Bob Shell: Warning; Environmentalist Rant

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #19

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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WARNING: ENVIRONMENTALIST RANT

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Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory of my people. The white man is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he wants. The Earth is not his brother, but his enemy.

Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. —

That was written by Chief Seattle of the Duwanish tribe in 1855 in a letter to President Franklin Pierce. It could be written today to our present President just as well. We’ve polluted our own beds, and we’re close to the tipping point after which it will be too late. The tipping point, as explicated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name, is like making a pile of rice one grain at a time. You reach a point at which adding even one more single grain causes the whole pile to collapse. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back in the old Arab proverb.

We know how to generate clean, nonpolluting energy, but political forces are holding us back from doing it. I read several years ago that Portugal was generating all its electricity from clean, nonpolluting sources. Other European countries are on track to do the same. But not us, Do we have to wait until we pass the tipping point when the whole shebang collapses before we realize that cleaning up our act is not optional? We’re no longer cavemen who just discovered fire, and we need to stop burning stuff, particularly “fossil fuels,” and chopping down forests.

I have friends who are living “off the grid” right now, and are perfectly happy. Maybe there should be no grid. Make every household and building self sufficient. Is that possible? Yes, but it would require lifestyle changes we seem unwilling to make as a society.

For the global warming deniers I have this to say: It IS happening. Whether it’s totally anthropogenic or a natural cycle that we’re adding to and speeding up is really irrelevant. We need to stop contributing to it either way. At least for now this is the only planet we’ve got. We could have colonies on Mars one day and maybe even on other planets orbiting other stars, but until we figure out how to get into space using ways other than brute force rockets, that’s a long way off. Once we learn how gravity and inertia really work, we’ll be able to control them and move through space at near-infinite speed with very little energy expended, and the energy we need is out there to be harvested from “empty space” once we learn how. Some brilliant new Einstein will hit on the answer one day. I just hope she/he is not too late.

As Mark Twain wrote:

The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it.

Space migration, the first part of Tim Leary’s famous mantra SMI2LE (Space Migration, Intelligence Squared, Life Extension) is our ultimate future: “The finer part of mankind will, in all likelihood, never perish — they will migrate from sun to sun as each goes out. And so there is no end to life, to intellect, and the perfection of humanity. Its progress is everlasting.”. Konstintin E. Tsiolkovsky, father of rocketry and the Soviet space program wrote that. I agree with Tsiolkovsky that our future is in the Universe, but we must preserve this precious planetary womb until we are able to go forth “where no one has gone before.”

One of the more interesting people I’ve met in my life is Aleksander Balandin, Cosmonaut who spent six months in space aboard the old Mir space station. We met at a conference in San Marino where I was a speaker in 1996. Because he spoke no English and I no Russian, we relied on his handler Boris Tchourinoff to converse when we met for meals. I asked Aleksander what was the most beautiful thing he saw in space, and without pause he said, “Las Vegas at night.”. He wanted, he said, to go there one day. I told him not to, just to hold the memory, because seeing the real place would spoil the fantasy. Like most Astronauts and Cosmonauts, Aleksander had developed a deep, almost spiritual, feeling for the fragility of our planet, and the need to preserve it. (His handler/translator kept telling me, “I am not KGB because there is no more KGB.) But he clearly was there to watch over Aleksander and to make sure he gave away no secrets, and several times I could tell he was editing his translation and leaving things out. But we had a great time notwithstanding. We went out late one night since we were all not on local time, and I took a bunch of pictures of Boris clowning around after having a little too much to drink. I got the feeling that Russians like to have their fun, let their hair down, so to speak. But it was obvious that protection of our planet was as important to them as it was to me.

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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://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-my-years-at-shutterbug/

 

Posted in Affiliates, Blog, Current Events, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Politics, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: My Years at Shutterbug

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Shutterbug: 1973 – 2018

 

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison # 18

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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MY YEARS AT SHUTTERBUG

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My history with Shutterbug began in the mid-70s. I don’t even remember exactly when I wrote my first article for them. The magazine was founded by Glenn Patch as Shutterbug Ads, and was originally a tabloid printed on yellow paper (although the very first issue, which I still have, was printed on white paper), and was a buy/sell newspaper made up of classified ads for photo equipment and supplies. Editorial content came later, and originally wasn’t of very high quality. At some point, once editorial content became more important, I was hired as Technical Editor, to bring the accuracy of the adticles up to a higher standard to compete with the major photo magazines. But the magazine needed an editor, and I didn’t have the time to do that job and run my studio. Glenn asked me to find one, and I called my old friend Norman Rothschild, who recommended George Berkowitz, former Editor of Popular Photography magazine, then retired. We contacted George and he took the job. But he hated the Shutterbug Ads name and got it changed to Photographic News. It was published under that name for a year or so, but circulation declined, George left, and the magazine was renamed Shutterbug, still in tabloid newspaper format. I continued as Technical Editor. The next Editor was Jack Naylor, prominent photo historian and owner of the largest camera collection in private hands in the world. Jack lived in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and had no interest in moving to Titusville, Florida, where Shutterbug was based, so he flew down one week a month to put the book together (in the magazine business magazines are called books). Jack was independently wealthy from a major auto parts manufacturing business with factories worldwide, and so he took the job out of love of photography. He certainly didn’t need the money. Eventually he got bored with the job and quit. For a while the magazine drifted along without an editor, but I kept being given more responsibility, and in 1991 I was offered the job of Editor. I accepted, but on the condition that I could work from my home office in Radford, Virginia. I ran the magazine, going down to Titusville several times a year for staff meetings, using FedEx to get my material there, later going to fax, and still later to email attachments and upload to their server.

