Category Archives: Still Life

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/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, History, Men, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Science

Diary: Why I bought a 38

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38 Holstered. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018. Model: Sandy Ward

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018
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38 HOLSTERED

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Back in the early 90’s, my wife and I were visiting friends at a party in Vineland, New Jersey, about an hours drive from our studio in center city Philadelphia when my cell phone rang.  It was a neighbor in our building on 6th street informing me that our apartment had been broken into and police were called to investigate.  I was shocked at first never before was I violated in such a personal way. Sandy (my wife at the time) and I immediately drove home speeding up 42 North towards the Walt Whitman Bridge. By the time of our arrival home the building was silent, no police in sight,  just a vague description from a neighbor that they saw a man with a tape player in his hand hastily walking down the fire escape and out the back door of the building.

When I entered the apartment from the garage, the rear door exiting to the fire escape was closed but not locked. There was no clear sign of a break in. Not a scratch on the door or a crowbar left behind. It raised serious questions as to who could have entered the loft without breaking in? A few things were missing; change that I left on the burrow of my bedroom, my fathers antique watch that he gave me when I was in college, the new tape player that I just bought was missing.  All of the wires connecting it to the rest of the stereo equipment was strewn about. My mind started to imagine and search for who the perpetrator could be? Was it one of my employee’s some of whom did have a key?

The next day I drove up to my father’s house in Elkins Park and asked him to go with me to a gun shop that I knew was straight up 611 just before you get to the Willow Grove mall. We parked out in front of the nondescript place, walked in and began pacing up and down the cases looking for the best way to comfort my fear of the break in. Thoughts of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry came to mind.  I also recalled when I used to go out in the back woods with my roommate in college to practice shooting at tin cans with his 44 Magnum until one day he cracked the barrel by overpacking the bullets. The store’s salesman convinced me I didn’t need anything that large. The 38 Rossi was an adequate means of protecting my home in the event of another break in when I was home or worse home with my wife and children. I became a regular at the shooting range and eventually learned how to pack my own hollow point bullets.

Fortunately, I have never had to use it other than to enjoy the cheap thrill of being able to hit a target from a certain distance. Nowadays folks go out and buy an AR15 for similar reasons. Somehow I think that is a bit over kill.

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To access additional diary entries by Tony Ward, click herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/diary-portrait-of-a-jersey-girl/

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About The Author: Tony Ward is a fine art photographer, author, blogger, publisher and Adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Portrait of Tony Ward by Ed Simmons, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Tony Ward by Ed Simmons, Copyright 2018

Also posted in Accessories, Art, Blog, Diary, Documentary, Environment, Film, History, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture

Field Report: Happy Hour and Available Light

Happy Hour. Bernie's Bar & Restaurant. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

Happy Hour. Bernie’s Bar & Restaurant. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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Field Report: Happy Hour and Available Light

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I was sitting at the bar at Bernie’s restaurant and bar in Glenside Pa. enjoying a delicious Ketel One martini when I finally realized why I like this place so much.  The food, beverage and sexy millennial wait staff is excellent. The modern well appointed interior space is beautifully designed accented by natures natural light. Well positioned, the bar faces west with large plate glass windows behind it looking out on to Glenside’s charming suburban neighborhood. There’s an outdoor seating area for diners as well.  I’ve observed on several occasions when the sun sets behind the bar on a clear day, it seems to have  a magical impact on the mood of the diners and wait staff.  Everyone seems to be happy in that moment. The light is deliciously seductive at that hour in this place.

I had my compact SonyRX100V camera handy and framed a few pics that I think captures the feeling during this happiest of  hours.  Camera was balanced for daylight with ISO 400, F-2.8 at 1/80th of a second. Zoom lens was set to 20mm. It’s hard to beat the nimbleness and refined resolution of this Sony capturing device.

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Happy Hour. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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Tony Ward shooting with the SonyRX100V.

Tony Ward shooting with the SonyRX100V.

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About The Author: Tony Ward is a fine art photographer, author, blogger, publisher and Adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania. To access additional field reports by Tony Ward,  click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/03/20/field-report-sony-rx100-v/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel

Blink Optical: The Place to Shop for Eyewear

 

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Marc Jacobs Eyewear

 

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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PHILADELPHIA-

The best place in Philly to shop for eyewear is Blink Optical, located at 415 South Street.  I say this without hesitation mainly because of the incredible inventory they carry, upwards of 3000 frames to examine on a wall of eyewear that is almost overwhelming to take in at first glance.  On a recent visit in search of a new pair of sunglasses  I was greeted by a very polite salesperson who asked if there was a specific lens that I was looking for.  My answer was no but if I can’t find anything in this place – with all these choices – something is wrong with me. I proceeded to take the next 15 to 20 minutes carefully studying each frame by working my way up and down the aisle, from one end of the store to the other. It was a process where I really had to concentrate by looking at each individual frame, making sure not to miss the one in three thousand that I liked the best.

By the time I painstakingly got to the very end of the display I noticed a frame that reminded me of a designer I was presently wearing.  I pointed to the frame that seemed to stand alone in the crowd reminiscent of the contours of the glasses that I  currently use for reading. Out of the 3000 frames I selected Marc Jacobs eyewear. Now I have a complimentary pair of MJ, one for reading and the other for cruising.

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Portrait of Tony Ward wearing Marc Jacobs eyewear. Photo: Dwight Ward, Copyright 2018.

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About The Author: Tony Ward is a fine art photographer, author, blogger, publisher and Adjunct Professor of Photography at the University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Tony Ward,  click herehttp://tonyward.com/2018/03/22/diary-portrait-of-a-jersey-girl/

 

Also posted in Accessories, Blog, Documentary, Fashion, Gifts, Glamour

Fangyi “Frank” Fan: Colors of Bottles

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Photography, Text and Video by Fangyi “Frank” Fan, Copyright 2018

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Colors of Bottles

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In college, alcohol has a big presence in many students’ life. Just as the variety of alcohol, liquor bottles usually are made available in different colors, shapes and styles, which do not get equal recognition compared to the liquid inside. For me, they seem like the perfect still objects for this series of still lifes.

I found these bottles in my friend’s apartment. They were put on the top of a shelf , covered by dust. My friend told me that they have been there for quite a long time and if I wanted I could just take them with me. He apparently felt that those bottles became useless once the drinking is done. However, after I stared at the bottles, the different forms of liquor bottles fascinated me.  The transparent nature of the colorful glass as well as the creative labels all make these bottles like art pieces. All eight pictures could be broken down into two categories: full bottles and details on a bottle. For the category of full bottles, I tried different lighting techniques to display the full beauty of the objects. In four of them, I put an Iphone underneath the bottle and used the flashlight app to light up the bottle from underneath. This extra addition of light source, though inducing some noise at some parts, added some flavor to the picture. In the second category of the shooting, I focused on the labels of the liquor bottles. By adjusting f stops, I achieved the desired depth of field in shooting those micro details with excellent clarity.

The more I worked with those empty bottles, the more I pondered what alcohol brought to students at Penn. A way to alleviate stress? A tool to escape reality? Or is it just a social norm that most people tend to conform to? The answer lies in the emptiness of those bottles.

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About The Author: Fangyi “Frank” Fan is a Senior enrolled in the School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018. To access additional articles by Fangyi “Frank” Fan, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/fangyi-frank-fan-meaning-of-makeup/

 

Also posted in Blog, Environment, Photography, Popular Culture, UPenn, UPenn Photography, UPenn: Photography Students, Video