHOTOGRAPHERS

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Maybe photography is in the genes. My father was an avid photographer, and my sister and I both got the bug. One of my great uncles, Hank Jewell, was pretty famous as a photographer in southwest Virginia in the late 1800s and early 20th century. One of his cameras is on display in the historical museum in Christiansburg, Virginia. He took the famous photograph of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler. The historical society has the “outtakes” from this session, all on glass plates about 4 x 5 inches. Unfortunately, when Hank died his family had no appreciation of the value of his work and hauled all his negatives to the dump. By the time historians heard, it was too late, since it had rained several times. Sad and stupid! Reminds me of how C. S. Lewis’s brother took all of C. S.’s papers out back of the house after his death and built a bonfire of them. Luckily, some people got there and put out the fire before all was consumed. Some Lewis stories now exist only in fragmentary form because of this act of amazing stupidity.

Paper, after all, is a fugitive medium for us to store our memories upon. For many years archeologists believed that the Phoenicians had no written language. Then it was discovered that they did, only they wrote on paper. Their climate didn’t preserve paper, unlike the arid climate in Egypt. No one knows what they wrote, but we’ve lost it all to a damp climate.

Personally, I’m one more of those who believe there was a highly advanced civilization on earth before the last ice age, which obliterated almost all traces. I think this is the real explanation for most of those mysteries discussed on TV shows like the mostly absurd “Ancient Aliens.” Ockham’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

Anyway, as usual I’ve gone off on a tangent. I was talking about Uncle Hank’s photography. I never knew him, but my father knew him well. As did Doug Lester, one of the photographers who influenced me as I was learning. Doug and his wife Ruth owned Lester’s Foto Shop on Main Street in Christiansburg for many years. Doug knew more about photography than any two other photographers I knew then. I used to hang around the shop and talk photography with him between customers. He was a diehard Rolleiflex partisan; used them for his photography and sold them in his shop. He influenced me to trade in my Bronica S2a outfit for a Rolleiflex SL66, probably the finest camera I ever owned in terms of build quality. And the Zeiss lenses for the system were simply awesome. The major drawback of this camera (besides high price) was the big focal plane shutter, which could only synchronize with electronic flash at 1/30 second or slower. In the studio that was no problem, but it got in the way of outdoor fill flash. Rollei offered three lenses, 50, 80, and 150 with built-in leaf shutters with synchronized shutter speeds up to 1/500 second to get around this, but they were very expensive. Eventually I tracked down a used 150 that I could afford and used it for several years. But, by then Rollei had abandoned the SL66 system in favor of the SLX and its successors, offering the same great lenses in updated multicoated versions with electronic leaf shutters that synchronized with flash at all shutter speeds. I started with an SL6006 that I bought broken and rebuilt, and later moved to the SL6008i system. In addition to the Zeiss lenses, Rollei offered some Schneider-Kreutznach lenses, like the 80mm f/2 that I loved. Unfortunately, Rollei never caught up to the digital revolution and I think they’re gone now. I sold my Rollei equipment around 2005, when it still had substantial value, to raise money to put into lawyers’ pockets. I guess I’m lucky in a way since I sold my film cameras when they still had value, even if I was forced to sell to pay legal bills. By 2004 I was essentially a digital photographer, using Canon EOS 10D and Nikon D100 cameras. Why both incompatible systems? Simply that Canon and Nikon both sent me cameras and lenses for editorial evaluation, and I liked both of them. While I was with Shutterbug I never had to buy cameras. After Shutterbug terminated my contract “due to the accusations” I broke down and bought an EOS 10D. I still have it, although it’s in storage. Very fine camera; I shot all of the photos for several books with it. For most editorial work you simply don’t need massive megapixels. The 10D is a six megapixel camera, and that’s plenty for any magazine or book page (most of the photos for my Erotic Bondage book were made with the EOS 10D). For most of my work, today’s cameras with 24 or more megapixels would simply be memory hogs.

