Category Archives: Portraiture

Bob Shell: America’s Puritanism

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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America’s Puritanism

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“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.

Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” — Benjamin Franklin

Franklin, along with the others who founded this country, was very smart. He realized that government, any government, would likely devolve into tyranny over time, and it was vitally important for the people to mount an armed opposition. Now don’t misunderstand me. “Armed” doesn’t necessarily mean armed with guns. It can mean armed with unfettered freedom of the press and expression. The pen was mightier than the sword — today the Internet may be mightier than the guns of the would be oppressors. That’s why I’m denied Internet access in prison. My ideas are dangerous to my oppressors.

Today, all of the laws of the Federal and state codes and courts would fill a large library. Law has become so complex that no one person can possibly be familiar with all of it, and it gets worse every time the legislatures meet, and the hundreds of courts hand down decisions. In the resulting quagmire, something that is perfectly legal in one state becomes a. crime, sometimes a serious crime, the instant you step across an invisible state border.

In the late 1960s, I lived in Washington, DC. I was in my early twenties and my girlfriend, who lived with me, was sixteen. That was perfectly legal in DC, where the age of consent was sixteen, but if we visited my friends in Virginia, we’d better not sleep together, because she was illegal in Virginia. We did anyway, but I could have been in serious trouble if the police found out and chose to enforce that particular silly law.

When I was going to Germany regularly, I did nude photo shoots with professional models, one of them a friend’s daughter, who were sixteen and seventeen. Those photographs are potentially illegal in the USA. If I’d gone over to the Czech Republic, the legal age was fifteen. These weren’t erotic images in my opinion, just artistic nudes shot outdoors in public parks, but as long as we have judges and juries that find any nude images at all intolerable, no one who photographs nudes is safe. Were these idiots born fully clothed?

After what happened to Jock Sturges and my friend Lee Higgs, both raided by the FBI, I was afraid to take the chance and bring my European nudes home, but it did me no good, because the judge and jury I went before found my perfectly legal images offensive.

BTW, neither Sturges nor Higgs was ever charged with anything, but homes were raided, wives and children terrorized, and confiscated photos and equipment returned damaged, or not returned at all.

Sturges had photographed young nudes in France, where no one cared. Higgs had proof all his models were legal, but that didn’t prevent the raid. His cool book Generation Fetish is a classic, but 100% legal.

If nothing is done about silly laws and our crazy “justice system” soon the volume of laws will be so great that almost anything you do will violate at least one.

Just like those who can justify anything with a quote from the Bible, you can find good, valid law to support just about any premise.

Worst are what I call anti-pleasure laws, laws against having fun.

The Honorable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, recently said:

“We need to accept that behaviors and actions of others that are not aligned with our own mental perspectives do not need to be turned into criminal offences.”

What a perceptive and succinct statement of the problem. Our society has become more and more intolerant of those who choose to be different, and I’m in prison solely because of that intolerance.

Unfortunately, those men who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights did not spell out a right to privacy, a right to be left alone. The U. S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, in 2007, said that any private sexual activity between consenting adults was none of the government’s damned business, and struck down the Texas law against “sodomy,” taking with it similar laws in a number of other states.

OK, let’s analyze that a bit. If I decide I’m horny and in need of some company, and call an escort service, and a young woman (or man, depending on my sex and orientation) comes to my residence or hotel room and we have sex, so long as we’re both consenting adults, there’s no crime, right? Nope, they can still bust us. “But the Supreme Court said it was OK,” we argue. “Yes,” they answer, “but you can’t charge for or pay for it.” Where’s that in the Court’s ruling? Read Lawrence v. Texas, and you won’t see that anywhere. I have a copy of the case right here, and it quite plainly does not say that.

The problem is that local police, prosecutors, and judges have a habit of ignoring court rulings they don’t like. After Lawrence, prostitution should have been legal throughout the USA, and not just in a few places in Nevada.

My friends and I, so long as we’re all consenting adults, should be able to hold S & M orgies in private without the fear of some idiot puritans busting us because they’re terrified that someone somewhere might be having sex for reasons other than procreation. Someone might be having too much fun. In his dissent in the Lawrence case, Justice Scalia worried that the ruling might legalize drug use in private by consenting adults. So fucking what if it did? So long as no one is forced to participate, and no children are involved, why should it be anybody else’s business?

