Looking back, outside of the mundane gossip and remedial conversation, there were two things that I hated to hear most while in school – “Milan, why are you so nice all the time?”, and the lackluster attempt of a so-called compliment, “You’re really pretty for a black girl!”. Being asked why am I so nice all the time always guaranteed for a quick, sarcastic remark such as, “So would you rather me be an asshole?!”. Simply because, well, who doesn’t like nice people? As for the latter, the best I could conjure up was an awkward, “Thanks, I guess?”. For any young girl growing into her teens, being called pretty by a cute boy in school was like an invisible badge of honor, one that could instantly put a pep in her step for the rest of the day. However, when being complimented gets limited to just “for a black girl”, unfortunately, that badge of honor does not wear the same.
I never labeled myself as the “pretty” or “popular” girl in school. I always wore glasses, and nothing special stood out about me. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens, early 20’s, that I realized the standard, regurgitated, concept of beauty, was just that – Standard. After tons of self reflection, and learning more about my indegineous background, I realized just how exclusive I truly was. Of course, eventually growing into my hips and womanly figure helped with that, as well. From the shape of my eyes, to the coils of my hair, to the complexion of my skin – I am exclusive – Regardless of who may feel otherwise.
Gaining knowledge of self has changed my thought process completely, making it easy for me to be comfortable in the skin I was blessed with. Once timid, shy and self conscious, I now wake up with an everlasting pep in my step, radiating an abundance of self-love and confidence. I am beautiful as I am. I am fierce. I am strong. I am a luminous etheric being, manifested in the physical form. I am Milan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Milan is currently an administrative healthcare professional, originally from New York, now residing in Philadelphia. Aspiring model and real estate broker. Free thinker. Humanitarian by nature. Spiritual revolutionary in the making. This is Milan’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.
2006 is feeling closer and further from me everyday. I was wrestling professionally on PPV, a guest on the Howard Stern show and I had finally done an amazing shoot with Tony Ward for Hustlers Taboo magazine. Things for a then 24 years old me were happening. I didn’t have a set career or any clue as to what direction I was going to go. That’s what you do in your 20’s. Aimlessly going on with life as it was coming, just riding the wave. July of that year had made everything stop when my older sister had passed away that summer in a car wreck. The devastation hit me harder than one could ever imagine. I wiped out off of that wave I was riding and found myself over the next five years slowly sinking to the bottom of the abyss that was called life. Self destruction quickly set in. I had left wrestling; was being over medicated with psych drugs, which led me to my journey of self medicating which led to a full blown narcotic addiction.
Rock bottom is a lonely place, but a perfect place when your down, hopeless and out. I had managed to push everyone and anyone that ever gave a damn away. Undoing all that I was working for or towards. That’s how quickly you can rise and fall. When your young, things are there for the taking and you just take it all for granted. Why not, it’s all right there being handed to you hand over fist. And I took it all, but when my life was hit by tragedy I was 100% accountable for letting it all go to ruin. I don’t regret facing those bad times. Talking about it and doing what it took to get through them. Putting in the work and getting help so that I can get the real me back to myself. It’s not easy and for everyone. I had to realize I was meant for so much more; that I deserved way better than what I was encountering. By this time, December 2011; I was 29. And I signed myself in at a rehab facility voluntarily and got the long awaited help I needed. I chose life. Coming back into the world after being down so damn long is surreal. You are not only relearning who you are organically; but releasing the demon that carried you through the darkness and didn’t want to let you go. Life feels like a night swim; alone and bare allowing the universe to see every bit of you. Raw, exposed and unapologetic.
I worked really hard through the years trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my life. Not many people who go where I’ve gone get to live to fight another day. I also had faced a new struggle with body image issues. I was no longer a 20 something thin model type. I was healthy, but I let my physicality go as I was more focused on staying the course of the straight and narrow instead of looking at all of me and keeping on top of myself. I needed to find a purpose again. I needed to continue the work. It was time to manifest change across the board.
In 2015, a lifelong film producer friend of mine offered to host me for a visit to her L.A. home. At that point life went stagnant and I needed a reset. While visiting, she had gotten a quick commercial gig for a popular money app we are all familiar with today and asked if I wanted to make a few bucks being a Production Assistant. Going on runs, being on set, supporting the big wigs. In the freelance film industry; you take the work when it comes but on your own terms. This had my attention right away. Take as much work as you want, make your own schedule, and gain a career without having to drop 100k on film school?! SIGN ME UP. I saw if you worked hard and put the time in this could blossom into the career for me.
I came home from my trip to SoCal and decided that this was an opportunity that I could not turn down. 33 years old, I packed up and drove across country with hopes that this could be my shot. It was. I’ve worked with recognizable names; commercials, short films, still work and music videos. I had worked hard and made my way up from a PA, grabbing Directors coffee and running errands to a Production Supervisor. Being a Production Manager/Supervisor you are the center of the universe of a shoot. You prep the job by getting everything all the crews need in order to support the Directors creativity so that we can make the project come to life, while hiring the crew and vendors as well.
