Category Archives: News

Bob Shell: Old Age and Taxes

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

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 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #25

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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OLD AGE AND TAXES

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Taxes: we all hate ’em, but we all pay ’em. Right? I’ve recently read an article about Sweden, where they’re getting rid of property taxes. They’ve reasoned that as long as the state can force you to pay property taxes, and take your property if you don’t pay them, no one can really own property. I’ve always felt that way. Once I buy and pay for something, it should be mine, period! Well, now it’s darned nice to find a country’s government agreeing with me.

I’ve watched too many poor rural people forced to sell homes and farms that have been in families for generations because of “yuppification” of rural areas and great increases in property taxes. And cities and towns are the same. Taxes on the house I bought in the early 90s are now more than five times what they were when I bought the place. To me, that’s just unreasonable. Of course, as long as I’m in prison I pay no taxes on property, but when I get out I’ll get a whopping bill for back taxes! A bill I sure won’t be able to pay.

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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The state, by prosecuting me, destroyed my thriving photography and writing business. I lost my studio and other things too numerous to count. When I get out I’ll have no business, no income. Sure, I’ll get Social Security, but that won’t be much, since I’ve been removed from the workforce for ten years. I don’t know how I’ll live, much less pay taxes. I hate to play the age card, but I’m 71 now. Maybe after a certain age people should be exempt from paying taxes. Or at least old people who are forced to try to live on Social Security and other government benefits. Is that unreasonable?

Unfortunately, the article I read didn’t say how Sweden plans to make this work. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more details.

When you think about it, property taxes are a throwback to the old feudal system where the king or lord owned everything and the serf paid dearly for the right to scrabble a living from a little plot of land. So long as the local government can take your property for nonpayment of taxes, you don’t own that property, they do!

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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I saw a more honest version of all this when I was in Malaysia. I asked one of our hosts how expensive it would be to buy property there, because I’d noticed that a lot of British retirees lived there (it used to be a British colony). She looked at me like I’d asked an incredibly stupid question, and explained that it is impossible to buy land there, because all belongs to the King. When she saw my puzzlement, she explained that you get a 99 year lease from the government or buy out an existing lease. Sounded very strange until I thought about it and realized that their system really isn’t that different, just more honest.

I loved Malaysia, and had considered retiring there before my legal nightmare began. Unless things have changed a lot since I was there, you can live well very cheaply.

In fact, I’d looked into several countries for inexpensive retirement locations. I bought two books: Living Abroad in Belize and Living Abroad in Costa Rica, and studied both. Belize has the advantage of having English as its official language, and a very English culture (it, too, used to be a British colony, British Honduras). But Costa Rica is home to a large expat American population, so both have their appeals. It would seem that I could live comfortably in either on my Social Security and the occasional writing or photography gig. If I ever get out of here, I’ll look into these options more seriously.

But back to taxes. In the years when I was running a portrait and wedding studio combined with a camera shop I was forced to collect sales tax. I hated that, because I had no desire to be a tax collector and considered being forced to a violation of the constitutional protection against involuntary servitude. One year, sick and tired of doing the state’s work for them at far below minimum wage, I sent them a bill for my services as a tax collector. Man, that got them upset! They sent me threatening letters, one after another. I just ignored them, and in time they stopped bothering me.

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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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-car-reviews-in-a-photo-magazine/

 

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture

Paul Manafort: Guilty

Artwork by Thomcat23 for Tony Ward Studio, Copyright 2018. Paul Manafort: Guilty

Artwork by Thomcat23 for Tony Ward Studio, Copyright 2018.

 

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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Artwork by Thomcat 23, Copyright 2018

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Paul Manafort’s plea agreement filed on September 14, 2018 came as a surprise to some, but not by any of the folks that have been following this shady character since he entered the political arena as a “non-paid” campaign manager during  45’s rise to power.  Let’s not forget, 45 assured the American public that he would only hire the best and the brightest.  So far he has delivered on finding the best criminal minds he could find. 

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PLEA AGREEMENT

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To see more political artwork by Thomcat 23, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-by-george-hes-got-it/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Current Events, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture

Advertisement: First Manhattan Mortgage, LLC

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First Manhattan Mortgage LLC

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Beach Report: Last Days of Summer

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Margate City, New Jersey

 

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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BEACH REPORT: LAST DAYS OF SUMMER

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Like most folks that visit the Jersey Shore during the summer months, I usually visit Margate City or other shore points between  the Memorial and Labor Day weekends, when thousands of people from Philadelphia and the surrounding area flock to various New Jersey shore points to enjoy the sun and the surf.  In recent years, there has been much concern about the New Jersey shoreline as it has taken a beating over the years because of the increase in violent tropical storms that continue to erode the beaches all along the New Jersey coastline.  The Army Corps of Engineers were brought in to fix the beach erosion crisis that emerged after hurricane Katrina, but a small pocket of resistance to the corps efforts surfaced in the borough of Margate City, New Jersey.  A group of wealthy property owners with multi million dollar investments on or close to the beach in Margate organized a legal effort to fight against an order by then Governor Chris Christie, to allow the corps to make improvements to the coastline by creating sand dunes to sure up eroded sections of the beach.  After hearing the pros and cons surrounding the eventual decision that the dunes be installed, neighbors continued to be concerned about the aesthetic and practical changes to their beloved summer destinations.  