And, with young people maturing much earlier, we need to revise our definition of “child.” I’ve known thirteen year olds who were already sexually active with partners their own age, and whose parents got them birth control pills. Those were children?

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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-loss-of-a-fine-photographer/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Environment, lifestyle, Models, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Women

Robert Li: Acro Yoga

 

Text by Robert Li, Copyright 2019

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Acro Yoga

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Ikigai. Have you heard the term before? It’s a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” Essentially, it’s a reason to get up in the morning. There is a sense of purpose and a reason to enjoy life.  If you take four elements – That which you love, That which you are good at, That which you can be paid for, and That which the world needs – and put them in a Venn diagram, your Ikigai is the intersection of all four. Someone told me that I found my Ikigai in Acro, and I believe she was right.

I came to the US from Taiwan when I was 11 months old and grew up in Huntingdon Valley before attending Drexel University, though I studied abroad in Berlin while working for the German government. I majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in Chinese and German, and minored in Business Administration and History.

After college, I was a professional party promoter and professional cheerleader for the Philadelphia Soul as well as the Philadelphia 76ers while becoming familiar with the point of sale industry. The combination of food and tech seemed like a perfect place.  Food has always been a passion of mine, so it was great to work with staff, managers, and owners all across the country.  Still, I was either working or on call from 10am to 3am every weekday and on call every other weekend.  There were a lot of perks, including working from home and free food when clients insisted I eat, but I felt like a slave to my phone because I had to answer at all hours, no matter what.  When I discovered Acro, something clicked. I wanted to do it all the time.  I realized that the other aspects of Acro align with what I enjoy in life as well: travel, meeting amazing people, and potential for beautiful photography.  At first, Acro was a hobby, but by the time my thoughts, actions, and even dreams involved Acro, I knew a life-changing decision was coming.

With the #ridetherob project, the timing was right. When I started Acro four years ago, I didn’t know what to wear. I figured others must have the same problem. Why not create something that could fill a need? The concept of creating a clothing line became more than a fleeting thought. As my passion for Acro grew into a full blown love affair, I knew I had to take actions instead of just thinking about it. My heart and mind shifted focus from my job to the possibilities of what I could do with Acro. The #ridetherob project was building a lot of momentum, and studios started approaching me to teach. With so many amazing opportunities knocking at my door, I needed to answer the call and see what adventures await. Here was a big step towards the unknown, comforted by the thought that I have a whole community of amazing people supporting me in this adventure.

I wanted to create quality apparel for active lifestyles, and I had no idea where to begin. The first step was to make my intentions known and to make the time for this endeavor. Leaving a stable job with steady income was necessary to see this through. I was a motivated and knowledge-thirsty sponge, soaking in every piece of information and detail. Then I started making moves and developing my brand and products. Active Elixir was born (www.active-elixir.com). It’s the “perfect solution for people of movement.” I would address issues people have with apparel in various movements and provide solutions for them. My focus would be on all the various niche markets, starting with which I was familiar – Acro. Now I am developing Pole Wear, Swimwear, and in the next year, Belly Dance Wear and Social Dance Wear. Items are designed with ideas I’ve had, recommendations from friends, or random inspirations, and once they were realized, I test the prototypes on people who are actively involved in the practice. I listen to what they want, gathered feedback on the piece, made changes, and try again until it’s perfect — functional, comfortable, well-made, and stylish. I offer a direct line to someone who can make the changes you’ve always wanted to see in apparel, especially for your practice. I just hope that when all is said and done, I don’t end up with an absurd amount of women’s clothing in my apartment; I want to give them happy homes. In the near future, I’m looking towards fashion shows and collaborating with yoga studios.

My other pet project is #Ridetherob.  Funny enough, the idea for it came in the shower.  I recently got into Acro, and I wanted to show people how much fun it can be. I didn’t know this little project would evolve into something more and inspire others to create challenges and personal goals beyond expectations. At first, it was to show the world what Acro was, and then it was to make people feel good and happy while creating a deeper connection between human beings. At least, that’s what I observed the first couple of years. Now I realize it shows that people can learn and do things they thought was impossible. I’m also working on adding a philanthropic element to this project as I collaborate with various charities and other events.  My current count is 5,323 people I’ve lifted up on my Journey to 10,000.  The heaviest person I lifted while on the ground was my former rugby teammate who is 360 lbs. The heaviest individual I lifted standing was 250 pounds and almost 7 ft tall. I’ve also lifted a family of 6 at the same time and did a Triple Cupie with 3 flyers standing on my hands.

