Category Archives: Men

Bob Shell: Meditations on Pandemics

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
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MEDITATIONS ON PANDEMICS

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I was reading an article last night in THE WEEK, my trusted weekly news magazine, about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. No one is alive today who remembers that pandemic, but the historical records exist, and the parallels to today are strong. Like the current Coronavirus that is causing so much havoc in the world, Spanish Flu was a novel virus to which no one had natural immunity. And, like today, weird rumors circulated. One was that the Spanish Flu was artificially introduced by German spies who sneaked into the U.S. aboard U-boats.

Some major cities in the U.S. shut down everything when Spanish Flu arrived, and did well. Philadelphia refused to cancel their war parade, which was held on September 28, 1918. A crowd of over 200,000 packed the streets and cheered. Within three days, every hospital bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Within a week 45,000 people were diagnosed with the disease and the city belatedly shut down. But the shutdown was too late, the damage already done. By the second week of November, 12,000 people were dead, just in Philadelphia! Bodies “were stacked like cordwood.”. Public health nurses walked into tenements and found whole families dead. Bodies were piled up on sidewalks after the morgue filled and shut down. Within six months, 16,000 were dead, and half a million sick in Philadelphia alone. By the time the Spanish Flu played out, more than 675,000 people were dead in the United States.

Researchers have found that cities that acted early and aggressively, quarantining the sick, and shutting down schools, churches, theaters, and other public places, saw 50% lower death rates. Milwaukee, which acted early and aggressively, had a death rate of only 0.6 %, the lowest of any U.S. city. St. Louis, which cancelled its parade had a death rate one-eighth that of Philadelphia.

This reinforces the fact that reopening the economy now, which Mr. Trump and most politicians seem to want, may be a terrible mistake.

A study published this year on the 1918 pandemic shows that “cities that acted early and aggressively to impose social distancing to limit the spread of Spanish Flu actually performed better economically after the pandemic was over than those that did not.” Fewer workers had died and the local economies bounced back sooner.

Here in Virginia, our Governor, who is a medical doctor, has faced intense political pressure for insisting on keeping restrictions in place until July, but I think he has made the right decisions, based on medical reality and not political expediency.

Some places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where restrictions were relaxed early, have seen rebounding infection rates. Others, like Taiwan and South Korea, who kept restrictions in place longer, have fared much better, with exceptionally low infection rates.

Where did this damned virus come from? The highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, says evidence that it came from the Huanan Seafood Market is “shaky,” and points to the nearby virology lab, which had already been criticized for inadequate protective measures, and speculates that the virus escaped the lab through poor waste disposal or in the body of an infected lab worker. If it came from that government lab, responsibility for this plague must rest solely on the shoulders of the Chinese government, which should be made to take full responsibility for the economic havoc it has caused.

Meanwhile, the King of Thailand is riding out the pandemic in a German luxury hotel, where he is ensconced with his twenty concubines. Must be nice to be a king!

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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. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/nude-photography/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, History, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Science, Travel

Bob Shell: Adventures in Nude Photography

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Adventures in Nude Photography

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In my world travels I’ve always sought to photograph local women. In most countries that hasn’t been a problem. In early years I used word of mouth to find models, and later I used the Internet. One Model Place (onemodelplace.com) was a good source for the USA and Europe, and by now may have expanded to more countries. I’ve used them to find models in Germany and France. In England, when I was going there often in the 90s, there were small rental studios everywhere, each with a book of available models, so finding models was easy.

Once when I was in Hove/Brighton with some extra time on my hands I looked up a local studio and went by and checked out their model book. I really liked the look of one model named Tarnya Blackwell, so I booked the studio and her for a couple of hours the next day. I turned up at the appointed time and so did she. She was a very attractive, graceful young woman with a very Cockney accent, like the accent Adele has when she isn’t singing. I had my Fuji GW 670 II and a Canon EOS-1 and the studio had several nice Courtenay monolite flash units with umbrellas, “brollies” to the British. As we began to get ready for the shoot, she asked me if we were going to be doing “Continental pictures.”. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she explained a bit bashfully that that meant explicit photos. She was obviously relieved when I told her no, I had nothing like that in mind. We proceeded to have a very nice couple of hours and I found her very fluid in her movements and totally relaxed in front of my camera. But there was one slight hitch, she kept her front toward me for all the shots, only turning a bit sideways for some. When I asked her to turn around she picked up a long piece of fabric and held it behind her blocking her butt. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I asked her. “Me bum is pale,” she replied. I told her I didn’t care so she sighed and dropped the cloth. Her “bum” wasn’t noticeably pale, but it was crisscrossed with livid red whip marks! So, Tarnya was more than a bit kinky. I really didn’t care, and that brief bit of tension blew away and we got into the groove again. I got some great photos from that shoot.

