Category Archives: Popular Culture

Bob Shell: Car Reviews in a Photo Magazine?

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Cars. Rush Hour Boston, Mass. Photo: David Pang, Copyright 2018

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 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #24

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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CAR REVIEWS IN A PHOTO MAGAZINE?

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At some point in the mid-90s, Don Cooke, our national sales manager at Shutterbug, had an idea to diversify our advertising base. Glenn Patch, Sbutterbug’s owner, had a policy that there would never be any tobacco ads in his magazines, so we turned away their money, but what about car ads? The car companies had crazy money to throw at magazines, too. Don had worked for car magazines in the past and knew everyone in that business. He thought a series of articles on cars for photographers would get the attention of the right people.

That’s why I found myself early one cool desert morning in a parking garage at McLaren Airport in Las Vegas picking up the keys to a sparkling new black Land Rover Discovery. Don had arranged this through the president of Land Rover U.S.A., who was an old friend. I was to take the car out into the desert for a week and put it through it’s paces as a field outfit for a nature photographer. I’d brought a bunch of outdoor gear with me on the overnight “redeye” flight from Charlotte, and I loaded it all into the Rover’s cavernous back.

In the 70s and 80s my “go anywhere” vehicles had been Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruisers, first a 1966 that I bought from Arthur Godfrey (now there’s a story for another time) and later a 1972 that I bought new for $ 3,400. That sounds cheap today, but in 1972 that was a relatively expensive vehicle. The FJ-40 series were built to withstand rough use and to last, but in common with other Japanese vehicles of the day, the steel used to make the body panels was prone to rust. Both of mine suffered from body rust. I see that restored FJ-40s are commanding high prices today.

I backed the Rover carefully out of its parking place and headed out for Highway 15 northeast and let the big V8 open up (I love to drive fast!) My destination, The Valley of Fire State Park. I’d conducted photo workshops there for years, ever since Wayne Collins and David Brooks had hipped me to the location back in the early 80s. The Valley of Fire is one of the prettiest places on the planet, and in all my world travels I’ve never found a better place for photography. The red rocks and clear desert air cast a warm glow on anything and anyone you photograph there. Of course, if you’re doing commercial photography there you need to jump through some hoops, get a photo permit, and pay into workman’s comp for any assistants and models you use. I was keeping it simple this time, no assistants, no models, just me and the car, and a basic photo permit. I did have to get special permission to go off road, and the rangers gave me a limited selection of places where I could do that, and a couple of brooms to hide my tire tracks going off and back onto the road.

You may not know it, but unless you’re that rare person who never watches TV, you’ve seen The Valley of Fire. It’s a favorite location for commercials for cars, and many other products, and as a standin for other planets in SiFi programs.. At the time of writing there’s a commercial for “tactical” sunglasses airing on ESPN that was shot there. Being located not far northeast of Las Vegas, it’s convenient to Los Angeles and the photo and movie businesses. If you saw the movie Star Trek: Generations you’ve seen the Valley. The climactic scenes of the two Captains fighting Malcolm McDowell was filmed on the red rocks there. It was near those rocks that I chose to position the Rover, on top of a big rock.

I’d decided to shoot medium format in case we wanted to use one of the pictures on the cover, so I’d brought my Mamiya 645 Pro and 50, 80, and 150 Mamiya lenses, and several “bricks” of Fujichrome Provia in a Styrofoam cooler. Of course I’d brought a sturdy tripod (I don’t recall which one, probably a Manfrotto) and my Sekonic light meter for both spot and incident readings. I didn’t anticipate needing any wider or longer lenses, but had a 30 fisheye, 40 and 300 in the bag just in case, and I turned out to shoot most of the photos with the 150, a few with the 80. The light was perfect, a high overcast sky serving as a giant softbox. We did use one photo on the cover, and some detail shots with the article. We got a lot of reader feedback, most of it positive, with a few, “Whaddaya think you are, a car magazine??” letters. Unfortunately, the hoped for advertising never materialized, and we never ran any more car tests. But a while later my friend Scott, who worked for Nikon, stopped by my house in his brand new — Land Rover Discovery! He said he’d bought it on the strength of my review. So Land Rover sold at least one car from our experiment. Too bad the advertising didn’t follow, I was looking forward to test driving other cars in a variety of locations.