The Philly Mag article was great.(https://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2018/02/13/rob-li-lift-acro/) It was the first published article about the project. Being on Good Day Philadelphia and lifting the anchors as well as just about everyone in the Fox 29 office was also a lot of fun.  When CBS3 asked me to come in, I lifted anyone that wanted to be part of the project, and it seemed to make everyone’s days seeing how happy they were. (https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/video/4121404-local-acro-yoga-instructor-on-mission-to-lift-as-many-people-as-possible-to-spread-teaching/?fbclid=IwAR0sqCjL4QA5dneLLk4BaJO3qCCljjCwiYJeDAIBUSQOpWp0yTsD-1W57x4)

Growing up, I was quite chunky. I would eat everything in sight. Then I got into sports one summer. I lost about 20 pounds unintentionally and just have been active ever since. I played football, wrestled, ran track, fenced, did cheer, and played rugby.  I coached Temple Co-Ed Cheer because the head coach wanted to bring back a co-ed stunt team and asked me to help out. It’s amazing seeing the cheerleaders progress in their skills season to season.   

I am so thankful that I did cheer. I did not know that people tossing would be such a valuable life skill to have. Having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of standing Acro has helped me achieve a variety of skills. It also led me to teaching Acro. One of the people I lifted had her own yoga studio, and she insisted I teach an Acro workshop. I told her I wasn’t certified and have just been doing Acro for a couple of years, but she told me that the way I instructed her into her pose was evidence enough that I would be good at teaching. I taught my first class and really enjoyed it. Having about 20 years of cheer experience also helps out. Because of this foundation, I was able to learn skills in 20 minutes that people work on for a year or more.

Even though I have a strong personal practice, teaching people who are trying Acro for the first time has been really rewarding. Sometimes I find myself in random situations– I’ve been invited to a number of Bachelorette parties, and I would come in and lift everyone. One of my personal goals was to hit a Rewind, which is a dynamic cheer stunt in which the flyer essentially does a back tuck while the base tosses her in the air and then catches her feet as she comes out of the tuck. I was so thrilled that I even did a Happy Dance while holding the flyer in the skill. Unlocking new skills is such an amazing feeling, especially when you work for it. Some other stories include me lifting a flight attendant while 34,000 feet in the air. I’ve done Acro on top of bars at clubs and lounges. In the kitchen or counters of restaurants. At a few gentlemen’s clubs. On stage at a gentlemen’s club. On boats and yachts. On paddle boards. At hospitals. In offices. Every day is an adventure, and I’ll do Acro wherever. The pose depends on who is flying and what feels safe and what I call concrete-ready. 

Acro has even led me to perform and compete in one of the country’s largest competitions of this kind. When I went to see Diamond G a few years ago to support my friend, I saw some Acro in one of the performances. My thought process quickly went from I can do that, to I should do that, to I will do that. For a whole year, I was thinking about who should be on the team and what I should do. I recruited very talented acrobats, aerialists, pole dancers, and exotic dancers to compete for the coveted Diamond G-String title and $15,000. Despite being new to this, we came home with the title and prize money, and I met some amazing people in the process and have the utmost respect for anyone that puts on a show of this magnitude. 

It was a challenging and exciting endeavor, much like starting an apparel company, and I’m learning more about the industry each day. Almost every night before bed and every morning when I wake up, I am talking to my contacts in Asia. There has been no shortage of delays or mistakes that needed to be addressed in a timely manner. My search for reliable manufacturers that can take my ideas and create quality products has led me down some interesting roads. For those who might be thinking about embarking on a similar project, do your research. Be prepared for a lot of things to go the way you don’t expect them to go, and learn how to overcome those challenges.  Learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge to future situations. Take lots of notes. Make sure you have money put aside because you will be spending more than you think. Believe in yourself. Take calculated risks and put yourself out there. Be kind to everyone. You never know who you’re going to meet who can help you in some way.

