Category Archives: Photography

Bob Shell: Why Radford?

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Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #35

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Letters  by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

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I have often been asked why I had my office/studio in Radford, VA, not exactly the center of culture..

In the mid 70s, after the near collapse of the US economy (caused by the infamous Arab oil embargo and other economic factors) wrecked my first camera shop, I worked for a year for Woolco Department Stores managing the camera department in one of their Roanoke stores. I didn’t like that job, because department managers didn’t really manage anything, and quit to take a job with Ritz camera in Blacksburg. When that didn’t work out (my selling style was to spend the time with the customer to find out what that person needed to buy to accomplish what they wanted to do, and sell them that. The regional manager said I was spending too much time with the customers!), I found myself working in the photo lab at Virginia Tech, where I’d gone to school. We developed and printed film shot by the two staff photographers, and when both of them were busy, I’d occasionally be asked to go out and shoot a “grip and grin” photo of the university President shaking hands with some visiting dignitary. But I wanted to be the photographer, not a lab rat in the basement, so after a year or so at this I left and took a job with Gentry Studio in Blacksburg. They were a combo of photo studio and camera shop, the perfect job for me.

I worked there for several years, honing my own photography skills in their studio after hours. I liked working there very much, but always had the itch to do my own thing. After all, even the best boss is still your boss, and I never liked working for other people. Gentry Studios had three locations, Salem, Blacksburg, and Radford, all long established. The owner decided to close the Radford studio, so I took the leap and took it over. I changed the sign to Shell Studio and expanded the camera shop portion. This, as I recall, was in 1980, and the rent on the large studio location was $ 300 a month! Amazing, eh? But at times I had trouble coming up with that money. I inherited the job of photographing the sororities at Radford University and some other school business, plus selling all the materials required for the photography courses. This, plus portraits and some commercial work kept me going for a while, but money was tight. To pick up some extra income I began writing for a relatively new photography publication initially called Shutterbug Ads, a buy-sell-swap newspaper for photographers. Initially there was not much editorial content, and that was often poor in quality, but the owner wanted to improve the quality and become more of a mainstream magazine. When I first wrote for them they were printed tabloid size on yellow paper, and writers were paid in copies.

Parallel to this I had started a photographic equipment import and distribution operation. I had almost accidentally stumbled upon Enna Werk, a small German optical company in Munich that had just lost its US distributor. So I began importing and wholesaling their products, primarily camera lenses, slide viewers, slide projectors, and the Ennascop opaque projectors. After a year I broadened my product lines to include Fisher tripods and video lights from Italy, COIL aspheric magnifiers from England, and Lamborghini camera bags and sunglasses. These additional product lines resulted from meeting people at photokina in 1980, which I also covered for Shutterbug. For ten years I ran this business in parallel to acting as Shutterbug’s Technical Editor. By 1990 it had become just too much to do all of this, so I sold the import/distribution business. Shutterbug had by then transitioned to being a real magazine with ever-growing subscription list, distribution to booksellers, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, etc., and they offered me the job as Editor at a payment rate I could live on. As I have said before, though, I was never an employee of Shutterbug. I contracted to supply editorial services at a fixed monthly rate. This allowed me the freedom to set my own office hours, stay away from office politics, and take on noncompeting projects, like writing books. By the late 80s I was writing several books a year as well as writing for Photo Industry Reporter and some other noncompeting publications. Since I could do my work from anywhere, I stayed on in the Radford studio location, at 202 Third Avenue, right in downtown Radford. I probably would have stayed there indefinitely, but the roof leaked and the landlord refused to fix it. After two studio floods my insurance company said they would not pay for any more water damage, so I was forced to move. Luckily a great location became available, a former pharmacy measuring about 35 X 80 feet at 239 West Main Street, just a short distance from the police department. I kept my studio there from 1992 until 2007, fifteen years. So I had studios in Radford, on major commercial streets, for 20+ years, but when the police came to my studio after Marion’s death the detectives said they didn’t know I was in town! Some detecting!!

I wanted a big studio space, and the new location was ideal, since I had begun conducting studio workshops for groups of photographers. The monthly rent there started at $ 500 a month, and by 2007 had only gone up to $ 525! And that included a reserved parking space right by the back door. The rent also included heat in the winter. Amazing, and one of the main reasons I stayed in Radford all those years.

Anyway, that’s the story of why I was in Radford, somewhat abridged. I’d probably still be there, doing my photography, writing for books, magazines and websites, and generally enjoying life if the police hadn’t foolishly blamed me for Marion’s death. Their simple-minded nonsense destroyed me at the peak of my career. The plain fact, never disputed by anyone, is that I was not even there when Marion overdosed. When I found her unconscious, I immediately called 911 and did everything in my power to help her.