Another time, also in England, in 1993, I did a shoot with a lovely young woman, Karen Boyle, who was Miss Jamaica that year in the Miss World pageant in London. She had come out to Chris Knight’s home at Cooling Castle and I spent a couple hours photographing her at the crumbling old castle and grounds. I was using a Canon EOS-1 and the superb Canon 28-80 f/2.8-4 L lens. That lens is so sharp that I generally put a Zeiss Softar #1 on it when photographing glamour and nudes, as I did for all the photos that day. I’ve had one of my best photos of Karen on the main page of bobshell.com for years. She’s one of the prettiest women I ever was privileged to photograph. Half English and half Jamaican, with flawless cafe au lait skin. The English weather actually cooperated for the day. There had been light drizzle on the drive, but by the time I reached Cooling it had stopped, leaving the sky bright and overcast; the world’s biggest softlight! Perfect weather for photography, only if you look carefully you’ll see that the toes of Karen’s boots are wet from walking through the damp grass. I toned it down a bit with Photoshop, but I think you can still see.

Once when I was going to Germany for a week I checked out One Model Place’s listings for Germany and got in touch with a nice young woman who agreed to drive to Cologne for a day’s photography. To my surprise, when she arrived at my hotel she turned out to be an American, the wife of an American serviceman stationed over there. We worked half the day in a big public park alongside the Rhine and then I did some available light pictures in my hotel toom , which had a very big window with a white curtain, a perfect diffuser. This was in 2002 and I was shooting with a Nikon D100 that I was evaluating. Very nice camera.

On another German trip serendipity put me in contact with a young woman named Malika from Morocco. She had a great face, very long dark brown hair, stunning figure, and medium brown skin. The first time I met her she was wearing a white T-shirt and very tight jeans. She sat down in a chair in my hotel room, smiled playfully and pulled up her T-shirt. “Like my tits?”. she asked. When I said I did, she grinned and said, ” They’re fake, of course!” Like so many breast enhancements done in Europe, they looked far more natural than ones done over here, which are usually too big. Also, when done in Europe the scar is usually in the armpit and hardly noticeable. Anyway, Malika was a lot of fun, but wanted my assurance that her father back in Morocco wouldn’t see the pictures. I felt I could safely assure her of that. So far as I know none of my photos have ever been published in Morocco!

The only place I had trouble finding local models was in Southeast Asia, where the women all seemed naturally camera shy. I had no trouble in Japan, of course. And when I did shoots in the Caribbean I had to bring my models with me for the most part. I did have a very pleasant surprise when conducting a workshop in 1998 on St. Thomas at an estate when a really nice looking young woman who was working at the estate came down to where we were photographing the three models I’d brought down, threw off her clothes, and joined in. We all got some great photos of her and at the end of the day I paid her just like the other models. That’s the first and only time something like that happened!

I had my photo studio in Radford, VA, starting in 1981. My first location was three blocks from Radford University, formerly a woman’s college but still with about a three to one ratio of women to men. You’d think I’d have no trouble getting models from there. I tried running ads in the school newspaper, but got very little response. I put a “Models Wanted” sign in my front window, also to very little response. I ended up letting the local models I worked with spread the word for me. It took a while, but eventually I had aspiring models showing up frequently. I stayed at that first studio location for ten years, and then .moved to a location on Main Street (two blocks from the police station) in 1992. I was there until my trial in 2007. (Two allegations made at my trial bear mention: First that I was concealing my presence. On Main Street just up from the police station? Give me a break! That was totally ridiculous! Second, that there was something shady about me always coming and going through the back door. Duh, the parking lot was in back of the building and I had a reserved parking space right by the back door. I should come out the front door and walk all the way around the building to avoid looking suspicious? The lead detective on my case said he didn’t know I was there. After all, I’d only been there eleven years!)

One of my more unusual aspiring models was a policewoman in a nearby town. Very pretty, with a great personality. But there was a problem. She spent months outdoors directing traffic in a short sleeved uniform. blouse. Her arms from below where the sleeve ended were very brown, while all the rest of her was pale. What could I do? I did the simplest thing and showed her the photos from our test shoot. “My arms look awful!” she exclaimed. Yep. My Photoshop skills weren’t up to fixing that, and there weren’t many poses I could use that would hide her arms. We did get a couple good back shots with her clasping her hands in front, but we mutually decided that we’d have to wait until she got a desk job and her arms matched the rest of her. I don’t know if the desk job never came through or just what happened, but I never heard from her again. That was a shame because I really liked her.

I’ll save more of my adventures for another time. Next time I’ll talk about other hated tan lines!