It also helps to listen, and I mean really listen to what women (and male consumers too!) have to say.  I’ve learned so much about bras and boobs. It’s still very confusing though. There are many body types and preferences to consider. I’ve learned about various tests women try when deciding which pieces of apparel they purchase—squats, jumps, and inversions. Learning from women firsthand means that I can develop clothing that fits their needs directly. I’m also studying shopping habits and learning about marketing through social media. This is a lot for someone who basically posts twice a month on Instagram. Yes, I’m working on that.

The support from my friends and various Acro communities has been tremendous. I am so grateful for the amazing people that have helped me and believed in me in realizing my vision. It’s heart-warming to see how happy people are with my products. They tell me stories about how great they feel and the amount of compliments they’ve received from wearing my clothing line. It’s really rewarding to hear that after putting so much time, energy, and money into such a huge endeavor.  It can definitely be difficult at times, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and I’m excited to see what comes next.

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About The Author: Robert Li grew up in Huntingdon Valley, PA and resides in Philadelphia. He majored in International Area Studies with concentrations in German and Chinese and Minors in Business Administration and History at Drexel University. He is the Founder of Active Elixir, a clothing brand focused on creating solutions for people of movement through apparel. With his experience as a cheerleader for Drexel University, the Philadelphia Soul, and the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Cheer Coach for Temple University, he is also an AcroYoga instructor teaching at various studios in Philadelphia and Acro festivals across the country.

www.active-elixir.com

If you want to get in touch with Rob, you can find him on Instagram – @themojoshow and @activeelixir or email him: activeelixir@gmail.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, lifestyle, Men, News, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Sports, Video

A.H. Scott: Tatiana’s Theme

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2019

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Tatiana’s Theme

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Tatiana knew there was something interesting about Stu.

She was amazed how his horn always blew.

At Club Caliente, she sat in the first row.

Stu played sax nice and slow.

After his midnight set. Tatiana was feeling oh so mellow.

Burgundy halter dress and red hair like a wild mane down her back, Tatiana waited for Stu in his dressing room.

When Stu walked in, an intimate improvisation would begin.

Sitting in the edge of the mirrored vanity Tatiana smiled, “You sure know how to hit the right notes, Stu”.

“Using a trusty instrument it’s true”, Stu winked back and placed sax on its’ stand.

Tatiana folded legs, as burgundy dress revealed a slit that left skin on display.

“I’ll take you for a late-night bite as soon as I get my things together, Tatiana”, His response was quickened by the lovely lady in his midst, as he started changing from stage clothes to street threads.

Stu unbuttoned his white silk shirt.

Tatiana didn’t want food, but decided to flirt.

“Maybe a burgers, fries and shake aren’t on the menu tonight”, Sliding off that vanity, she wrapped arms around his neck.

“Oh, heck”, Stu replied with a kiss to her lips.

His hands in her hips moved with such ease.

Both of them were eager to please.

Tatiana’s burgundy dress was released with a few flips of his fingers and fell to the floor.

Stu held her with right arm, as his left hand made sure of the closure of that dressing room door, “No interruptions will make this oh so nice”.

“Nice and slow, just like your horn right now I’m gonna’ blow”, Tatiana stood braless and only in a lime green thong, slowly bent down to get closer to his instrument inside of black pants.

Unzipping his pants and releasing his flesh from within, Stu began to grin.

She gave him something good to start off their symphony of lust, as he knew to meet her moist meadow was a must.

Each of them had the taste of the other upon their lips. Stu inserted himself inside of Tatiana atop the vanity’s edge, exchanging whispers and kisses in a melodic pledge.

Motion of bodies made the mirror begin to shudder.

Tatiana breathlessly uttered, This is so divine”.

He gave her several kisses and concurred, “Baby, you are so right”.

Tatiana’s theme was one of being a tempting orchestrator for an adlibbed anthem of arousal.

Notes of flourish filled that dressing room, as an entanglement of ecstasy drifted in the air around them.

Pressed against one another, they lingered a little longer.

Strands of Tatiana’s red hair made contact with his chest like a few strokes into canvas.

As for Stu, his hands softly patted her bare ass and exhaled, “You are my most tempting tune”.

Tatiana laughed, “And, you know how to play me, Stu”.

Dressed and ready to leave Club Caliente in under fifteen minutes,  Stu took Tatiana by the hand and spoke to the club manager who was over by the bandstand.

His name was Jerry and he had a chuckle in his voice, “Stu, it is always nice to hear you blow. It really classes up the joint, my man”.

Stu shook his hand, “Thanks , Jerry. I’m glad I can count you as a fan”.

