Category Archives: Men

Bob Shell: The Incredible Shrinking Business

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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The Incredible Shrinking Business

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I didn’t come up with that title. An old friend, veteran of the photography magazine business, used that phrase and it stuck in my mind. When I first got serious about photography in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were many quality 35 mm SLRs to choose from. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, SLR stands for ‘Single Lens Reflex’, the type of camera that uses a flipping mirror to let you see the view from your lens directly, projected onto a viewing screen. Most allow lens interchangeably. Until recently, almost all high end cameras were SLRs. But, recently, a new type of camera has come along, generally referred to as ‘mirrorless’. One disadvantage of the SLR design is that the mirror must flip out of the way during the actual exposure, causing a momentary loss of the image at the moment of exposure, and vibration in some cases. This led to incidences of eyes closed in photos when someone blinked at just the wrong instant, and worse, you never knew it until the film was developed. This is one of the things that mirrorless cameras eliminate. 

Back in ‘those thrilling days of yesteryear,’ when I first delved into photography, we had many brands of SLR cameras to choose from. Some, in no particular order, were Alpa, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Yashica, Contax, Miranda, Rolleiflex, Ricoh, Cosina, Chinon, Exakta, Edixa, Praktica, Praktina, Olympus, Voigtlander, Pentax, Kiev, Topcon, Kowa, Samsung, Contarex, Contaflex, Icarex, Kodak Retina Reflex, Petri, Mamiya, Vivitar, Konica, and, of course, Leica, although the first Leicaflex SLR was a wildly impractical design. 

All were either Japanese or German, with a few Russian and Ukrainian, and the outliers Samsung, the sole offering from South Korea, and Alpa from Switzerland. I’m sure I missed some, but all were capable of making decent images. 

My first serious SLR camera was a somewhat beat up Nikon F that I bought from a friend when I was living in DC around 1967. It had a 50 mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, but no light meter, so somewhere I got a Gossen Lunasix hand meter to use with it. Camera and meter were later stolen when I was away from my apartment for a few days. 

I didn’t have much money in those days, so my next camera was a Zenit B Russian-made SLR that I bought from Cambridge Camera Exchange in New York, $ 39.95 mail order, brand new. It produced surprisingly good images, but was clunky design. Later I had more money, so I bought a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL from the camera department at J.C. Penney. In those days every major retailer had a camera department, and price competition was fierce. 

I’ve always been a tinkerer. I have to know how things work. I never owned a 35 mm camera that I didn’t take apart to see how it worked. So, in the early 70s I took the camera repair mail order course from National Camera in Colorado. I had a ball taking cameras apart and putting them back together, usually with no pieces left over! Once I gained some confidence, I began repairing cameras for money. But, in those days camera repairmen were mechanics, electronics hadn’t invaded the insides of cameras much, aside from the simple electronics of built-in light meters. 

All of this is leading up to the electronic invasion of cameras, first starting in the later 70s. I’d be totally out of my depth trying to fix one of today’s digital cameras. 

In many ways, it’s like cars. I was at home when cars had points and plugs to be gapped, and the only electronic item in my tool chest was a timing light. Work on one of today’s cars without a diagnostic computer — forget it! 

Same with cameras, in many cases they require diagnostic equipment only factory service technicians have access to. 

Not long after I got serious about photography and camera repair the first attrition of camera brands began, with brands like Edixa, Praktina, Kowa, Petri, falling by the wayside. In the mid-70s Zeiss-Ikon, the famous German camera maker folded its tent and dropped out of the camera business, their last camera the gorgeous Zeiss-Ikon SL706. They just couldn’t compete with Japanese prices, although the Zeiss-Ikon SL706 was reborn as the Rollei SL35M with cosmetic changes, built at Rollei’s ill-fated manufacturing plant in Singapore. 

I won’t try to list the companies that collapsed over the 70s and 80s and into the 90s, but suffice it to say that they fell like leaves in a forest, the last collapses being those that couldn’t make the transition to digital imaging. Minolta, one of the oldest Japanese brands, went into bankruptcy and was bought by Konica, only to have that iconic brand itself go bankrupt. It’s an open secret that Minolta was acquired by Sony, a company that had avoided the SLR market for years. That’s why Minolta lenses fit the first generations of Sony SLRs before they went mirrorless. Even the Minolta Alpha designation for their SLRs was retained by Sony. 

With the recent announcement that Olympus is shutting down its camera division, a serious photographer has only Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, and Pentax to choose from, Pentax being the only one not to go mirrorless and retain the flipping mirror. I wouldn’t invest in Pentax’s long term survival, but I’ve been wrong before, and some photographers prefer the traditional mirrored SLR’s viewfinder. 

Do I expect the photo business to shrink even more? Certainty. Demand for high end cameras is way down, and lower end cameras were killed by cellphones with built-in cameras, some of which produce remarkably good images. I’ve seen full page pictures in several magazines shot with iPhones. But, for those times when the cellphone just won’t do, such as long telephoto shots of nature and sports, the high end camera is still essential.

