Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019
THE LOSS OF A FINE PHOTOGRAPHER
When we get older there comes a time when we have to update your address book regularly because friends have died. I’m seventy-rwo now, and I’m having to do this more often than I like.
The world of photography lost a shining star recently, and I’d like to tell you about him..
My first interaction with David Bogen Brooks was in the early 1970s, when he rejected an article I’d sent to Petersen’s PhotoGraphic, one of the best of the photography magazines of the day. I was running a photo shop in Salem, Virginia, called Camera, Inc., in those days, and decided I wanted to write for photo magazines.
I’d written an article on closeup photography with bellows illustrated with some of my photographs, and hopefully mailed it off to PhotoGraphic. A month or so later it came back, but not with a form letter saying it was rejected. Instead there was a personal letter from Brooks, complementing me on my photographs, but saying the article just wasn’t right for them at that time, and encouraging me to try again with other articles in the future. For some reason I never did, though.
Run the clock forward to the 1980s and I’d succeeded in getting my foot in the door at Shutterbug, and was their Technical Editor, but acting more like the Editor, since the rest of the staff, although very good at their jobs, were not photographers, so they relied on me to select and assign articles. I bumped into David at one of the photographic trade shows, maybe the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in Las Vegas or Photo+ in New York. He was between jobs at the time and looking for work. That was an opportunity not to be missed, so I brought him aboard to write for us, and over the years of working together, we became close friends. If I assigned David a product review, I could rely on getting not only a good article, but excellent photos to illustrate it. David had gone to college studying design in California after serving in the Air Force. Even though he was Canadian, he was able to join the U. S. Air Force and later become a U.S. citizen. After college he got a job working for Elektra Records and went on tour doing photography of The Doors and other Elektra artists. He told me once that he didn’t like working with Jim Morrison and considered him a dangerous sociopath.
David had what I call the “photographer’s eye.”. He could find the right angle and cropping to turn an ordinary scene into an extraordinary image. He worked with 35 mm cameras up to large format, mastering all, becoming an early adopter and expert on digital imaging.
Once, in the early 1990s, David and I met up with photographer Wayne Collins in Las Vegas for a photo shoot with model Roxanne, a featured Playboy model, and took her to the Valley of Fire State Park. We spent a day photographing lovely Roxanne nude among the orange-red rocks, which cast a warm glow on the skin of our model.. No question, David’s photos from that day were the best. Not only was he a master of composition, he had a manner that put models at ease and got the most out of them.
Another time we turned a hotel room at the Rio into an impromptu studio. David was also a master of lighting (and wrote a book about it), and we both brought studio flash for the session. I have some large prints he gave me from that session that are among my most prized possessions.
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://tonyward.com/bob-shell-learning-photography/
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.