Both men ribbed each other as friends for over many a year, as each laughed so hard they almost came to tears.

Tatiana smiled, as  she watched Stu and Jerry joke.

She was still tingling all over from this musician’s pleasurable poke.

Diner down the avenue was about to close in under thirty minutes.

Jerry said his farewells, as Stu and Tatiana waved to him goodnight.

Making their way to a diner nearby to get a hearty bite, the crescent moon and a few visible stars seemed to be winking down at them in delight.

Beautiful duet of desire was shared by Stu and Tatiana on that memorable night.

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here: http://tonyward.com/a-h-scott-unraveled-we-fall/

 

Also posted in Blog, Erotica, Friends of TWS, Glamour, lifestyle, Models, Photography, Poetry, Popular Culture, Student Life, Women

Bob Shell: Learning Photography

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 1977

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Learning Photography

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Many aspiring photographers want to learn more about the art and craft of photography. There are lots of ways to do this, ranging from reading books, watching videos, taking classes, attending lectures, and attending photography workshops.

If you’re the type who learns by reading, there are many excellent books available that will teach you all the basics. When I was getting started I bought every photography how-to book I could afford and devoured them. I think I learned something from every one of them. For those just getting started in digital photography I’ll recommend the book I wrote with Steven Greenberg; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Digital Photography Like a Pro (4th edition). It’s a little bit dated by now, but is still one of the best books for beginners. My favorite photography book of all time is Nude Photography The French Way by Laurent Biancani. It’s probably out of print, but I’m sure Amazon can find copies. It’s great, not so much for photographing nudes, but because it contains the best primar I’ve ever seen on photographic lighting. I learned a hell of a lot about lighting from that book. There was also a very good book on lighting by my friend David B. Brooks. Beyond those basics, there are many good books. The photographic lighting series of books from Rotovision are all good. They use a simple formula, a photo on one page and a lighting diagram and brief text on the facing page. The National Geographic photo guides are excellent, well written and illustrated with great photos.

It used to be that you could learn a lot about photography by reading the many photography magazines, but these days they’re pretty much extinct. The only two I read anymore are Rangefinder (rangefinderonline.com) and Photo District News (pdnonline.com). Rangefinder is directed primarily at portrait and wedding photographers (I used to write for them) and PDN is directed at high-end commercial shooters and photojournalists. My other favorite photo magazines are Vogue, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone, for the exclence of their photography.

I used to have instructional videos sent to me for review all the time when I was at Shutterbug. They ranged from exceptionally good to garbage. There was one set from a really well known portrait photographer on lighting that was completely wrong! Light is basic to photography (the word photography means writing with light), and behaves very predictably. Some of the best produced videos are those from my friend Ken Marcus. I really enjoyed watching them. Ken is a master of using multiple lights for glamour and nudes. I haven’t seen them, but I’m told there are some good instructional videos on Youtube.

If you’re the type who learns best in a classroom setting, then check out adult education photography classes. Local community colleges often conduct photography classes that don’t cost very much to take. Here in my area I used to teach an adult ed photography class through Virginia Tech and the local YMCA. We met once a week in the evenings for a couple of hours for classroom lectures, at my studio for demos, and also did some “field trips.”. Everyone who took those classes seemed to enjoy and learn from them. They didn’t cost much, and the money went to support programs at the Y.

Another possible source of learning is photography schools. The Washington School of Photography in DC offered some excellent programs. I conducted lecture/demonstrations for tbem. These were done in hotel ballrooms, and consisted of a lecture portion illustrated with medium format slides projected on a big screen, followed by a live lighting and posing demo with nude models. These were fun to conduct and I think the audience learned. My sponsor for those was Mamiya America Corp. who provided the special projectors for my 6 X 6 and 6 X 7 slides. Medium format slides are eye-popping on a big cinema screen.

Once a year in October the Photo Plus Expo is held in NYC. It can be a great learning experience, with lectures, photo shoots, portfolio reviews, and a big trade show where you can see and touch all the latest new gear. Info at photoplusexpo.com . They’re affiliated with WPPI, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, but you don’t have to be a member to attend. I’ve given lectures there.

Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. That’s where the hands-on workshops come in. What exactly are these workshops? It depends; depends on who is conducting them. Some have a lot of classroom instruction as well as actual photography on location. The best of these that I’m aware of were those conducted by the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Orlando. I don’t know if they still have their photography workshops. You’ll have to check on their website. When I was there the program was a mix of traditional classroom and photo shoots at Epcot, Animal Kingdom and a Disney wildlife preserve. The photo sessions at the theme parks were conducted in the mornings before the parks opened. Walking around Epcot taking pictures with no one around except a few maintenance workers was a once in a lifetime experience. I got some great photos and I’m sure the students did as well. That year Pete Turner was one of the lecturers. If you do a Google search on photography workshops, you’re sure to find a bunch in various places on a variety of topics.

I used to conduct two-day glamour and nude workshops several times a year. Some were held in my large studio in Radford. Others in my nearby forest land. And still others at St. Petersburg Beach in Florida, the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, in London, and other locations here and abroad. I’ve had as many as 60 students attend these from as far away as Hong Kong and Japan, with a ratio of one model for every five photographers, so everyone got plenty of opportunity to work with each model.

I also conducted one and two day one-on-one workshops in my studio. These were one student, one or more models depending on the student’s desires and budget, and me. These were intense photo shoots, real learning experiences in lighting and posing plus the technical aspects of studio shoots. I charged for my time plus the model’s fee and two hour film processing. After digital came along, most of my students were shooting digital, so no film processing fees. They just had to remember to bring enough storage cards, since we tended to work fast and shoot a lot of photos. I had several repeat customers who came over and over for these.

I conducted my first photo workshops in the 80s, initially with Tampa Bay photographer Wayne Collins to get my feet wet and learn the ropes, and before I had my big studio I rented a ballroom in town so I could have multiple sets active at the same time. Those were a lot of work because I had to haul all of my equipment and props there from storage and back again afterwards. I was really happy when I found the big studio space, since I could leave everything there and ready to go. I usually had a couple assistants for the group workshops, one of them, Herb, a very big man, former football player, who acted as my “enforcer” when very occasionally one of the workshop participants got out of line with a model, either verbally or with straying hands. Believe me, no one did it twice! Herb wouldn’t have hurt a fly, but his 400 pound size was intimidation enough. Thankfully he wasn’t needed often, and he was a photographer as well, so he got to take pictures for himself.

Before each workshop I sent each person who had signed up a sheet with the workshop rules. These were pretty simple: don’t touch the models, no alcohol during the workshop, no off color jokes, know how to operate your camera beforehand. I wanted to keep the tone professional and respectful. While most workshop students were men, I did get some female participants. I never had any serious problems at a workshop, although one model did get sick one time and spent a good part of a day in the dressing room throwing up in a bucket! For my outdoor workshops I had a portable dressing room I designed that Lastolite made for me. We were going to sell them, but the price turned out to be too high when you could just buy a cheap tent and accomplish the same thing. I kept the two prototypes for use at my workshops. Even when a woman is modeling nude, she needs privacy to get ready. I always provided a catered lunch at my workshops, and the lunch break was time to ask questions and discuss photography. I wanted everyone to have a good time, learn things, and come away with some great photos. I never had a dissatisfied attendee.

One special treat that set my workshops apart from others was a prize giveaway at the end. My photo industry sponsors contributed items to be given away, ranging from camera bags, tripods, flash units, lenses, to gift certificates. Each workshop attendee wrote their name on an envelope and put a tip for the models in it. The envelopes were put into a box and as each prize was shown one of the models pulled out an envelope and that attendee got the prize. The money was divided evenly among the models. Everyone loved this, and everyone got a nice prize worth much more than the money they’d tipped. Sponsors were glad to do it for the good will it generated. I had many different sponsors over the years, including Canon, Mamiya, Vivitar, Adorama, Beseler (camera bags), Fuji, Tiffen, Kodak, Photoflex, Plume, Chimera, Paul C. Buff, Sekonic, 3M, and others. Canon used to bring loaner cameras and most of their lenses for attendees to try out. Tiffen sent a bunch of filters in 72mm size with stepping rings to fit them to most lenses. Kodak, 3M and Fuji sent free film. Adorama sent a variety of photo gadgets.

I wanted my workshops to be fun, as well as learning experiences.