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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/2018/09/bob-shell-the-weinstein-matter/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Advertising, Blog, Cameras, Engineering, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Travel

Early Work: The College Years 1974 – 1980

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Portrait of Yousuf Karsh by Tony Ward. Copyright 1978

 

 

Early Work: The College Years 1974 – 1980

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Like many photographers during the mid-1970’s Tony Ward embraced the documentary tradition early on in his career and was very influenced by the images he saw in Life Magazine and other leading periodicals including TIME. He began to sharpen his photographic skills by photographing  people on the streets of Philadelphia, his hometown as well as people he encountered during his early travels through Canada, including a sitting with the legendary photographer, Yousuf Karsh.  He photographed Karsh at the Chateau Laurier Hotel where his studio was located in Ottawa, Canada. Karsh had a major impact on Tony Ward’s approach to portraiture and was one of the most famous portrait photographers in the world until his death at the age of 94 in 2002.  Karsh sent a letter of gratitude after receiving a print from the sitting with the young photographer on July 12, 1978.

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Yousuf Karsh Letter 1978

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This gallery represents some of Tony Ward’s earliest photographs produced during- the college years – where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Millersville University, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1974-1977).  After graduating from Millersville University he immediately applied and was accepted to Graduate school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, where he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography (1978-1979). During his college years Tony Ward also began to experiment with color photography and alternative silver processes as he learned how to manipulate traditional gelatin silver prints into one of kind works of Art. 

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To see more pictures from the Early Work by Tony Ward, click herehttp://tonyward.com/early-work/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Film, History, Men, Photography, Portraiture, Student Life, Travel

Bob Shell: The Weinstein Matter

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Images: Harvey Weinstein

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #23

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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THE WEINSTEIN MATTER

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Since the Harvey Weinstein matter surfaced in Hollywood, a number of people have asked me for my thoughts. I do have a somewhat unique perspective on the matter, being myself falsely accused of sexual offenses against my girlfriend and model, but not so accused by her. I won’t spend the time here telling my story. Anyone interested can read the whole story at: www.bobshelltruth.com, particularly the NEWS UPDATES page. Suffice it to say that I have never acted inappropriately with any model, and dozens of them will vouch for me on that. The police spent four years looking for a former model who would say anything bad about me and gave up. They had my records with model releases from everyone who modeled for me from 1969 until 2003! That’s 34 years and more than 200 models!

What amazed me when the Weinstein accusations came out was that anyone was surprised. This was Hollywood, after all, where the “casting couch” has been a ubiquitous feature since the early days. I’m only peripherally connected to the movie industry, but I’ve known about this for many years. After all, any industry that combines powerful Alpha Male type men with beautiful young women striving for their big break invites abuses. Now, as I read in the March issue of Vogue, the accusations have spread to the fashion photography world, with accusations by models against some of the top male photographers in the business. And according to the latest issue of PDN, the accusations have spread to instructors at prominent photo workshops. You get the impression that every man in a position of authority has misused that authority.

What has been lost in the current hysteria is the old American maxim of “innocent until proven guilty.”. Right now the field is wide open for people to settle old grudges that may have nothing to do with sex by making accusations of sexual misconduct. People are losing their jobs and careers over accusations that may never be proven. That’s wrong.

I’m not defending the pervasive culture in Hollywood or the fashion business, or anywhere else. Much harm has been done to many people. I’ve known a number of models and actresses, some of whom were successful in the movie business. Some have told me horror stories, but others have had positive experiences. There are some bad people in Hollywood (and in the photography business, and everywhere else in life), but there are also some very fine people. Let’s not tar everyone with the same brush.

Most of us know the sad story of Tippi Hedrin, who starred in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Hitch ruined her career after that because she refused to go to bed with him. But many other actresses launched successful careers with the support of producers and directors who respected them and treated them with dignity. Should Hitchcock have been ostracized by the industry for his despicable behaviour? Probably, but that’s water under the bridge. We can’t fix the past, but we can clean things up today.

One of the rules I always taught my workshop students is: Do not touch the model. I’ve had many students come to a workshop thinking that you pose a model by grabbing her and positioning her like a department store mannequin, and I’ve quickly disabused them of that idea. Even when working with models I’ve known and photographed for years I always observed that rule. To convey a particular pose I wanted, I’d assume the pose myself. Then, after the model stopped laughing, she knew exactly what I wanted, often improving on it by making it her own. I also kept a clip book, and whenever I saw a pose I particularly liked in a magazine, I’d cut it out and add it to the book. Show and tell rather than “grab and twist.”