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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. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/covid-19-2/

 

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Environment, Erotica, Film, Friends of TWS, Glamour, lifestyle, Photography, Popular Culture, Women

Robert Asman: In Memoriam 1951-2020

Penetration. Photo by Robert Asman. Copyright: November 2001. Tony Ward Photography Collection.

 

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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In Memoriam: Robert Asman 1951 – 2020

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When I heard the news the other day that Bob Asman passed away I was sad but not surprised.  Bob had been seriously ill for several years as he experienced a slow but steady decline due to multiple health problems.   In recent months he was receiving hospice care at home, so for the friends that were in touch with him, we knew it was just a matter of time. Our last conversation took place by phone on February 11th of this year.  He sounded upbeat and hopeful but yet resigned to the grim reality he faced each day the nurse came to his home to take care of his most essential needs. 

We talked about photography of course and our shared experiences reminiscing about friends that we had in common in the Philadelphia photo community over the years. I didn’t think at the time that it would be our last conversation. We had made tentative plans for an in person visit when the weather finally got better later this spring. The final correspondence from Bob came in an email chain where he expressed it was kind of comforting knowing that he would soon pass during a pandemic. I suppose in his mind he was comforted in some way and felt less isolated by that reality.

The final parting words from Bob, “What an honor it is to die during a pandemic episode. I think it was deliberately planned so I wouldn’t have to die alone….instead with thousands of others.”

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Ebola Moment. Photo: Bob Asman, Copyright 2020

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And so he finally did pass, leaving an incredible body of work behind for the living to enjoy until the end of our lives. Bob was one of the finest photographers I’ve ever come to know, a great person, a loving father, and the best alchemist the world has ever known. Farewell my friend. Bon Voyage.

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To access additional work by Robert Asman, click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/robert-asman-the-alchemist/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Erotica, Film, Friends of TWS, History, News, Philadelphia, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: In the Midst of This Covid-19

Caged Kingdom: Website For Prison Inmates. Bob Shell on left.

 

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Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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In the Midst of This Covid-19

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I’m in good health right now except for arthritis, for which there is not yet a cure. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been listening to the politicians jawboning endlessly about what good jobs they’re doing, which makes me suspicious that they aren’t really doing such a hot job. Because I’m right on the border between Virginia and West Virginia, I’ve heard the press conferences by the governors of both states, as well as the pontifications of our fearless leader, President Trump. It’s interesting that our Virginia Governor is painting an upbeat picture, while his counterpart in West Virginia is painting one of doom and gloom, sounding like the captain of the Titanic addressing his passengers as the ship was sinking. Meanwhile Mr. Trump keeps saying, “We gotta get back to work.” Yes, we do, but China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and others are dealing with resurgences of the virus for relaxing restrictions too soon. I’ve listened carefully to Trump’s TV speeches, and I have to wonder if it was a slip of the tongue when he called the pandemic “artificially engineered.” Does he know something he’s not supposed to tell us?

I’ve always hated neckties, so I was delighted when our Virginia Governor, who I believe is a medical doctor, said people should not wear them, and cited a study that found that neckties harbor lots of disease germs. Down with neckties!

Here at Pocahontas State Correctional Center (PSCC) we have no cases of COVID-19 — yet. But, even though we’re on lockdown, staff still come and go freely. We’ve been given “Sneeze Guards” and required to wear them, even though they are not PPE grade masks, and accomplish nothing. Trump said wearing them was voluntary for “all Americans,” but we’re being required to wear them. I guess we’re not Americans. Mine restricts my breathing so much that I become lightheaded after half an hour and have to take the damned thing off.

People have asked me about my court cases. Unfortunately, they’re all on indefinite hold until this crisis is over. So is my review for geriatric parole, scheduled originally for March.

All courts in Virginia are closed for the duration, all court deadlines frozen, and the parole board is not meeting.

I have five active court cases right now in four different courts: My federal civil rights case against the Virginia Department of corrections (Federal District Court), two state mandamus actions to force the judge who convicted me to rule on my actions to vacate my convictions (Virginia Supreme Court), and two separate cases to get my forest land back (two different circuit courts). Nothing can happen on any of these cases until the courts reopen. And when they do reopen they’ll have a tremendous backlog to overcome. So, as a result, all of my plans are on hold indefinitely.

There’s been talk of releasing older prisoners to some sort of house arrest, but, so far, it’s just talk. Many of the men here could be released today and pose no threat to their communities. Some, like me, were never any threat to our communities in the first place. If I walked out the prison gates today, not a single person would be at risk from me.

Take a look at my profile on www.cagedkingdom.net, a new ‘social media’ site for prisoners. I had to use an old photo because our picture taking.service here is shut down right now. I’ll replace it with a current photo when I can get one taken, but no one knows when that will be.

I’ve always thought we lose print media at our peril. The ‘press’ has been vitally important to our freedom since the founding of our experiment in democracy.