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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/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Environment, Film, Friends of TWS, History, Philadelphia, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, Travel, UPenn Photography

Bob Shell:

Deep Hate: Illustration by Thomcat23

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Illustration by Thomcat23, Copyright 2019

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INSANITY REIGNS IN AMERICA TODAY

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Many years ago Mark Twain said that America has no native criminal class except for Congress. Will Rogers said the difference between death and taxes was that death didn’t get worse every time Congress was in session.

What put these comments into my mind is that our government has devolved to the point that partisan bickering keeps it from accomplishing much, but what it does accomplish is usually bad. The ancient Greeks had a word for what we have today, kakistocracy. That means “government by the worst.”. And I think most of my readers will agree that we couldn’t get much worse than the current bunch of Bozos. No, wait, that’s an insult to Bozo the Clown, and these clowns aren’t the least bit funny.

But bad government is only part of the problem. We seem to be degenerating into a fractionalized society in which some fractions are always seeking to be offended by what other factions do. Nowhere in our constitution is there a right not to be offended. In fact, in earlier times Americans lived by the maxim, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Freedom of speech/expression is the most important right guaranteed by our Constitution. But many people obviously don’t believe in it. I’m sitting in this prison cell right now because twelve small town jurors were offended by my erotic photography. If they’d paid attention and done the job they pledged to do, they would have noticed that the prosecution never proved the key elements of its case against me, and none of my photography was illegal. But they ruled based on prejudice,, not fact, and were offended by the small sampling of my photos that the prosecution projected up to giant size on the courtroom wall, and those were personal photos never intended for publication.

This was brought back to my mind last week by a news story that I read in my favorite magazine, THE WEEK. To celebrate America, the Nike company planned to introduce a new shoe with the original United States flag, as designed by Betsy Ross, with a ring of thirteen stars, on the shoe back. Nike was forced to withdraw the shoe when people protested that the original United States flag was a symbol of slavery. Sounds ridiculous, iduotic, like someone’s idea of a silly fake news story. Something you’d see in THE ONION. But this really happened.

Now I could understand if Nike had used the “Stars and Bars” of the Confederacy, but the original U. S. flag? And so what? If Nike had any guts they’d have ignored protests from the ignorant and produced the shoe for those proud of our country to wear proudly. I’d have bought a pair if I was on the outside.

Certainly, there were things wrong with this country as first conceived, and slavery was one of them, but there were more good things than bad. Our history is a history of fixing what’s wrong incrementally, striving toward the impossible goal of perfection.

Women were repressed in this country far longer than any ethnic group, and in many ways still are, but we’re making progress on those issues. I didn’t hear women protesting Betsy Ross’s flag.

Communist regimes invariably try to rewrite history when they come to power, but history has a way of surviving to re-emerge when those regimes topple, as they invariably do. In the old U.S.S.R. they renamed everything, thus you ended up with cities named Leningrad, Stalingrad, etc., but when the U.S.S.R. collapsed the old names were restored because people had not forgotten them. The attempts nowadays to rewrite American history and wipe out all memory of the Confederacy are similarly due to fail. Knocking over statues revered by many is nothing more than vandalism, and is just another example of thin-skinned people looking for something to be offended by. Removing names of prominent Confederate generals from schools, highways, towns, etc. is more lunacy.

In Germany, they tried to wipe out the history of the Third Reich. They knocked down statues and monuments and renamed things named after Nazis. They went so far as to purge swastikas from the decal sets of plastic model kits of WWII airplanes, tanks, ships, etc., and banned the display of Nazi symbols. What did this accomplish? A generation ignorant of the history of European fascism, and the many skinhead neo-nazis and holocaust deniers.

Will we have deniers of slavery in our future? I’m sure we will.

In Italy, busts of Mussolini are illegal, but I could have bought an many as I wanted ranging in size from a few inches tall to larger than life size in San Marino. Who buys them? Italian tourists, of course, who take them home to display inside their houses. I could have bought Hitler busts, too, if I’d wanted such a thing. Was I offended that these things were for sale? No, I was not, because I know the history of the German Nazis and Italian Fascists, and that history must not be forgotten. The history of the American “Civil War,” similarly, must not be swept under the rug, but must be taught, and taught accurately.

Those who forget history are destined to repeat it. We must never forget the truth of that statement. If we want a future free from the evils of the past, we must remember them, and our children must be taught them honestly, even if the truth offends them. Not all history lessons are pleasant.

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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-objectifying-and-exploiting-women/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, News, Popular Culture, Travel