When I first got really serious about making a living from writing about photography, my old friend Lief Erickson said, “Well, buddy boy, you must realise that in this business you can either have fame OR fortune.”. Despite his nom de guerre, Lief was 100% English, which is why I wrote realise and not realize, and I’d first met him in the 70s when he was writing for a great old magazine called Camera 35. I’d written him a letter about one of his articles, and he had responded with a long and philosophical letter. We began a correspondence that lasted several years until I met him in NYC at one of the Photo + Expo trade shows at the Javits Center. We talked there and I invited him to start writing for me at Shutterbug. We developed a great working relationship. I’d call him with a ghost of an idea and he’d take it and run with it and invariably deliver a fine, polished article. Probably never what I would have done with that same ghost of an idea, but always excellent. I hardly ever had to edit his work, and when I did it was always for length, to make the article fit the available space. Writing for magazines is very different from writing. for books. because books usually don’t have strict space limits. When I told one of my writers that I needed 2,000 words, I expected exactly 2,000 words. When I had to shorten an article from Lief, or anyone else, it was because a last-minute ad sale had eaten into the allotted editorial space. That happens often in the magazine business.

Lief actually died on assignment for me. He had a heart attack on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to a press conference I’d asked him to attend in my stead because I couldn’t come up to NYC right then. He’d had heart trouble for years, but I never thought I’d lose him like that. Lief was a mystic/philosopher as well as photographer, and I loved talking to him more than almost anyone else I’ve met in the business often about things having nothing to do with photography.

Anyway, fame or fortune? I ended up with fame, within the photo industry at least. I sure didn’t wind up with fortune. But it was nice within the insular photo industry to be well known. Sometimes I wanted to be anonymous at trade shows, so I’d order two name badges, one in my name and one in the name Fritz Klages. People would walk up, look at my face. then see the name badge and do a double take. “Bob Shell? For some reason people keep telling me we look alike!”

One time at Photo + I was walking around on the trade show floor when several young men approached me. One had a copy of my Mamiya book and asked me to autograph it for him. I did, and handed it back to him. He looked at what I’d written and said, “Wow, man, thanks! Wow, you’re famous, man! Wow!”. I guess my head swelled several sizes, and I probably couldn’t have gotten my hat on just then.

I considered the photo trade shows great fun, particularly the mother of all trade shows, photokina. (Yes, it’s spelled with a lower case “p.”. I don’t know why, but the people who run it insist that it be spelled that way.). This show is enormous, filling multiple buildings of the big Messe complex in Cologne, Germany. Everyone who is anyone in the world of photography comes. I always took advantage of the opportunity to meet people, and become friends with many. And there are some really fine people in the business; for example Lino Manfrotto, whose name you’ve probably seen on tripods and other photo accessories. Lino was a commercial photographer in Italy and was unhappy with the quality of the available light stands, so he designed and built his own

Other photographers saw them in his studio and wanted their own, so Lino started making and selling them. In a few years this business had grown far beyond his photography business, and he’d branched out into tripods and a line of studio accessories you will find today in most studios worldwide. Lino died not long ago, but his son Abramo keeps the family business going. Today the company also makes a line of display fixtures used by department stores. I will always cherish my memories of visiting Lino’s factory complex with him as tour guide and a trip to Venice with Abramo.

At photokina you also run into the real “characters” of the business. One of them is Ken (Sir Kenneth) Corfield, originator of the Periflex, a camera styled somewhat like an older, pre-M series Leica, but unique in that you focused through a small periscope atop the camera, which was retracted before taking the picture. Strange, but it worked. The Periflex was also almost unique in being manufactured in Ireland. Can you name the other camera made in Ireland, made by Timex?

Well, Ken Cornfield also fathered the Corfield 66, an inexpensive medium format SLR. Last time I saw Ken, he was laughing at the silly prices collectors were paying for those. Not that it was a bad camera, just an inexpensive one originally.

The photo magazine business today sure isn’t what it was. Most of the great old magazines are long gone; Modern Photography, PhotoGRAPHIC, Camera, Studio Photography, Camera 35, and many more whose names I’ve forgotten. And I just learned today that Shutterbug has been sold yet again, and the new owners let three of our best people go and have cut back to six issues a year! And to think we once published every two weeks! But these are signs of the times, I guess. As George Harrison sang, All Things Must Pass…

Maybe printed magazines have seen their day, and will go their way into history. But for me the day the last printed magazine rolls off the presses will be a sad day, indeed.

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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://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-optics-photography/

 

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Vote: November 6, 2016

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Vote! November 6, 2018

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Repost: Larry Fink – Interview

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LARRY FINK: INTERVIEW

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Editor’s Note: Larry Fink: The Boxing Photographs is presently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from August 11, 2018 – January 1, 2019. The interview between Tony Ward and Larry Fink took place in January of 2013.

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TW: Taking pictures for Conde Nast titles such as Vanity Fair and W  is an aspiration for many photographers around the world. What is your advice to those photographers that share similar goals and aspirations?

