Category Archives: Science

Bob Shell: Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make

 

 

 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #27

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Photography by Julie Chu, Aja Butane, Katherine Jania & Zoe, Copyright 2018

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Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage.

We’ve all heard that old saying, but where does it come from? It’s the beginning of the last stanza of the poem “To Althea, from Prison” written in 1642 by Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned in Gatehouse Prison. His crime? He had petitioned to have the 1640 Clergy Act annulled. Today, no one knows for certain who Althea was, or if she was even real, but she lives on in that romantic poem. BTW, the full stanza goes:

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.

If you want to read the whole poem, it’s on Wikipedia. Someone set the lyrics to music, and Dave Swarbrick does an excellent version on Fairport Convention’s album Nine. I was fortunate enough to be photographing Dave on stage during my music photographer days and lost all interest in photography when he launched into the fiddle intro to Althea (I say fiddle, but I believe Dave was playing a viola that night). I learned years later that Dave was struggling with hearing loss, probably from all those years on stage in front of giant amplifiers. I’m partially deaf today in my right ear, the one that was usually toward the amps when I was on stage right. Fairport was opening for Traffic on that early 70s tour, and, for my money put on a better show.

But back to poor Richard pining for Althea through his bars. Let me tell you something, Richard. Stone walls (or concrete today) do a pretty damned effective prison make!

Modern prisons are modular structures made of interlocking precast concrete slabs. The slabs are lifted into place with cranes during construction. You may find signs that the slabs were lying flat at one time in the form of muddy boot prints going across walls that no one bothered to clean off. These “build a prison kits” go together quickly, almost like building with Lego blocks. Once finished they generally are T-shaped buildings, with each arm of the T being a “pod” with cells on three sides, plus showers, and a flat concrete floor with stainless steel tables with attached seats anchored to the floor. Cells generally are about 8 x 12 feet on the inside with the door on one of the 8 foot walls and a small window on the other. Except that the designers of the prison I’m in right now decided to omit the windows. Inside each cell are two bunks attached to the walls, a very small table attached to a wall with one or two seats, also attached to the wall, and a one-piece stainless steel sink/toilet, also attached to a wall. Nothing movable! I’ve been in four different Virginia prisons in the last ten years, and they’re pretty much the same with minor variations. Storage space for personal belongings in cells is very limited, usually an under-bed locker, either welded to the bottom bunk or sliding on the floor so it can be pushed under the bottom bunk. Speaking of bunks, they’re steel slabs. We are given “mattresses” for comfort, two-inch thick foam pads that are more like yoga mats than real mattresses. I used to have a “medical mattress” prescribed by a DOC doctor, but the DOC eliminated them several years ago. It was about six inches thick and very comfortable. I guess they don’t want us to be comfortable. I’m certainly not. I’m writing this at four in the morning, unable to sleep, an all too common problem here. For towels or whatever there are two “hooks” on one wall. These are straight metal rods about three inches long with a ball on the end that fits into a socket attached to the wall. The ball is a friction fit into the socket, so if you put too much weight on it, it collapses. Why? “We don’t want no hangings.”

I really don’t understand what anyone thinks they’re accomplishing by warehousing people this way. They no longer call these places prisons. Now they’re “Correctional Centers.”. I guess the word “prison” has become non-PC. But I can tell you from personal experience that damn little correction takes place. Oh, they have programs and classes, they will tell you. I’ve “been down” ten years as of last September and have yet to be offered a seat in one of those programs or classes. I’ve certainly not been rehabilitated! Nor did I need to be. I was doing just fine, making a good living from photography and writing, and at the peak of my career. And the state brought my whole life crashing down over events that never even happened except in the imagination of an incompetent quack of a medical examiner. I’ve posted details at www.bobshelltruth.com under News Updates.

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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-whats-wrong-with-the-american-justice-system/

 

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PSA: Smoking is NOT Glamorous!

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Smoking is NOT Glamorous!

 

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PSA: Smoking is NOT Glamorous!