It is all a chaotic world until we actually get up to the day of shoot; that’s where I can focus on the accounting aspects for the company and start pulling all the behind the scenes elements together. There’s no business like show business. It’s 24/7, and thankless at times. It would be a lie to tell you something was missing for me out there in LaLaLand. I’m East Coast born and raised. Home was calling.
I had arrived back home to Philadelphia on New Years Eve 2018. Humbled, harmonious and able to continue everything I had worked so very hard for in my career, I was welcomed with open arms in the city of brotherly love. It’s been a crazy journey to say the least, life’s been give and take; times are up and down. Whenever I feel like I start to lose myself again; I try to remember who I am during that night swim; raw, exposed and unapologetic. And keep going.
About The Author: Diana Desiderio is a motion picture production manager based in Philadelphia.
Someone asked me recently why I wasn’t posting much about photography anymore. Before my conviction in August of 2007, I was ‘a renowned photographer with a long-established reputation,’ to quote Federal Judge Glenn Conrad. I’d been doing photography/cinematography since my teens in the early 1960s, following in the footsteps of my father, who was an avid photographer/cinematographer. He had numerous cameras and lenses, still and 16 mm movie cameras, and a nice darkroom in the basement of our house in Roanoke, Virginia.
The first time I saw an image I’d photographed magically appear on a blank sheet of photo paper when I dunked it into the developer, I was hooked.
People today who grow up using digital photography on smartphones never experience that magic moment. I find that sad.
Over the years I’ve been in prison I’ve watched traditional photography die. First one, then another, then one by one, all of the photography magazines have died. At its peak, there were dozens of photography magazines. I’d get seven or eight a month. Popular Photography had over a million subscribers at its peak.
Today, I get two photography magazines, Nature Photographer (www.naturephotographermag.com) and Professional Photographer, the magazine of the Professional Photographers of America, to which I belonged for many years. If others have survived as print magazines, I’m not aware of them.
Even Digital Camera, the magazine I worked for after Shutterbug, is now gone. My favorite of all, and one I wrote many articles for, Rangefinder, is history.
I also get Digital Imaging Reporter, today’s incarnation of Photo Industry Reporter, a trade publication I used to write for, but it’s published erratically these days.
Of course, there are some Internet photography magazines, but, so far as I know, nobody has been able to make any real money from an Internet photography magazine, and if a magazine can’t make real money, it can’t attract, pay, and keep good editors and writers, who have to support themselves and their families.
The once-popular hobby of photography has seriously declined. Any hobbyist who wants to own the finest film cameras ever made can do so for pennies on the dollar, although if they need service, finding someone who can repair them may not be easy. Friends of mine have bought Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica, Rollei, Contax, Leica, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, etc., outfits very cheaply. Darkroom equipment is even cheaper.
Although the selection is limited, film is still readily available, but you may be unable to buy it locally. In fact, increased demand has even induced Kodak to put one version of Ektachrome back into production.
I’ve tried to keep up with photographic technology, despite the fact that I haven’t so much as touched a camera in over fourteen years, and have yet to even see one of the mirrorless cameras that are fast taking over for SLRs.
My cameras, lenses, and other photographic equipment is all in storage, and will remain until my release. Hopefully I won’t be too decrepit by then to rebuild my studio and life as a photographer.
I used many different cameras over my years in photography. During two different periods I owned camera shops, first for several years in the 1970s, then from 1980 until 1990. The cameras that were my workhorses in 35 mm were Canon, and continued to be until my career was ended in 2007. I wrote several books about Canon, including ‘Canon Compendium,’ the official history of the Canon Camera Company.
In medium format, I used Bronica S2a cameras with their superb Nikkor lenses before switching to Rollei SL66 in the mid-1970s. I continued with Rollei, using their advanced 6000 series up to my last Rollei, the 6008i, an amazingly capable camera.
In large format I used a Toyo 4 X 5 monorail view camera with several Schneider-Kreuznach lenses in my studio, and a Zone VI field camera outdoors with those same lenses.
In the rare instances when a client wanted 8 X 10, I had an old Eastman 2D camera made in 1918 that I used. It still worked fine. I fitted it with a Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 300 mm lens in a Compur Electronic shutter, matching old to new.
When Polaroid made 8 X 10 film, I shot quite a bit of it in that camera using a borrowed Polaroid processor.
I was an early adopter of digital photography, though, and was doing most of my work with Canon and Nikon digital SLRs by 2002, but the speed at which traditional photography collapsed was a total surprise, and shock, to me and most of the industry. Luckily, I was able to sell most of my medium format pro cameras before the bottom completely dropped out of the market, using the money to pay lawyers, several of whom said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll never spend a day in prison.’ Here I sit, fourteen years later, still in prison for something that never happened. It is ridiculously difficult to get a false conviction overturned in today’s American legal system.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/hidden-truth_ufos-pentagon/
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.