Vibe Rouvet is the daughter of TWS contributing illustrator Alexandra Rouvet Duvernoy of France. A stunning resemblance to her mother with talent that runs deep in the family, Ms. Rouvet is an opera student at the Music Conservatory of Pau, France. On the video she sings “Volta la Terrea” from Verdi (extract from the opera: Un ballo in Masquera). Here singing teacher is Marie Claire Delay. This summer she will be taking a master class in Mozarteum of Salzburg in Austria.
Holly and I had worked together many times before leading up to this shoot at the Jersey shore. I first met her at Delilah’s Den, a well established gentlemen’s club on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia. Back then she was a shot girl and one evening she came over to me while I was seated at a table next to the main dance stage when she asked if I wanted a shot? I said no but I would like to have your number. I explained that I was a contract photographer for Penthouse and was at the club that evening scouting for new models. She reached for a napkin on her server tray and jotted down her contact information. That marked the beginning of 1o year run between a photographer and young woman that would quickly become his muse. At 21 years of age Holly began to appear in countless Penthouse pictorials, Playboy and she even crossed over briefly into fashion layouts for mainstream publications based in New York. This particular photo was created in the parking lot of a seedy Atlantic City motel where we set the stage for a series of fashion fetish photos featuring Holly as a fetishistic bon vivant.
TW: You had an exhibition recently in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts. What did returning to your hometown mean to you at this stage of your illustrious career?
GK: I have many great old friends in Philadelphia. An exhibition in Philadelphia offers me the opportunity to see as many of them as possible. My last exhibition in Philadelphia was in 2009 at the Plastic Club. There were a hundred faces I hadn’t seen in almost fifty years. Sad to say there were a few less in attendance at the opening at the UArts show in 2018. I was pleased to be invited by my alma mater to do a small introspective of work from the last sixty years.
TW: What have you observed since you first began photographing people nude with respect to the issue of privacy and the obscenity laws in the USA?
GK: I don’t know the obscenity laws in the USA. I wrote the following for a book of essays collected by Andy Warhol’s right hand man Gerard Malanga. It has been referred to quite often.
From the book Scopophila: The Love of Looking by Gerard Malanga
Years ago I was accused by my wife of sleeping with all of the women who posed for me. My photographs suggested to her that I was getting more gratification out of photographing these nudes than just the making of images. This is perhaps the most common conception or misconception of voyeurism. I find it all but impossible to mix lovemaking with the act of making a photograph. But there is in fact a certain amount of seduction inherent, and for me necessary, in the making of a nude image, particularly a photographic image. Since my work often deals with fantasy, I want to create not only an ideal woman but a mythological woman of my dreams. This requires a talent, (unfortunately, one I’ve not yet fully developed) to transcend reality, which is helped greatly by encouraging in myself a fictional obsession and passion for the subject. The model in turn can respond with a desire to fulfill the artist’s attempt at transcendence or with a baser, narcissistic love for the attention being paid her, making love more to the camera than to the photographer. My wife’s accusations were, of course, not true, but when I thought about it I decided that it should be best if the photographer would photograph the woman (women) he was sleeping (in love) with. The accusation does reveal the artist /model fantasies imagined by those outside this collaboration. There is the erotic vulnerability of the undressed model with the dressed photographer (slave/master). At the first photographic session I’m nervous with the responsibility/obligation to the model to create something special and anxious with the potential fictional passion. In time I realize I can control the situation and the amount of desire needed to create the image I’m after.
The very act of peering through a small window to see a naked woman in the camera’s viewfinder suggests that of a Peeping Tom. There is the cowardice of distancing through the camera’s intervention to change the sexual reality of a nude woman into the context of a work of art. This is an attempt to sublimate the voyeuristic
nature of the nude. It is possible to increase the degree of distance in viewing a photograph of the nude by including another subject. This could be the photographer or other photographers. I am also thinking of the paintings of Susannah and the Elders. We may find it more acceptable to study the nude’s genitalia in the photograph when there are others included in the image for this purpose.
While an image of a woman nude may no longer evoke that of a fallen woman, a nude model today is perhaps considered a liberated woman, envied by some for her freedom in exposing her genitals and suspect by others for her morality or lack of it. This affects our take on the image.
I have shown my photographs of nudes to many art historians, and many of them have admitted difficulty in appreciating the nude in a photograph, in contrast to having no problem with the nude in other mediums (painting, sculpture, etc.). This suggests a special quality of voyeurism inherent in the “real” photographic medium.