The real reason the Radford police, prosecutors, and court felt they had to destroy me was that some of my photography was frankly erotic (many Americans are terrified of open sexuality), and at the time of Marion’s death we were working on a book of erotica for a German publisher. The book was ultimately published as Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope by Goliath, first in their MixOfPix series. There is nothing pornographic about this book; no penetration, the photos are no more revealing than Playboy and far less revealing than Penthouse. We even Photoshopped some photos because we wanted to sell the book in most countries of the world, and put the text in English, German, French, and Spanish, for that reason as well. The book was published under my pseudonym Edward Lee, a pseudonym I’d used often since at least1993 (I don’t really remember when I first used it; it’s actually my two middle names. Over the course of my career I’ve used a number of pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. Many writers have done so. My friend Don Sutherland used something like 16 or 17 different pseudonyms.)

At my trial the prosecutor waved a copy of the book around at every opportunity, shoving it at my witnesses’ faces – “Have you seen THIS?”. He always seemed surprised when they answered, “Yes, Bob gave me a copy.” He was offended that they weren’t offended! None of my friends and former models found the book objectionable.

I just managed to keep my business going doing the 4+ years I was out on bail awaiting trial. I wrote four books, numerous magazine articles, held workshops, had a gallery show of my photographs in Chicago (but couldn’t go to it!), did my own photography, and generally tried to live a normal life during that time. But the prosecution was determined to convict me, and used false evidence and practically every other dirty trick in the book to. convince the jury that I was a scumbag who regularly drugged and raped my models, even though they couldn’t locate a single former model with anything negative to say about me. Not a one! And they looked for more than four years. As a lawyer I know said, if that had been true, surely someone would have come forward.

I’m almost tired of repeating that I am a totally innocent man destroyed by a corrupt political system because I dared to be different. They sentenced me to 32 1/2 years, when the Virginia sentencing guidelines recommended a maximum sentence of three years! The Virginia Dept. of Corrections classifies me as a “numerical lifer,” which means that even though I don’t have a life sentence I’m unlikely to live long enough to get out. That’s really depressing!

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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 here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-wherefore-blog/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Popular Culture, Travel

Rongrong Liu: Light

 

Video and Text by Rongrong Liu, Copyright 2019

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LIGHT

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This video art project is all about light. I started thinking of using light as my main subject when I saw the disco ball installation recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art. What’s most interesting about it is that what I am able to see with my eyes is different from what the camera lens can see, which is iridescent.

There isn’t a strict plan for this piece. Starting from the first clip, each clip is what I associated in my mind with the previous one. The blurry night traffic scene ⇒ the micro bokeh light ⇒ disco ball ⇒ glass light ⇒ underwater light ⇒ projector light ⇒ smoke. After this clip are my interactions with the light, playing with the shadow and the time lapse of traffic. Light is everywhere, and it is different depending on the way we look at it (from a macroscopic or a microscopic view), how close we are, how focused we are, etc..

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Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

Portrait of Rongrong Liu by Alexis Masino. Copyright 2019

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About The Author: Rongrong Liu is a Senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019. To access additional articles by Rongrong Liu, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/rongrong-liu-me/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Fashion, Friends of TWS, Light Table, News, Popular Culture, Science, Student Life, UPenn, Women

Diary: Theresa. A Visit to Alcatraz

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Theresa: A Visit to Alcatraz. 1980

 

 Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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Diary: Theresa. A Visit to Alcatraz. 1980

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I first laid eyes on Theresa as she excited a cable car on a side street next to the Fairmount Hotel where I was staying in San Francisco on assignment in 1980.  She walked directly towards me as I was standing on the sidewalk next to the hotel waiting for the concierge to have my car delivered from the garage on my way to a photo shoot.   I said hello and she said hello back with a flirtatious smile.  Low and behold she was an employee of the hotel as she motioned to open a side door I noticed for employees only . As she opened her purse to get her pass key,  I commented that I was a guest at the hotel and mentioned how satisfied I was with the accommodations.  She said she would pass the compliment on to management.  We exchanged phone numbers.  Later that day we met for drinks at Donatello, her favorite Italian restaurant just off of Union Square. 

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Theresa at Donatello. Union Square. San Francisco, 1980.

Theresa at Donatello. Union Square. San Francisco, 1980.

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One thing quickly led to the next and so began a brief but romantic relationship. One of the highlights of our time together was a trip we took to Alcatraz Island where I captured this very beautiful moment with this Mexican beauty!

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To access additional diary entries, click here:http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/diary-a-fashion-shoot-at-the-jersey-shore/

 

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Film, Glamour, History, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Bondage?

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #31

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photographs by Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

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BONDAGE?

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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

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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!

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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 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, Men, Models, News, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: The Evolution of Photography

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Louise Daguerre

 

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #30

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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THE EVOLUTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY

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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.

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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 here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-family-of-photographers/

 

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