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Bob Shell: American Justice System

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Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #20

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM

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In 1923 the great American journalist H. L. Mencken wrote:

You will find as many intelligent and honest men in the average prison as you will find in the average club, and when it comes to courage, enterprise, and determination — in brief the special virtues which mark the superior man — you will probably find many more.

Here is Menckin’s description of a trial:

With a crowd of poltroons in the jury box venting their envious hatred of enterprise and daring upon a man who, at worst, is at least as decent as they are: with a scoundrel in the bench lording over a scoundrel in the dock because the latter is less clever than he is.

Menckin pretty much nailed the “American Justice System,” which has never really been about justice, if we’re honest about it. A real justice system would provide the accused with resources equal to those of the prosecution. A person should not be forced to bankrupt himself to defend against false charges. When you are accused of a crime. the state martials all its resources against you, and unless you are rich, you most likely can’t come up with equivalent resources. Criminal investigators, expert witnesses, paralegals, and good criminal lawyers are very expensive. When I was charged I contacted the best criminal lawyer I knew of. He listened to my story and asked if I could raise several million dollars, and when I said no, he said that I couldn’t afford him. As actor Robert Blake said, “In America today you are presumed innocent until you are found broke.”.

And think about that presumption of innocence. In the USA you are “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”. Note the use of the word “until” which carries the implication that you WILL be proven guilty. The word should be “unless.”. But in most cases you will be found guilty because most people think “they wouldn’t have charged him if he didn’t do it.”

Just how did I end up in prison at the age of 60 with a 32 1/2 year sentence? I’d had my studio in Radford, Virginia since the end of the 1970s. I had been working for Shutterbug magazine for years, first in the 70s as a columnist, then as Technical Editor, and in 1991 I became Editor in Chief, and held that position until I “retired” in 2001, staying on as Editor At Large. Actually, “retired” was a euphemism for ” forced out in a palace coup.”. I first had my studio in Radford starting in 1981, when I took over an existing business that was studio/photo shop. I had been working for Gentry Studios in Blacksburg. Gentry also had a location in Radford and had decided to close it. I took the risk and took it over. At first I made hardly any money there, but in time it picked up and by the time Shutterbug offered me the Editor’s job it was doing well enough that I was able to sell the business. We were living on a small farm at the time, so we sold the farm and bought a house in Radford. (Oddly enough, we sold the farm back to the man we’d bought it from fifteen years earlier. It was his wife’s old home place and she was homesick for it.)

My original Radford studio was in downtown just a block off main street. Once I was living in town, I went looking for a new studio and found it at 239 West Main Street, just a couple of blocks from the police station.

Let me make something clear, during all those years I worked for Patch Communications, publisher of Shutterbug, PhotoPRO, Outdoor and Nature Photography, and other magazines I was never an employee. My company, Bob Shell Ltd., contracted with Patch for my services. This arrangement allowed me to work from my home office and set my own hours, for a flat monthly fee. It saved Patch money, too, since they didn’t have to provide me benefits. I took care of my own medical insurance and dealt with the IRS myself. I valued my freedom and my right to take time off whenever I wanted without being tied down to an office.

In 1991 I found the ideal studio location in a storefront between a drugstore and an antique shop. The space was about 40 X 80. I wanted a big space because I wanted it to be a teaching studio where I could hold my studio lighting and posing workshops. With the help of a friend I built a wall across the front for a small office, and built a dressing room in back, with big mirrors for the models. There was already a storage room and restroom in the back. The same friend and I remodeled the restroom. The floor was covered with old wall-to-wall carpet, which was in terrible shape. I hired a couple of strong young college men to take up the carpet, which had to be scraped up with shovels, and to use a big commercial sander to sand the wood floor smooth. Then I painted all the walls and floor with white pigmented shellac, which I’d used before and is very durable. I then approached photo equipment companies to loan me equipment and props, which they were all too glad to do because they knew my students would buy equipment they had used in my workshops. It was a win-win for them and me. I soon had s studio bulging with equipment and props. The studio was big enough that I could have three sets going at once. To keep the flash units on one set from interfering with another I used Wein Products infrared flash triggers, and later radio slaves. My studio workshops were held three or four days a year, each for two days on a weekend.