During my years as Editor the magazine grew every year, and the classified ads became less and less important as a source of income, displaced by the Internet, so editorial content became more and more important. In 1997 Glenn, who’d declared for years that Shutterbug was never going to be sold, sold the magazine to a media conglomerate in NYC called Primedia. I was very upset by this because I’d said many times that if the magazine was sold I wanted a chance to put together an offer. I pretty much knew my days were numbered when they said, “We’re not going to change anything,” and promptly proceeded to change everything. They knew less than zip about the photography business, and put a man in as Publisher whose ideas of where the magazine should go and mine were like oil and water. After photokina 2000 I got a phone call from this guy telling me he was replacing me with someone else as Editor. He really didn’t have the authority to do that, and when I went up to NYC to talk to the Primedia people it became clear that they had been told that I wanted to retire. I could have dragged the whole sordid mess into court, but that might have hurt the magazine I’d devoted my life to, and made it impossible for me to continue as Editor anyway, so I chose to bow out gracefully. Many advertisers contacted me with offers to protest by pulling their advertising, but I told them not to. I didn’t want to hurt Shutterbug. The last thing I wanted was to damage the magazine, so I negotiated a quiet settlement that allowed me to continue as Editor At Large. It hurt me badly financially, because it paid less than half what I’d made as Editor, but at the same time freed me to write for other magazines, so I contacted my friend Bill Hurter at Rangefinder. I’d given Bill work when he was between jobs and he reciprocated by giving me work writing for Rangefinder, which he was then running. I had friends worldwide in the photo magazine world, so I was soon writing for Zoom (Italy), Color Foto (Germany), Photo Answers and Amateur Photographer (England), Asahi Photo (Japan), Asian Photographer (India), Photomagazin (Russia), and some others I’ve no doubt forgotten, as well as for Photo Techniques, Photo Electronic Imaging, Professional Photographer, and Digital Camera in the USA. I was also the Photo Guru for BestStuff.com and their short-lived print magazine. I couldn’t write for other magazines while still Editor at Shutterbug — my contract didn’t allow it — but my new contract allowed me to write for anyone who wanted me. Soon I was bringing in more money than before the double-cross. Of course, I was still writing my obligatory two articles a month for Shutterbug. And I was writing two or three books a year.

Then in June of 2003, disaster struck. My young girlfriend Marion Franklin died of an apparent drug overdose taken while I was out getting dinner and I was accused by the Radford Police of causing her death. I was thrown in jail and it took 30 days for friends to arrange my bond and get me out. My mother had died a month before Marion and left me money, or I wouldn’t have had the bail money. When I got home I found a letter from the NY office waiting for me saying that “due to the accusations” my contract was terminated. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? But even though Shutterbug let me down, Joe White, then Editor at Photo Techniques, kept me on writing lighting articles and Digital Camera gave me the job of Technical Editor, so I had work. Plus I got contracts to write books for several publishers, so the wolf was kept away from the door.

After writing the above I received some terrible news. Earlier this year Shutterbug was sold to a British media conglomerate. Their first move was to lay off our best people, including the Managing Editor. Then, in the June issue they announced that they were taking the magazine bimonthly, beginning with the July/August issue. I’ve just learned that the July/August issue will never appear. They’ve shut the magazine down. Buying a successful and profitable magazine only to shut it down makes no sense at all. I feel like my best friend just died. R.I.P. Shutterbug 1973 – 2018. Dead at age 45.

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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://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-dead-cats-in-the-studio-yikes/

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Cameras, Current Events, Documentary, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women

A.H. Scott: By George, He’s Got it!

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The Petulant Puppet by Thomcat23

 

 

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2018

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Illustration by Thomcat23, Copyright 2018

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For me, this quote below was truly the kicker that set my head spinning! You can’t make this craziness from his lips up. Unbelievable!

 

Standing in front of the VFW Convention last Tuesday, he actually said this:

 “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” – Donald J. Trump, President of The United States, Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, July 24th, 2018

 70 years ago a work of fiction was written, but reality is always stranger than anything one can come up with in their imagination:

 “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” – George Orwell, “1984”, published 1949

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 By George, He’s Got It!

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Happening now, is not what you see

Happening now, is not what you hear

Pay attention only to the billboard on the wall with the one of tiny hands and mind that is so small

Pied piper he may never be

But, leader is the only one he is as you can see

Free press is the enemy

Stenographers are the friend of He

We must praise the leader, for He is law

Truth and justice cannot be something we saw

By George, he’s got it!