L.F.

Watch out for what you ask for….. it might ask more from your soul than you would be comfortable with giving up…

TW: Are you specifically referring to contractual agreements with the publishing house? Work for hire agreements and the like? When a photographer shoots for Conde Nast, who owns the rights to the picture?

L.F.

Never have I given my copyright to anyone…….. but some other more desperate types have sold the apple with the tree…

TW: You’ve photographed a large variety of people from all walks of life over the course of your career; where do you draw your inspiration from these days?………

L.F.

..   Inspiration comes  with  breakfast….. and an obsessive  need to merge within  the soul of each who I am attracted to..   the  shape of the pictures  is constructed within the moment of impulse…

TW: What was the most fun assignment you’ve ever worked on?  What was the worst?

L.F.

Over the course of 56 years  there have been many assignments which were  fun  but the  deeper truth is that each and any  job I have ever taken and done has been vital to my life and craft…working under contract  with Vanity Fair was a  very good time…

TW: Which photographers did you look up to when you were in your teens and first learning the craft?  Who do you admire today? 

LF.

Henri Cartier Bresson… Simpson  Kalisher,,, Bruce Davidson..  Lisette Model,  Brassai…

Todays workers could be…Gilles Peress…. Mitch Epstein …,  Debbie Flemming Caffery   

TW: How did your growing up influence the way you frame a shot?  Were your parents artistic and teach you to interpret the world through composition and structure, via the lens of a camera?

LF.

I was reared by leftist parents with a deep if  rigid appreciation of  art and music …….  It was of great inspiration to be  cuddled within culture…

TW: Henri Cartier Bresson was known for the “decisive moment”. In your picture making, the “indecisive moment” seems to be your hallmark.  Which visual standards must be met before you decide to make a print for the world to see?

LF.

Indecisive is not something that I am known for and if the images  are such then they fail… visual standards  are fleeting and fixed…. The answer to the question is a dissertation  of  which I will not write here.

TW: During your recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania you mentioned you were beginning to explore the use of the digital camera?  How will the new medium transform your interpretations of new ideas, concepts or assignments?

LF.      

Creative  visual promiscuity…….  Is not a sin……… it  opens up my  photographic eyes by its ease of experimental  rendering ..

TW: You’ve been teaching at Bard for decades: what do you find most rewarding or challenging with regards to the instructor/student classroom experience?.

LF:

………………………………………….I love kids and fear for the future of culture amongst other things…..      I teach in order to contribute to the richness of life experience… I teach in order to learn ..   each student is a lesson…

TW: You’ve accomplished so much in your storied career, from one man shows at the Museum of Modern art, to the glossy editorial pages of W and Vanity Fair: what is the next big goal or desire for Larry Fink in 2013?

LF.

I have no goals.  In the beginning we wished for revolution .. a new spirit for man… but we have not gone there in fact.  We here in the USA are the bastion of  reaction and art is  dominated by commerce not soul…… the essential goals have been squelched.

However each picture has the possibility of being a miracle  even if it  is not  often received as such…. Of course, I have projects and books in mind  One thing which is interesting as well.. as  I have been  respected I have not had a retrospective show in a major venue in my country the USA…..    I would love to do that before I die. That said  my health is sound so we have time.

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Biography

​Besides working as a professional photographer for over fifty-five years, Larry Fink has had one-man shows at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art amongst others. On the European continent, he has had one-man shows at the Musee de l’Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Musee de la Photographie in Charleroi, Belgium. Recently, in the last three years, he had a traveling retrospective shown in six different Spanish museums. He was awarded the “Best of Show” for an exhibition curated by Christian Caujolle at the Arles Festival of Photograph in France. As far as being represented in group shows, the list is longer than the eye can see. Most recently, Larry has been awarded the
2015 International Center for Photography (ICP) Infinity Award for Lifetime Fine Art Photography. He has also been awarded two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Photography Fellowships. He has been teaching for over fifty-two years, with professorial positions held at Yale University, Cooper Union, and lastly at Bard College, where he is an honored professor. 
Larry’s first monograph, the seminal Social Graces (Aperture, 1984) left a lasting impression in the photographic community. There have been twelve other monographs with the subject matter crossing the class barrier in unexpected ways. Two of his most recently published books were on several “Best Of” lists of the year: The Beats published by Artiere /powerhouse andLarry Fink on Composition and Improvisation published by Aperture. His most recent book is Opening the Sky, published by Stanley / Barker. As an editorial photographer, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair have been amongst a long list of accounts.
 