One of my oldest friends just told me that The Roanoke Times has furloughed about 25% of their staff. That’s terrible!

As many know, I considered it an act of unbridled idiocy when the latest owners shut down the print version of SHUTTERBUG, where I’d worked for so many years, because they claimed with ‘only’ 100,000 subscribers they could not make a profit! What nonsense! For most of its life, SHUTTERBUG had fewer than 100,000 subscribers, and made the owner rich. Now they’ve shut down the online version, too! How do people with so little business sense end up owning magazines, and why? That magazine was near and dear to my heart, and it hurts me terribly to see it trashed by people who never should have been allowed to own it.

Anyone who has ever been in jail or prison will tell you the most important thing is having a good ‘cellie,’ (jailhouse slang for cellmate). Right now I have the very best! And that’s making this lockdown tolerable. He’s a gentle soul, a victim of police entrapment. Police should not be allowed to entice people into breaking laws, then bust them when they do. That’s simply not American, not justice. I know! They tried to do it to me. I’ll tell that story another time.

Although you cannot mail me pictures anymore, a company called Pelipost has made it possible again. You email them digital files, they print high quality 4 X 6 prints and mail them to me. It works great! I love receiving pictures! www.pelipost.com

I can be reached by regular mail at:

Robert Shell # 1201280

PSCC

P.O. Box 518

Pocahontas, VA 24635-0518

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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. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here:https://tonyward.com/coronavirus/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, News, Politics, Popular Culture

Joy Bao: Sensational Structure

Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama

 

Text by Joy Bao, Copyright 2020

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Sensational Structure

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Born in 1958, Naoya Hatakeyama is a Japanese photographer who works closely with both natural and city landscape. While his works are mostly documentary, Hatakeyama also develops a graphic style that shows his precise composition and formal elements. One of his most famous series, which is also included in Photography (London, Stone, Upton), is named “River Series” and records Tokyo’s river channels. The slim, vertical frame is divided by the concrete construction right in the middle, and presents two separated views of the building and its reflection. The river is a natural element, yet becomes a media that carries the manmade city view. However, the hierarchy between the actual view and its reflection is erased because of the clear separation in the middle of the frame that gives two portions equal size of space. The reflection is almost presented as an individual view, a more abstract and sensational reading of urban life. A similar contrasting reflection is presented in another series of work, “Underground”, shot in 1999. Focusing again on the water tunnel in Tokyo city, both the reality and its reflection are originally unknown for the viewers, as opposed to “River Series”. The incompleteness of the reflection highlights the construction of the tunnel, and with a central light that illuminates the dark underground space, the reflection creates a color scheme that is surprisingly similar to the galaxy.

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Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama

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Another series shot by Hatakeyama during the 90s, “Maquettes/Light”, turns completely to the sight of urban architecture and uses black and white photography to emphasize on the light and dark contrast in the city during night time. In the photo selected, the apartment building is stripped down to the graphic pattern of its structure, mainly the lights and fire escape on each floor. While the trace of people living disappears, the numerous individual illuminations add in warmth to the emotion aspect of the picture. Just as the previous two series, viewers can have a refreshing perspective of the structure of different sights that are familiar or unfamiliar, but at the same time keep an almost romantic reading for the works.

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Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama

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The more recent work shot in 2005 is from another series of his, “Blast”, in which Hatakeyama turns towards the documentation of a more violent event, the explosion of limestones. Unlike the previous three photos, the selected picture, just like other ones in the same series, depicted the explosive event and provide a vivid image of the middle of a certain motion. The selected photo particularly presents a gradation effect of colors with the dust created from the explosion. In a literal deconstruction of stable structure, the hazy dust becomes a contrasting element in terms of both texture and color, adding a mysterious layer to the powerful scene.

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Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama

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Similarly, in the most recent “Slow Glass” series, Hatakeyama also uses water drops on glass to add another layer to the pictures. The selected photography presents the bottom half of Tokyo tower in the night time behind the glass. Opposed to the earlier urban sights that contain a clear structure, here the viewers can only recognize a general shape of the tower as the lens focuses on the water drops. The harsh lines of architecture is softened, but it still remains recognizable from the signature red color and the shape. By eliminating a clear vision of structure, Hatakeyama partially masks the tower with an ambiguous yet gentle layer for the viewers.

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Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama

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Referenced Works:

Hatakeyama’s biography: https://www.sfmoma.org/artist/Naoya_Hatakeyama/

“Portfolio: Naoya Hatakeyama – Everything is Illuminated”: https://www.tate.org.uk/tate-etc/issue-46-summer-2019/naoya-hatakeyama-maquettes-light-everything-illuminated

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About The Author: Joy Bao is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Joy Bao, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/summers-day/

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Haverford College, Travel