Almost everyone approaches a photograph of a nude voyeuristically. We tend to compare our bodies with those in the photograph. There is a vicarious thrill of exposing ourselves in front of the camera. And there is the hint of a more intimate relationship between the model and the photographer. Photographers who place themselves in the image with the nude play with this reading. If the photographer is also nude and/or there is physical contact, this hint is underscored.
Photographs of nude models in poses that suggest the erotic demand a more immediate sexual interpretation. We are now back to peeking through the keyhole and there is always the danger of the voyeur being caught.
Generally, in viewing photographs of nudes we stand where the camera stood. The photographer has gone, and we are left alone with the subject of the image.
In working with the nude, we must realize the degree of unnaturalness that takes place. Even in a comfortable environment, the camera’s presence (and then our own) intrudes upon the nude, and when an awareness of technique (special lighting and camera effects) are added, along with our unwilling concern for props and costume, the intrusion must be that much greater. This, of course, can be deadly or these problems accepted and put to good use. The photographer can guide us as to how we are to react to the genitalia staring at us from the photograph, be it humor, fear, disgust, or even the pleasures of the voyeur.
TW: Are there any areas of the medium that have been under explored as a result of the longstanding position of the advertising industries stringent rules with respect to nudity and ad placement in mainstream magazines and online platforms?
GK: I’ve never had to deal as you have with the nude in advertising. I have had enough difficulty in the fine art end. I just recently had a couple of images censored by Instagram. I find it sad but also funny that my friend Spencer Tunick has to block out the genitalia of the thousands of participants in each of his images for Facebook.
TW: You taught for many years at the University of Houston. What was it about teaching that you enjoyed the most? The least?
GK: In almost every class I’ve taught there have been a few students that made coming to class a joy. From these students I and the other students learned a great deal. As photography classes became more popular, photography the passion, the excitement and work ethic declined. Unfortunately, in recent years I’ve found the majority of students far too complacent. They feel they know all they need to know and do not care for criticism: only praise. I often quote them the words of Robert Hughes “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is the consolation prize awarded to the less talented”.
TW: As for legacy, would you be satisfied if history writes that “Fountainhead” is your Mona Lisa? If not, is there another picture from your various bodies of work that should be given equal treatment?
GK: Fountainhead is certainly in Philadelphia the favorite image, although it was originally rejected for use as a poster by the Bicentennial Committee. Other images that are as popular are The Shadow, which won first place in the recent Family of Man competition, Swish which has appeared on many more posters and propaganda, White Horse and Newspaper. It all depends on the time and place.
TW: Where were you when you received the call from the Museum of Modern Art when you learned that you would be included in John Szarkowski’s seminal text, Looking at Photographs? How did that inclusion impact the direction of your work after the publication date in 1973.
GK:Yes, it’s a great book and an honor to be included but even more important to me were earlier encounters with MOMA. The following is from an interview with SHOTS magazine that might help explain:
It is the dream of all art students to have their work, one day, hanging in a major museum. As students we all thought that if we worked and studied long and hard this might just be possible. In 1959 one of my teachers, Sol Libson who was one of the co founders of the Photo League along with Sid Grossman, suggested I take a portfolio of my work to show to the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Edward Steichen purchased a few of my images for the study collection. In 1961 one of those images was included in a MOMA Recent Acquisitions show. A few years later, 1963, the new director, John Szarkowski in the first show he curated, invited me to be in the exhibition titled “Five Unrelated Photographers”.
TW: What was the most fun shoot or series of pictures you have ever produced?
GK: With out a doubt it is the San Miguel de Allende shoot in 2014. I photographed over a period of a few days a hundred lovely people in the nude, half over the age of sixty-five. These images became the exhibit “San Miguel Revelado” and was shown in 2015 at the Museo de Bellas Artes, a fifteenth century convent that is a world heritage site. In four rooms all connected by huge arches I hung sixty life sized nude images. Over eight hundred people attended opening night. Every day for three months more than two hundred visitors came to see the ex convent and my show.
TW: If you could give a single piece of advice for the young shooter that wants to survive solely on making pictures for a living, what would it be?
GK: If you have a vision that drives you to make images I think it is better to find another occupation that does not conflict with your vision. I have worked at so many jobs to support my personal work. Some of these jobs involved photography in advertising, journalism. I did not find it too difficult to solve the demands of others. The great challenge for me has always been to search for the answers to my own questions. There have been a few rare assignments from friendly art directors that led to an image or two that answered both our needs. But not many. I taught for many years and found I was concerned more about the student’s vision than my own. My advice, not a facetious as it may sound is to find a rich patron.
