Category Archives: Men

Bob Shell: Musical Instruments

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

.

I’ve made a sort of study of musical instruments from around the world, each with its own unique sound. From India there is the sitar, best known, but also the sarod, sort of an Indian lute, and another stringed instrument called the veena. All get their unique sounds from having brass strings. (You can hear sitar on recordings by Ravi Shankar or his daughter Anoushka. Sarod by Ali Akbar Khan. Veena by S.I. Balachander.). In Japan there is the koto, a sort of horizontal harp with silk strings, which can be heard in recordings by Kimio Ito. The Chinese have a plethora of instruments with names I never learned. You can hear many in The Chieftains in China. The Chinese also use the pentatonic scale, with only five notes in an “octave,” which is why their music sounds weird to us. The pentatonic scale was developed in ancient Greece, at least so say the historians. Maybe the Greeks got it from Egypt, or even older cultures. Frustratingly we have no idea what ancient Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, etc., music sounded like since they had no musical notation. We can only guess.

We know the Greeks, Egyptians, and other ancient cultures had stringed and wind instruments because both are depicted in their art, but we don’t know what they sounded like. Of course, all cultures had drums and percussion instruments.

The tabla drums of India are made of brass with hide drumheads that can be tuned so that different parts of the drumhead produce different sounds. They are. normally played in sets of two, a smaller one with higher pitch and a larger one with lower pitch. They are played with the fingers, palms, and even elbows. To hear a modern use of tabla drums, listen to Centa Terbaik by Tasya Rosmala. All Indian instruments, so far as I know, are played sitting on the floor, usually with half-lotus or even full-lotus positioning of the legs.

The Arabs have a large drum called a dumbeg and a smaller durbeki, played with the hands or short drumsticks. The Irish drum, played with both ends of a short drumstick is the bodhran. I’m sure the Turkish drums have names, but I don’t recall them. In Japan once I was treated to a performance of traditional big Japanese drums that are mounted with the drumheads vertical, and the players go at them with sticks the size of ax handles, attacking the drums as if trying to destroy them. Very, very loud! Almost .more of an athletic event than a musical performance. The performers wear loin cloths and are very muscular. The whole thing has a very savage feel.

Of course Africa and the Caribbean are where drums, a great variety of types and sizes, are the main instruments. To hear African drums at their best listen to the Missa Luba, a native Congolese mass performed with voices and drums. I’ve heard great drum music in the Caribbean, and, of course, there are the steel drums. There is a good recording of the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Drum Band available. Surprisingly, they hail from Rochester, NY! I don’t know how they tune those steel drums, but the sound can be beautiful.

Today the Mediterranean peoples have a variety of stringed instruments played like guitars. The Arab people have their oud, a fretless gut-stringed lute/guitar. To hear an oud played well, listen to Hala Laya by The Devil’s Anvil, from the album Hard Rock From The Middle East (where you’ll also hear dumbeg and durbeki drums). The Greeks have their bouzouki, also similar to a guitar. It is my understanding that the guitar itself was developed from the lute in Spain during the Moorish period. The Irish and Scot people, who originated in the eastern Mediterranean, took the Persian/Greek bagpipe north with them, along with the pentatonic scale. I’m not sure who carried musical instruments to Russia, perhaps the Rus brought them back from their viking raids on other cultures, but once Eastern Orthodox Christianity took hold, the balalaika, with its three strings and three-sided sound box (symbolizing the Trinity) was no surprise.

But a surprise did await the Spanish conquistadores in South America. In Bolivia at lake Titicaca they found Egyptian-looking reed boats and all over northern South America they found musicians playing in the pentatonic scale. In the Andes the local musicians played pentatonic panpipes and flutes. The stringed instrument was the charango, a sort of guitar/mandolin with a sound box made from the shell of an armadillo. Along with the panpipes there was a low pitched very long flute called senka tenkana (growing nose) that made the player stretch his arms. (To hear what Inca music sounded like, listen to “El Condor Pasa” by Los Incas, who also recorded as Urubamba.) Was the pentatonic scale carried to South America by ancient Egyptian sailors, or carried the other way? Apparently there was commerce between the regions because both tobacco and cocaine have been found in Egyptian mummies, and both originate in the Americas. There was apparently cross-cultural exchange in ancient times.

I find it odd that the Native peoples of North America were so musically undeveloped. Drums and flutes seem to be about it for their instruments, and often just the drums, accompanied by chanting. The music never made it up through Central America, apparently. Of course, depending on the date, much of today’s Central America was under water and migration largely impossible.

Humans like to make noise, and in many cultures unique musical traditions were developed. Will people of the distant future still listen to today’s music?

.

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-a-stitch-in-relative-time/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Engineering, Friends of TWS, History, Music, Photography, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: Fighting Monsters

Artwork by Christopher Suciu. Copyright 2019

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #33

.

Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

.

FIGHTING MONSTERS

.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”.