My personal opinion is that the Army Corps of Engineers performed an incredible job by transforming and protecting the shoreline from the eventuality of even greater threats from future tropical storms and or hurricanes.  There are thousands of beautiful newly planted dune brush growing steadily along the shoreline as far as the eye can see.  Long blue mats run from the beach at entry points in Margate City near landmark Lucy the elephant where the dunes transformed the landscape.  From that point forward beach goers are required to walk on the newly installed  sand as they look for a place to to set up  beach chairs and surf boards in preparation for a care free and relaxing summer afternoon.  The great thing about the Jersey Shore during the period after Labor Day is  hardly anyone is there.  You almost feel as though you have the beach all to yourself. I imagine the dunes plantings will grow considerably taller and more lush by the Spring of next year.

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Tony Ward Self-Portrait. September 6, 2018

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About The Author: Tony Ward is a master photographer, author, blogger, publisher and Adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Tony Ward, Click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/04/diary-a-fashion-shoot-at-the-jersey-shore/

 

Also posted in Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Engineering, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Remembrances

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Photo: Bob Shell. Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #22

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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REMEMBRANCES

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One of the cruelist things about being incarcerated is that friends and family die while you’re unable to see them. I’ve lost count of how many have gone in the last ten years.

Last October I was sitting at a table in the pod with three friends on a Saturday evening. We’d just fixed and eaten an elaborate meal, and were feeling well fed and relaxed, talking about things of interest. An announcement came over the PA system, “Shell, go to the sergeant’s office.”. Now, being called to the sergeant’s office is rarely good news, particularly on a weekend evening, so I went out there in an apprehensive state of mind. When I got there a young lieutenant and several officers were there. I asked what was up, and the lieutenant told me to sit down. He said that someone named Headie had called and asked them to let me know that my sister had died. I nearly passed out from the shock. (Headie is my nephew’s wife.)

My only sister, Karen, was six years younger than me. Since I was six she was always there for me, and since I’ve been locked up she had been writing to me at least once a month. She knew that I was incapable of doing the awful things I was accused of. I knew she had been diagnosed with cancer, and had surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments. Her last letter was from the beach and she was happy and in remission, so her sudden death was a complete shock. Now, I could have gone to her funeral, but in a prison jumpsuit, with handcuffs, leg shackles, and shock belt, with two armed guards. I thought I’d just be a distraction if I went like that, so I made the painful decision not to go. I was the only family member absent.

The DOC used to grant compassionate furloughs, but too many abused that privilege by not coming back, so they no longer do this. Once you’re inside, you stay inside. Hell, just to transport me from one prison to another they put more chains on me than an organ grinder’s monkey. Those escapes during transport that you see in movies are purely fairytales.

One of the most fiendish devices ever invented is “the box”, a device that fits over the chain connecting handcuffs. and attaches to a waist chain. Once it’s in place you have almost no mobility of your hands and arms. You might just be able to scratch your nose, maybe. When I got here to River North both my wrists were bloody from this contraption.

Unfortunately the men who wrote our Constitution prohibited “cruel and unusual punishment,” and our literal-minded Supreme Court has held that it’s OK for punishment to be cruel so long as it isn’t unusual. “The box” is definitely cruel, but since it’s used almost everywhere now it’s not unusual. If every state used iron maidens the Court would probably say that was OK! Sometimes courts are just plain silly.

But, back to my original topic. Last night I received the June issue of Shutterbug and turned to Dan Havlik’s Editor’s Notes. I learned there of the death in March of Chuck Wesrfall, one of my oldest and best friends in the photo industry. Chuck was a genius, the top technical expert at Canon USA. When I needed an expert in digital imaging to testify at my trial, Chuck came down from New York and gave detailed technical testimony for me at my trial. Unfortunately his testimony sailed right over the heads of the jurors, the judge, and over the head of the reporter from the Roanoke Times, which published a totally garbled version of Chuck’s testimony the next morning. The issue was simple: could the police have accidentally or intentionally changed the time codes on my photographs? Chuck demonstrated how this could have happened accidentally and explained it in great detail. The newspaper reported that he’d said the times were correct, exactly the opposite of what he’d actually said! Even though the jury had been instructed not to read the newspapers or watch TV news, they were not sequestered and I know that some of them probably disregarded this instruction.

Anyway, I’d first met Chuck in the 80s when I was writing my first book, on the Canon EOS system. We “clicked” because we were both tech heads. Over the years I took advantage of every opportunity to spend time with Chuck because he knew how everything worked and could explain so even I could understand. Plus, he was just one of the nicest people you could ever meet, a true gentleman in the old meaning of the term. He had relatives in Roanoke, and would often pop up to Radford to spend a day with me when he was in the area, always bringing a satchel of Canon’s latest goodies to play with. We were friends, not just business friends. He told me how he met his wife on an airplane flight to Japan, and later proudly showed me pictures of their son as he grew up. Chuck will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Among other good friends who have died while I’ve been in prison are: Derek Grossmark, owner of Hove Foto Books, publisher of my first books; Henry Froehlich, Chairman of Mamiya America, and the first man to import Japanese cameras into the USA after WW II; Steve Sint, longtime Popular Photography columnist; Lino Manfrotto, maker of high quality tripods and other photo gear; Don Sutherland, writer for Shutterbug, Playboy, and many other magazines; Bill Hurter, Editor of Rangefinder, who gave me work when I lost my Shutterbug job; Hilary Araujo, long-time industry executive; and probably many more I don’t yet know about. News reaches me slowly in here.

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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/2018/08/bob-shell-we-all-steal-ideas/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Environment, Erotica, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, Men, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women