The Weinstein matter has been portrayed in a one-sided manner, I think. While some industry men have been vilified for taking advantage of vulnerable young women (and men), sometimes it’s the other way ’round. I’ve had more than one model bat her pretty eyes at me and purr, “I’ll do anything to get published,” or the variant, “I’ll do anything for money.” My reply was always the same, “If you’re a really good model, I’ll publish (or pay) you. Nothing more required.”. And I’ve launched more than a few careers when they were good. The photos were satisfaction enough for me. I valued my reputation too much to compromise it. Models have a grapevine, after all, and talk to each other. I took great satisfaction from the fact that after I was arrested and charged and the story broadcast all over the Internet, I still had no trouble getting models to work with me. If they were hesitant, I just gave new models the email addresses of several of the models I’d worked with for years and said, “Check me out.”. They did, and none refused to work with me. I was able to finish my bondage book (which required a great deal of trust by the model in my total professionalism) and other books, as well as photo magazine and website articles, with no problems, using a mix of old and new models. If I could be released tomorrow, I have no doubt I could go right back to my photography without any problems finding models.

But to backtrack for a minute, being a very good artist, no matter what the medium, doesn’t mean a person is a decent man or woman. Read biographies of great artists, and you’ll find that many of them were not nice people. Some were horrible people. Artistic talent does not restrict itself to nice people. That’s as true today as ever. Should we discount a person’s art because he or she is a nasty, rotten person? To consider Hitchcock again, should we ignore the greatness of many of his films because he was personally despicable? I don’t claim to have the answer to that question. We must be careful, as the old saying goes, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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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/2018/09/bob-shell-remembrances/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Photography, Politics, Portraiture, Women

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First Manhattan Mortgage LLC

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Light Table: Portrait of the Day

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Deean: Close Ups 1990’s

 

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Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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DEEAN: Close Up 1990’s

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During the 1990’s my studio was located a block away from South Street, one of the most famous streets in Philadelphia for attracting the avant-garde artists, photographers, musicians and stylists who frequented the trend setting strip. It runs East to West from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River several blocks South of center city.  Because of my studios proximity to South street, I often met interesting characters to photograph for my portrait work. Deann was one of those distinctive characters that I grew attracted to as a subject. One day when I was walking between 6th and 7th streets on South in a neighborhood called Bella Vista,  I noticed she was working at a  body piercing shop just around the corner from my studio which was located at 704 South 6th..  When I discovered where she worked it  prompted me to introduce myself since we were practically neighbors.  During those days, I was intrigued by a  growing interest in the art of tattoo and body piercing as a subject for various series I was working on at the time.  South street was known for attracting all types of unusual subjects.  Deann was not only known for being stylish and having a distinctive look, she also was known for being a perfectionist at body piercing.  On a day that I felt particularly daring in the Summer of 1997,  I walked into her shop and made an appointment to have her pierce one of my ears. The first time I was inclined to have a piercing performed was in college in 1974, after I saw the movie Serpico.  It was a defining display of individuality in my early twenties when I saw the character that Al Pacino played (a police officer) adorn his left ear with a single gold earring. 

So as a way to revisit the nostalgia of the past, and after the successful procedure to pierce my ear was completed,  I mustered up the courage to ask Deean to model for me. I wanted to include her in a series entitled, Close Ups.  She wanted to think about it. On the surface she appeared to be a bit reserved, timid and shy in contrast to her outwardly dramatic appearance.  A short period of time passed and then a magical moment of happenstance occurred.  On a night while I was out at a nightclub photographing subjects for another project, low and behold there was Deean seated at the bar having a beverage wearing a sharp shirt and tie with a conservative pin-stripped sports jacket.  I spotted a simple wall near where she was sitting and then proceeded to turn on my flash as I asked her to turn and look straight ahead so as to feature her distinctive profile.  She eventually agreed.

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To access additional work from Tony Ward’s Close Ups 1990’s, click herehttp://tonyward.com/early-work/close-ups-1990s/

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To access additional diary entries by Tony Ward, click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/09/beach-report-last-days-of-summer/

 

 

Also posted in Accessories, Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Fashion, History, Photography, Portraiture, Women