TW: What are your impressions of the digital revolution and its impact on the Fine Art of photography?
GK: I think we are still at the beginning of understanding what this new technology can tell us what we are about. For me the impact has been more physical. I can no longer put in the long hours in the darkroom developing thousand of rolls and sheets of film. I have a new knee and hip to go with my new eyes and I hope to travel once more with a much smaller and lighter camera bag. The digital revolution came just at the right time in my life.
TW: What is your relationship to Frank- besides the obvious- and when were you first introduced to this grand master of the craft?
GK: I was invited to write as were almost 200 other photographers a tribute to celebrate Frank’s birthday in the 2016 edition of the Americans List. Below is my contribution:
In 1957 I was a student in my third year at the then Philadelphia Museum School of Art. I had studied printmaking, advertising and graphic design with one basic fundamentals of photography class thrown in for good measure.
Feeling unsure of my career path and the pressure of the compulsory draft into the army, I enlisted at the end of my junior year. I dreamed of being stationed overseas in Europe for two years, returning wiser and better-focused for that final year.
Instead I was assigned to South Carolina as a clerk in a Counter Intelligence Unit. A position at which I did not excel and certainly not the tour of duty I had imagined for myself. London, Paris, Berlin… Columbia SC?
One day while at the files I noticed one of the agents holding a small object in his hand and a puzzled look on his face. I immediately recognized it as a Weston photographic light meter. I pushed the low light button, the needle moved and from that moment on I was the photographer for the Counter Intelligence Corps.
And then came the rumors of Robert Frank’s The Americans. This controversial book with its harshly criticized images defying many of the conventions of the times and seen by so many as depressing and negative, inspired me to dream of a Guggenheim and the chance to discover my own America.
In the early 1960’s the burning question in the art world was “Is photography art?” Clement Greenberg—a leading art critic of the time— decided to answer this once and for all. “No” he declared “Photography was incapable of creating a serious work of art”. Robert Frank and his The Americans so forcefully helped refute that now-discredited position.
It is a difficult choice as a favorite but I keep coming back to Trolley-New Orleans, the photograph reproduced on the dust jacket, the very first Robert Frank image I saw. It is a perfect combination of abstract formal design (those crazy reflections in the windows above) and photographic reality (great faces in subjective eye contact) that together make the image and it’s social statement so powerful.
TW: What is a typical day like for George Krause these days? Any new projects on the horizon that TWS readers will be the first to read about?
GK: I work on new images, edit old images and like to think I have begun to write my “memoirs”. Someday soon I will do a book on the Sfumato series.
George Krause was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1937 and received his training at the Philadelphia College of Art. He received the first Prix de Rome and the first Fulbright/Hays grant ever awarded to a photographer, two Guggenheim fellowships and three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Krause’s photographs are in major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1993 he was honored as the Texas Artist of the Year.
He retired in 1999 from the University of Houston where in 1975 he created the photography program and now lives in Wimberley, Texas.
I am honored to announce my participation in the first inaugural photography exhibition at Stanek Gallery, located at 242 North 3rd street in Philadelphia. The group exhibition was curated by the legendary art gallerist and dealer Sande Webster Brantley, who I came to know during the early 1990’s when she had her first gallery on Locust street near Rittenhouse Square. She would later move to fancier digs at 2008 Walnut Street before closing the gallery in 2011 to pursue curating and art consulting. Sande was one of the first if not the first female art dealer in American history to embrace African American artists works as equal to their white counter parts. It is with this distinction that makes Sande Webster’s vision of art free of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. In celebration of this exhibition I would like to express my deepest appreciation for being included with these most distinguished artists, some of whom I’ve known since the 1970’s. Shout outs to: Adger Cowans, Willie Williams, Donald Camp, Arlene Love, Robert Reinhardt, Ada Trillo, Ronald Tarver, Andrea Baldeck, Anthony Barbosa and Stanek Gallery.