I’ve been fighting a monster known as The Commonwealth of Virginia since my life was disrupted in 2003 by false criminal charges after the death of my girlfriend Marion Franklin. Have I succeeded in not becoming a monster myself? I hope so.

When you’re charged with a crime by a state, that state devotes all of its vast resources to insuring that you are convicted. Unless you are wealthy, it’s a very uneven match, and you must be prepared to lose everything, even if you win the case. Lawyers, court reporters, expert witnesses, bail bondsmen, etc., don’t work for free. Everywhere you turn, someone is standing there with their hand extended for money. I’ve never been wealthy, just comfortable, and the whole legal process bankrupted me.

Last night I had a dream. I was sitting in an auditorium somewhere with friends. We were on the front row. The Commonwealth’s Attorney (CA) came down the aisle, turned to me and asked, “Mr. Shell, did you wear sunglasses on your drive over here today?”. I said that I had. “You see,” he barked, “he admits to an illegal activity.”. I must have looked totally confused because he said, “Don’t you know that it’s illegal to wear sunglasses after you’re accused of a crime? ”

Just a dream, right? But not so far from reality. After my arrest I spent thirty days in jail before my lawyer could bail me out. When you’re out on bail it’s just like probation; you have to report to the Probation and Parole office regularly, and any infraction, no matter how minor, can get your release cancelled and you thrown back in jail. One day I was going somewhere in town, don’t recall where, when a town cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for having a burned out brake light. I had no idea the light wasn’t working. For a while it looked like the CA was going to try to revoke my bail over this! I had the light fixed immediately and carried the receipt to traffic court. Luckily, the judge dismissed the charge. But by driving with a burned out brake light, I was technically committing an illegal act while out on bail! And if they want to, they can revoke your bail over almost anything, even a parking ticket!

.

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-prostitution/

 

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

Bob Shell: Prostitution?

Tony_Ward_Studio_prostitution_Bob_Shell_article_nightlife

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #32

.

Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

.

PROSTITUTION?

.

As you know, prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the USA. Should it or other “victimless crimes” be? That’s a question I’ve pondered over for years. Basically, I’m a Libertarian. I’m in favor of the smallest possible government with the least possible intrusion into our lives. I don’t want a government that’s a surrogate parent, or a government that thinks it owns me. I don’t need a parent and no one owns me! And, so long as I harm no one else, government has no damned business intruding into my life. I’ve always felt that way, and being put in prison has only strengthened that belief. I’ve never harmed anyone, but an overbearing government put me here after sticking its long nose into what should have been private grief over an untimely death.

I see nothing wrong with prostitution so long as the woman (or man, but for the rest of this post I’ll talk about women) is doing it voluntarily, and has not been coerced into it. In Germany, and I believe in most of the European Union, prostitution is legal and regulated, with regular medical checkups. The women are businesswomen, each running her own business and paying taxes, not the property of a pimp (pimping is illegal). All are adults under their country’s definition, usually 15 or 16 depending on the country.

Have I known and patronized prostitutes? Yes and no, respectively. Some of the women who modeled for me also earned money as “escorts.”. I didn’t care so long as they were good at modeling.

When I first started photographing nude models I was young and pretty naive about things. I ran an ad in the Roanoke newspaper for models willing to pose nude, and got a number of responses. One of them was a very pretty black woman who lived in one of the big housing projects in Roanoke. On my first shoot with her I brought her to my home studio and found her to be a natural at posing. She had a great, expressive face and was slender and very flexible. After a couple of hours of shooting I told her we were through for the day and I’d take her home. She put her hands on her hips and a pout on her face and said, “Ain’tcha gonna fuck me?”. It turned out she was afraid I wouldn’t pay her unless she “serviced” me. I put her mind at ease by paying her and assuring her nothing else was expected. After that she modeled for me several times and we became pretty good friends. Last time I saw her, she was pregnant with a “trick baby.”. I never saw or heard from her again after that. I felt bad for her because I was pretty sure she had turned to prostition because there weren’t many other opportunities available to her to make money.

Other models I knew had turned to escort work just as an easy way to pick up extra money. One I knew put herself through college with modeling and escort work, and went on to a successful career. She liked and respected me because I kept my hands to myself and never hit on her for sex during or after a modeling session. We also became friends.

Back in the 60s when I was living in DC, I knew a high class “call girl.” She had a very nice apartment in an upscale building, expensive clothes, and ate very well. She kept in shape with regular exercise. Her clients were senators, other government men, lobbyists, and wealthy businessmen. She only had one client a night, and charged hefty fees for her services and her confidentiality. When I was between jobs one time she let me stay at her place for a couple of weeks and fed me. On evenings when she didn’t have a client, we sat around and listened to music and talked. We talked philosophy, about the latest books we’d read, etc., but she never talked about her work or her clients. She took her confidentiality very seriously. I knew her for a couple of years and never knew the names of any of her clients.