In the late 80s I’d bought a tract of forest land and had a road built into it and began conducting outdoor workshops there. It was beautiful forest, and my plan was (and still is) to put a house or cabin there at some point.

On June 3, 2003, I returned to my studio in the evening and found my girlfriend, Marion Franklin, passed out. When I could not awaken her I called 911 and then my nightmare began. I was accused of killing her based on false testimony of an incompetent medical examiner, and I sit here today because the man is too stubborn to admit that he was wrong. That’s today’s American Justice System.

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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-warning-environmentalist-rant/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Cameras, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

Bob Shell: Dead Cats in the Studio – Yikes!

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Artwork by Dean Rosenzweig, Copyright 2018

 

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison # 17

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Artwork by Dean Rosenzweig, Copyright 2018

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DEAD CATS IN THE STUDIO – YIKES!

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Some years ago my friend Steve Sint and I were eating in a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan, when the subject of discussion turned to what our personal limits were, what we would and would not photograph. Basically Steve argued for photographing anything at all, so long as the pay was good and it wouldn’t get you arrested, while I thought a photographer should have some narrower limits. Looking back on that now, I realize that my limits are pretty bizarre by many people’s standards.

Case in point: Those dead cats.

At some time in the mid-80s, Ruth Steinberger, an illustrator friend who primarily illustrates textbooks, came to me with a project. It was to illustrate an anatomy and physiology lab manual. The plan was for Ruth and the author to bring the dead cats to my studio and dissect them in stages. I was to take photos and Ruth would do line drawings to make the details easier to locate, photo on left page, drawing on right page. This project took something like two weeks with the smelly cats in my studio. I don’t know what they use as a preservative now that formaldehyde has been banned, but it sure stinks! Took weeks for that smell to leave my studio completely. Limits: they also wanted some pictures of cadavers, but I said no, no dead people in my studio!

Was I wrong? Steve would have thought so, and said go for it. But I just couldn’t wrap my mind around working with dead bodies. The cats were enough for me.

Which brings me to another weird project, dead aliens. You may remember the furor raised by the FOX TV program Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction broadcast, I think, in 1995.. As it turned out the owner of the film wanted my help in authenticating that the 16mm film actually dated from 1947. I knew that Kodak used edge marks exposed onto the film during manufacture to make dating of film footage possible. I was sent some pieces of the actual film to analyze, and the edge markings were correct for 1927, 1947, or 1967 (Kodak reuses the code every 20 years), but there was a hitch – the film was a copy, not camera original footage. This was explained because the camera original would have been a negative and copied onto another film for projection. The film was supposedly shot by an Army photographer after the crash near Roswell, New Mexico, of an unknown aircraft The film couldn’t have been shot in 1927 or 1967 because the film type (Kodak Super XX) wasn’t made in those years. So was it really filmed in 1947? I couldn’t say 100% yes or no, but my gut feeling is that it was.

While working on this project I was contacted by a producer from TF1, one of the French TV networks. Would I come to Paris to give my opinion on a live, two hour program they were doing on the film? Oui! So off to Paris I flew to appear on Jacques Pradel Presents. Pradel was sort of like the French Dan Rather, with an enormous following. They’d built a giant eye on the set with a working iris, and it opened and I walked out of it and down stairs to dramatic music to meet Pradel. We carried on a conversation that was somewhat stilted because I don’t speak French. So as he was speaking a babelfish in my ear was piping in a “simultaneous” translation. The same for him since he doesn’t speak English. Anyway, it was a blast, particularly the after party! Anyone interested in learning more about this episode of my photographic career can read the book that Mike Hesemann, Philip Mantle, and I wrote titled Beyond Roswell. My name isn’t on the book cover due to contractual problems, but I’m in there as co-author. And, no, I don’t get any royalties, that’s long since ended, so I don’t profit if you buy the book. Actually I’m still mad at the publisher. They sent me galley proofs so I could make corrections, I spent hours going over them and sent in a long list of corrections. Then the book came out without a single correction being made! These things happen and the authors get the blame. When my first book (Pro Guide: The Canon EOS System) came out, two of my photographs were printed upside-down! Of course those readers who noticed blamed me.