Coming early 2017, Fink On Warhol: New York Photographs of the 1960s, featuring rare photographs of Andy Warhol and his friends at the Factory interspersed with street scenes and the political atmosphere of 1960s New York. Additionally, he is currently working on a massive retrospective book to be published by the University of Texas Press. Grafiche dell’Artiere in Bologna will make the exquisite prints for the book..

To access Larry Fink’s web site, click herehttp://www.larryfinkphotography.com/

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All Rights Reserved. Copyright, Larry Fink, 2018.

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Bob Shell: Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make

 

 

 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #27

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Photography by Julie Chu, Aja Butane, Katherine Jania & Zoe, Copyright 2018

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Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage.

We’ve all heard that old saying, but where does it come from? It’s the beginning of the last stanza of the poem “To Althea, from Prison” written in 1642 by Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned in Gatehouse Prison. His crime? He had petitioned to have the 1640 Clergy Act annulled. Today, no one knows for certain who Althea was, or if she was even real, but she lives on in that romantic poem. BTW, the full stanza goes:

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.

If you want to read the whole poem, it’s on Wikipedia. Someone set the lyrics to music, and Dave Swarbrick does an excellent version on Fairport Convention’s album Nine. I was fortunate enough to be photographing Dave on stage during my music photographer days and lost all interest in photography when he launched into the fiddle intro to Althea (I say fiddle, but I believe Dave was playing a viola that night). I learned years later that Dave was struggling with hearing loss, probably from all those years on stage in front of giant amplifiers. I’m partially deaf today in my right ear, the one that was usually toward the amps when I was on stage right. Fairport was opening for Traffic on that early 70s tour, and, for my money put on a better show.

But back to poor Richard pining for Althea through his bars. Let me tell you something, Richard. Stone walls (or concrete today) do a pretty damned effective prison make!

Modern prisons are modular structures made of interlocking precast concrete slabs. The slabs are lifted into place with cranes during construction. You may find signs that the slabs were lying flat at one time in the form of muddy boot prints going across walls that no one bothered to clean off. These “build a prison kits” go together quickly, almost like building with Lego blocks. Once finished they generally are T-shaped buildings, with each arm of the T being a “pod” with cells on three sides, plus showers, and a flat concrete floor with stainless steel tables with attached seats anchored to the floor. Cells generally are about 8 x 12 feet on the inside with the door on one of the 8 foot walls and a small window on the other. Except that the designers of the prison I’m in right now decided to omit the windows. Inside each cell are two bunks attached to the walls, a very small table attached to a wall with one or two seats, also attached to the wall, and a one-piece stainless steel sink/toilet, also attached to a wall. Nothing movable! I’ve been in four different Virginia prisons in the last ten years, and they’re pretty much the same with minor variations. Storage space for personal belongings in cells is very limited, usually an under-bed locker, either welded to the bottom bunk or sliding on the floor so it can be pushed under the bottom bunk. Speaking of bunks, they’re steel slabs. We are given “mattresses” for comfort, two-inch thick foam pads that are more like yoga mats than real mattresses. I used to have a “medical mattress” prescribed by a DOC doctor, but the DOC eliminated them several years ago. It was about six inches thick and very comfortable. I guess they don’t want us to be comfortable. I’m certainly not. I’m writing this at four in the morning, unable to sleep, an all too common problem here. For towels or whatever there are two “hooks” on one wall. These are straight metal rods about three inches long with a ball on the end that fits into a socket attached to the wall. The ball is a friction fit into the socket, so if you put too much weight on it, it collapses. Why? “We don’t want no hangings.”

I really don’t understand what anyone thinks they’re accomplishing by warehousing people this way. They no longer call these places prisons. Now they’re “Correctional Centers.”. I guess the word “prison” has become non-PC. But I can tell you from personal experience that damn little correction takes place. Oh, they have programs and classes, they will tell you. I’ve “been down” ten years as of last September and have yet to be offered a seat in one of those programs or classes. I’ve certainly not been rehabilitated! Nor did I need to be. I was doing just fine, making a good living from photography and writing, and at the peak of my career. And the state brought my whole life crashing down over events that never even happened except in the imagination of an incompetent quack of a medical examiner. I’ve posted details at www.bobshelltruth.com under News Updates.

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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-whats-wrong-with-the-american-justice-system/

 

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