I used to go to Las Vegas often, but I never frequented the legal brothels outside town in the desert. Was I tempted? Not really. I’d never had to pay for sex and just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. Since there is no federal law against prostitution, and no state law in Nevada, it’s up to local jurisdictions to regulate. It’s illegal in the city of Las Vegas, but legal in a nearby county where the brothels are.

Once in Tokyo I’d gone out bar hopping with some executives from one of the big camera companies. By the end of the evening, after visiting many little bars where we drank warm saki and ate various things on skewers cooked on hibachi drills, we were holding on to each other just to stand up. As I was getting ready to take a cab back to my hotel, the senior of the two said, “Bob-san, I have arranged for a girl in your room tonight,” He saw my negative reaction and misunderstood, “Don’t worry, she is very clean girl, you won’t catch anything!”. In Japan it is an insult to turn down a gift, so I had to pretend I was pleased, and flopped into the cab and headed off to my hotel, falling asleep on the way. Shortly after I stumbled and fumbled my way back to my hotel room, there was a quiet knock on my door. I opened the door and there stood a lovely young Japanese woman, more of a girl really, since she looked like she couldn’t have been out of her teens. Even if I’d been interested, I was still pretty blotto, and doubt that I could have done anything. I explained my predicament in slurred English, and she seemed to understand. “No worry,” she said, “I tell Mr. —– that you perform very strong.”. I was grateful to her for understanding, gave her a generous tip, and sent her off into the Tokyo night, then fell across the bed and woke up hours later with a fierce hangover.

She was probably older than she looked, since Japanese men tend to like really young-looking women. When I was sending glamour and nude images to my Tokyo agent, she was always telling me my models looked too old, even though they were barely legal in the US. She wanted models who looked around 13, and I couldn’t get across to her that in the U.S.A. I could get arrested for photographing girls who looked underage, no matter how old they really were. It’s called “virtual child pornography,” and is illegal, which I think is a totally ridiculous idea. I’ve photographed 16 year old nude models in Germany, where it was totally legal, but I can’t bring those pictures into the U.S.A. They’d be illegal here. It’s sheer insanity!

.

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/bob-shell-bondage/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Erotica, Friends of TWS, History, News, Popular Culture, Women

Bob Shell: Bondage?

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #31

.

Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

.

Photographs by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

.

BONDAGE?

.

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

.

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!

.

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/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Fashion, Film, Friends of TWS, Glamour, Models, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: The Evolution of Photography

Tony_Ward_Studio_portrait_invention_of_photography_Louis_Daguerre

Louise Daguerre

 

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #30

.

Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

.

THE EVOLUTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY

.

When and where was photography invented? The standard story you will find in books on photographic history is that a Frenchman named Daguerre first fixed an image on a silver plated metal surface. The negative/positive process that became the standard for so many years is credited to William Henry Fox Talbott, an eccentric Englishman. Those are the standard stories.

Long before photography artists were using the camera obscura (literally dark room), a device which projected an image onto a surface. Someone had observed that in a darkened room with a hole in the wall an upside down image of the world outside was projected onto the wall opposite the hole. Fitting a lens into the hole allowed focusing of the image and made the image sharper. Fixing that image became an obsession of many, but none succeeded. Artists at first just tacked a sheet of paper to the wall and drew the scene. Later, the lens was mounted on the front of a portable wooden box with the glass plate at the other end. The artist would put his paper against the glass and observe and draw the image seen through the paper. At some point it was discovered that a mirror could be mounted in the box at a 45 degree angle to the lens axis and the glass plate moved to the top of the box. This made the image upright, but left to right reversed. This worked great outdoors so long as the artist was in the shade or had an assistant holding an umbrella (literally little shadow). Some brilliant person invented a leather or wood hood that surrounded the glass and blocked off excess light. I’m not sure at what point it occurred to someone to mount the box on a tripod, but the whole apparatus was then nicely portable. Thus, by the time of Leonardo most of the elements of a photographic camera already existed. The camera obscura revolutionized perspective in art and we begin to see paintings like those of Jan Vermeer that look remarkably like photographs. Although there’s no proof, I’d put money on Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura. Before photography, the camera obscura also became a popular attraction. There is a beautifully preserved Victorian one at Hove/Brighton on the Sussex coast. It is a round building with a big lens on top that projects a wonderful panorama of the surrounding. landscape onto a big bowl-shaped screen that you walk around and look down into. If you’re in the area, it is well worth seeing.

Who solved the problem of capturing the projected image chemically rather than artistically? In Russia you will be told that photography is a Russian invention. In Brazil you will hear that it is a Brazilian invention. And in China … And so on. maybe a lot of folks got the idea. I’ve seen pictures of ancient Chinese plates that have images on them looking for all the world like photographs, so maybe photography is much older than we’re taught in class. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone found photographic images in an Egyptian tomb. There’s an old saying: There’s nothing new under the sun.

.

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/bob-shell-family-of-photographers/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Engineering, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Portraiture, Science