Let me talk a bit about the American justice system. The system is supposed to consider you “innocent until proven guilty.”. Notice the language: “until,” not “unless.”. Saying “until” presumes that you will be found guilty. Most of the public thinks “they wouldn’t have charged him if he wasn’t guilty.”. And as soon as you’re arrested, you’re thrown in jail and have to arrange bail money from in there, which isn’t easy. My original bail was set at $ 50,000. Those who have never tangled with the system probably don’t know how this really works. I was not expected to hand over $ 50,000 in cash, but $ 5,000 to a bondsman, who guarantees that I will show up in court. In addition to the money, the bondsman wants security. In my case I gave the bondsman the money plus the deed to my property and title to my car. The bondsmen keeps the money and returns the security when you don’t violate the terms of your bond. When I was let out of jail after thirty days, I was on house arrest. I could not leave my home except to go to see my lawyer or a doctor. That lasted a year! Presumed innocent, yeah right! After six months of being “free” on bond, we petitioned the judge to let me work, and he said I could go to my studio from 9 to 5 one day a week! My studio was a mess from the police search, and they’d confiscated a bunch of cameras and lenses, my video camera, even one of my best tripods. I had to scramble to replace the missing equipment so I could go back to work and finish books and articles I was under contract to do. They also took all of my CF cards, so I had no storage media for my images. In spite of multiple promises to return things, not a single item was ever returned. Some of the equipment was on loan from Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Sony, Tamron, Sigma, Mamiya, etc., for editorial evaluation and was not even mine. Letters from these companies to the police and prosecutor asking for the return of their property were ignored. This made it very hard for me to borrow equipment from these companies for review articles, and strained relationships that had taken years to build.
To make a long story short, there was a four year delay between my arrest and trial. When you are charged with a crime the prosecution is supposed to give you copies of all the evidence against you plus any evidence that might help exonerate you. As one of my lawyers said, getting this material in my case was “like pulling teeth.”. This material, called discovery, is supposed to be given to you promptly so you can investigate it. In my case the prosecution sent it to us in dribs and drabs over the whole four years. At one point we were just days away from trial when the prosecutor plopped a thick stack of material on our table during a hearing, admitted that some of it was exculpatory, and forced yet another delay in trial. I was arrested on June 7, 2003, but my trial did not begin until the end of. August in 2007. Yeah, speedy trial!
The first step in a trial is called voir dire, and is where you select a jury. My case was heavily publicized in the area newspapers and on TV, (and in the photo press worldwide) so finding a local jury that knew nothing about the case was impossible. We had tried for a “change of venue” where the trial is moved to an area where potential jurors wouldn’t have heard of the case, but the judge denied that motion. So we had to choose a local jury. This was surreal. One potential juror fled the courtroom in tears when told she would have to look at explicit nude photos. Another woman swore that even though she’d seen the media coverage she could put that aside and be objective. As she was about to step down and join the other jurors in the jury room, she muttered, “But he done it.”. Asked by my attorney what she meant, she said, “What he done to that girl.”. We struck her from the jury, of course! Another potential juror said he could be objective, but then said, ‘but he shouldn’t photograph them naked, it just ain’t right.”. Struck!! That was the kind of jury I was stuck with. Much of the evidence was technical, computer and digital imaging stuff, but most of the potential jurors were computer illiterate, and the judge said all he knew about computers was how to turn one on.
I said earlier that I was held in jail for thirty days; during that time the police went down to North Carolina where Marion was from and interviewed a number of her friends, and told these friends their version of things. Some believed them and wouldn’t talk to me when I got out of jail. Marion’s best friend, Samantha, had been up to Radford several times to visit Marion, and got to know me, and modeled for me with Marion and solo, and she told the police they were wrong in no uncertain terms. To give you an idea of the quality of these interviews, they gave Samantha’s last name as Hawels, which isn’t even close to her actual name – they only got the first letter right!! Other names were equally butchered, and I still have no idea who one of them was! My lawyers took to calling the police “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”. They were just so unbelievably wrong about everything! As has been said, the more outrageous a lie, the harder to prove it wrong.
Back in his early days in politics, Lyndon B. Johnson was campaigning for office in Texas, where politics are down and dirty. He said to one of his staff, “let’s spread a story that my opponent f**ks pigs.”. “But that’s not true, Lyndon!” the staffer objected. Said LBJ, “Well, let’s make the son of a bitch deny it!”. That’s how my case was. The most outrageous lies were said about me, and I was put on the defensive to deny and disprove them. As just one example, I was portrayed as a serial sex offender who lured young women into my studio, drugged, and raped them. There was not even a hint of any evidence to support this outrageous allegation, but I had to bring in many former models to fight it….
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 here: http://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-letters-from-prison-9/