He is ever so wise

Controlling the masses with his lies

Look at the shiny orb he holds in his hands

It glistens with xenophobia and shimmers with manufactured rage

All he does hypnotizes the senses

The takeover of the muddled mind is going as planned

This is his moment

He is the CHOSEN man

Pay attention to the wall of division

Your neighbor is not your equal

Report them in accordance to the leader

Speak only of the agenda repeated like parrots

Never step out of line or think for yourself

Isn’t it better to let the leader of the state take care of those little agitations, formerly known as rights and freedoms?

Just listen to the mantra for solace and control

By George, he’s got it!

Let the cloud of conformity mollify your soul

Obey the voice of the state and you can never go wrong

Pen scratched against history has cast a shadow ever so long

Seventy-years on, the bell tolls strong

By George, he’s got it!

Now, we are through the looking glass

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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://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-the-torch/

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About The Illustrator: Thomcat23 is a new contributing artist at Tony Ward Studio. The owner of a hyperactive imagination, Thomcat23 creates images based on a wide variety of categories. Everything from cartoons to politics are mangled, jumbled, smashed, merged and synthesized to create colorful and interesting works of art. The pop surrealist approach Thomcat23, stems from his formal training as a graphic designer and his love of comic book-style pen and ink illustration he’s sharpened over the years. He has a wide variety of influence, which include Jack Kirby and Renee Magritte. To access more of Thomcat 23’s work, follow him on Instagram @Thomcat23. Or Facebook: The Art of Thomcat23.

Posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Book Reviews, Current Events, History, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture

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/

 

Posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, History, News, Popular Culture, Science, Travel

Bob Shell: Art of Rope

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Bob Shell: Art of Rope

 

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #16

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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Just how did the book Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope come about? Basically, it was Marion’s idea. She’d been looking at my collection of books, including Tony’s Obsession, Petter Hegre’s My Wife, Ralph Gibson’s Deus Ex Machina, Lee Higgs’s Generation Fetish, and others (all confiscated by the cops, none returned, most of them signed copies given to me by the photographers) and decided she wanted The Marion Book. She was heavily into sexual bondage, said she had the most intense orgasms when restrained. She’d shown me a bunch of Polaroid snaps of her bound taken by an old boyfriend. The photography and rigging were amateurish, but she still shined. She also described the bondage sessions she’d done with a recent boyfriend, and complained that he tied the ropes too tight. So I began shooting some bondage sessions with her, something new to me. Oh, I’d played around with handcuffs and such with a few models, but nothing hardcore. I then built a suspension frame, incorporating suggestions from her dad, and built a couple of sets. It was then that I discovered rainbowrope.com, where I found nice soft 1/4 inch Nylon rope in all sorts of colors. I bought a bunch of rope from them as well as some props like an old style dental clamp that Marion fell in love with. We commenced shooting for the book each week after my other obligations were out of the way. After we had some pictures we really liked. I went looking for a publisher. I didn’t think an American publisher would be interested. so I went looking in Germany, where several of my books had been published. My main German publisher was a wing of the Vatican, so I didn’t take this project to them! After several dead ends, I found a publisher, and we began to rough the book out – and then that publisher went bust. I was discouraged, but this had happened before, and so I started over. If I had all the money publishers have gone broke owing me, I might have been as wealthy as the prosecutor thought!

I talked to Lee Higgs and he put me in touch with his publisher in Germany, Goliath. They loved the project and over the course of a year or so we put the book together. In fact they liked it so much that they decided to make it the first of a series under a new imprint, MixOfPix. In the middle of this process Marion died. I was very conflicted about going on with the project, but Marion’s best friend Samantha had seen the photos (and was in some) and said Marion would have wanted me to finish the project, and her other friends I talked to felt the same, I felt they were right, so I hired other models to do the shoots we’d planned and sketched, and finished the book. That I published under my Edward Lee pseudonym had nothing to do with Marion’s death, but had been the plan from the beginning. I had some very straight-laced clients at the time and wanted to keep things separate.

The prosecutor implied that I’d made a lot of money from the book. As photographers who have done picture books will tell you, you do not get rich from this type of book. I did not do a detailed accounting, but by the time I figured in model’s fees, cost of set building, and all the other expenses of doing the shoots for the book, I might just have broken even. I did have some quiet support from photo industry companies, and a cheering section from my dear old friend Monte Zucker, who gleefully showed me the gay bondage he was shooting and critiqued the images for me. But, no matter what the prosecutor implied, I was not rolling in money from this project. The book is out of print now, and my royalties ended long ago, but I’m told it is available from Amazon.

Marion also wanted a website along with the book. She’d been inspired by boundndetermined.com, the website owned by my friend Maria Shadoes, and wanted to call hers bound2bwild.com. I’d registered the name and Maria and I were working on the design. Maria made a good living from the websites she owned and webmastered and was to be our webmaster. All those plans came to naught, though. Marion’s website never went live. So many plans and dreams died with her.

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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-15/

 

Posted in Art, Blog, Book Reviews, Current Events, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women