Is that really a dead Roswell alien being sliced and diced in that strange film? The jury is still out on that. Anyone interested can find tons of pro and con on the Internet, including an audio file of my interview with Art Bell on his old Coast to Coast FM radio program. I’ve just learned that Art died, a real loss to his many listeners over the years.

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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://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-art-of-rope/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, History, News, Popular Culture, Travel

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #11

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

 
Letters From Prison: Part 11, 2018

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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As an observer of the world and all its wonders, I am very concerned that we are such poor stewards of this “jumpin’ green sphere.” (as Lord Buckley called it.). Annyone who persists in denying climate change is just not paying attention. The Arctic ice cap is melting! Now people seem to think that only concerns polar bears and Eskimos, but it should seriously concern us all. All of that ice is FRESH WATER, man! Once enough fresh water floods into the Laurentian Sea and desalinates it, this will seriously affect the temperature differential of the Atlantic that drives the major currents (to say nothing about what it will do to the fish). The only reason that northern Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, Iceland, etc., are habitable is the North Atlantic Current, which pumps warm water (and air) up from the tropics and warms things up for the people there. Take away that current, have it loop farther south, or greatly weaken it, and you have Siberia! Sure, people do live in Siberia, but they can’t grow their food there. Shut off the North Atlantic Current and most of Europe becomes too cold for crops. Keep the current shut down and you have a new Ice Age (this same effect causes all ice ages) and it will come to that if the Arctic keeps melting. It’s probably far too late to stop the melting, if we even could.

All that being said, I’m not convinced that we caused this. Many blame us and our addiction to burning fossil fuels, but ice ages are cyclical, and we weren’t around in significant numbers before the last big one, and most likely not around at all for most of them. So I doubt we’re the sole cause of the coming one; but we may well have nudged it sooner; it would have. happened regardless. Of course what’s happening in the northern hemisphere is also happening in the southern, and probably with similar effects. I know a lot less about ocean currents in southern oceans. But the truth, as illogical as it may seem at first, is that global warming at the surface causes and precedes ice ages. And we should be preparing ourselves for this. Most scientists who study the past are “gradualists” who believe that all earth changes take a long time. Their opposites are “catastrophists” who believe that some changes can be sudden. There is evidence accumulating that the last big ice age may have arrived pretty suddenly, perhaps in just one season. Maybe even faster. The mammoths found in the permafrost of Siberia show signs of being flash frozen, and scientists from Japan believe they can extract viable sperm from one and use it to artificially inseminate an elephant to produce an elephant/mammoth hybrid from which they can breed a new herd of mammoths. The famous Beresovka mammoth was killed and frozen so fast that it was still chewing on its last meal. That didn’t happen gradually! Slow freezing allows ice crystals to form inside cells, and those crystals tear up the complex cellular machinery and burst the cell walls, basically reducing tissue to mush. Flash freezing, as Clarence Birdseye discovered, preserves cellular structure, so your frozen foods aren’t mush. Mammoths have been found so fresh that people have dined on mammoth steaks! Gradualism be damned!

The movie The Day After Tomorrow used this idea to good effect, and it was based on Whitley Strieber’s book The Coming Global Superstorm, where I first encountered these ideas. I’ve since read much on the subject, and I’m convinced.

What’s this got to do with photography? you may ask. Well, I didn’t only photograph unclad females. In fact, the majority of my stock photography sales have been of landscapes and nature pictures. As I mentioned before, I’m (through Shutterbug) one of the founders of NANPA, the North American Nature Photographers Association, and was Technical Editor of Outdoor and Nature Photography magazine. I care about the natural world deeply. If I’m wrong about the coming ice age, and I truly hope I am, I’d like to see the natural world be around for future generations to love, and photograph. Weather isn’t the only threat to the natural world, we are destroying it at a ridiculous speed. There is nothing more absurd than cutting down forests to raise more cattle for our hamburgers, yet we’re doing it at an alarming rate. Those forests make the oxygen we breathe! Do we want to eat our burgers while sucking on a tube from an oxygen tank?

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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 at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-letters-from-prison-10/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, History, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Travel