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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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/in-praise-of-reality/

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.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Film, Friends of TWS, History, Media, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Science, Travel

Bob Shell: Covid-19 is Holding Me Hostage

Covid-19

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
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Covid-19 is Holding Me Hostage
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Our law library here is shut down, except for allowing us to order copies of court cases. But, to know what cases to order we need to use the research computers, and our access to them is blocked until the law library reopens, and before it was closed we’d been restricted to using it only two days a week! These things have blocked any hope for me to get my actions before a court with jurisdiction to hear them any time soon.
COVID-19 is holding me hostage. This is terribly frustrating. I have a more than good chance to have my convictions overturned and regain my freedom, and to get my precious forest land back, if I can just get into court. I’d hoped to be free this year, but the ‘Wuhan Virus’ has nixed any possibility of that.

On another topic, much has been said lately about removing the qualified immunity that police have to lawsuits. I agree that this is a good idea, in fact I believe no one should be above the law, so long as any legislation includes protection from frivolous lawsuits. I know from observing men here in prison that many, if not most, of the lawsuits they file are frivolous — most downright silly. But there is a minority of lawsuits that aren’t frivolous, and legislation must protect and enable those.

I strongly believe that prosecutorial immunity should be removed. The immunity to lawsuits that prosecutors now enjoy in our present system, is a threat to the whole system and our personal freedom.
Contrary to what you may think, prosecutorial immunity is not an old part of our system. Lack of access to research computers has prevented me from determining exactly when it infected our judicial system, but one case states that it was established “long after” the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

Under current prosecutorial immunity, there is absolutely no protection from false prosecution. I’m a victim, and I’ve met others. Currently, there’s nothing to stop a prosecutor from going after you because she/he doesn’t like your politics, religious beliefs, or just your lifestyle.

I was prosecuted for living my life in a way the prosecution didn’t approve of, although my lifestyle was in no way illegal. As one courtroom observer said after my trial, “But he didn’t do anything illegal!” After my convictions, an attorney present in the courtroom loudly observed, “And who says there’s no railroad service in Radford!”
California Federal Judge Kinser has written, “There is an epidemic of false prosecution abroad in the land today.”

How do we stop this epidemic? The answer is simple, make prosecutors accountable.
Most of you have heard the story of the Duke University lacrosse team, who were falsely charged with sex crimes by an unscrupulous prosecutor named Mike Nifong. Yes, they were eventually cleared, but by that time these young men had seen promising careers evaporate. There is no way to regain those lost years.

I’ve been in prison for over thirteen lost years now, based on events the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia says never happened. I was ‘Nifonged,’ falsely charged and convicted by an unprincipled prosecutor with political ambitions who knew the evidence he produced to convict me was nonsense.
Why am I still in prison? Because the system is weighted against the innocent person.

Courts routinely block attempts to overturn bad convictions, as they’ve blocked me repeatedly. They’ve even denied my attempts to depose the Chief Medical Examiner and get his testimony on the record. In law, anything not on the record doesn’t exist.

So I sit here in a prison cell, counting the days, unable to get the truth before a court that will free me. They say, “The truth will set you free,” but not if you can’t get that truth in front of the right people.

In the Virginia Department of Corrections we’ve been living under a ‘modified lockdown’ since March. We spend twenty or more hours in our cells every day, even eating our meals in our cells. The library, law library, and school are closed. There’s no visitation other than video visitation, which is expensive and frustrating. The video visitation station is in the same room as the law library, and I heard, “can you hear me now?” all the time from people trying to use the system. The VDOC video visitation system is not compatible with Apple phones.

Both the quality and quantity of our food has declined dramatically, and if kind people on the outside didn’t send me money for commissary, I’d go hungry a lot. Even that’s problematic, since commissary has been out of many items lately. For a long time they were out of Ramen noodles, the prison staple, because one of the Maruchan factories was shut down.

The VDOC currently has about 29,000 inmates and an annual budget of one billion dollars. That’s about $ 35,500 per inmate per year. I can’t help wondering where all that money goes. Certainly not into inmate meals!

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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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-things-i-dont-have-to-worry-about/

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.

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

Bob Shell: Morality & Science

Photo: Tony Ward

 

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The Honorable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current member of the United Nations Global Commission on Drug Policy recently said, “We need to accept that behaviors and actions of others that are not aligned with our own moral perspectives do not need to be turned into criminal offenses.”. That’s a remarkably perceptive observation.

I’ve always believed that my body and soul belong to me alone, and the government has no business sticking its long nose (or arm) into my affairs. As long as I’m harming no one else I should have the unimpeachable right to do as I please. Government today wants to be our daddy and dictate what we can do. One of my favorite people in history is Woodrow Wilson. He once said:

“I do not want a government that takes care of me. I want a government that keeps other men’s hands off of me so that I can take care of myself.”

My sentiments exactly.

The same applies to my photography. Just because some people were offended by my erotic nudes is no reason to demonize and imprison me. Nudity and sex are both natural and normal parts of the human experience, but they scare the bejaysus out of a certain portion of humanity. Perhaps because both show that were animals, in spite of our exalted ideas of ourselves. It doesn’t bother me to be an animal, even to be “The Third Chimpanzee,” as Jared Diamond has called us in his book of that title. Are we more than mere animals? It used to be said that humans alone had self awareness, and that made us different. But recent research with animals has shown that some animals are self aware, specifically the great apes, bottlenose dolphins, orcas, magpies, and Asian elephants. Most recently, a fish called the cleaner wrasse has passed the “mirror” test for self awareness. This is a simple test. Put a mirror in front of an animal and see if it realizes “Wow, that’s me!”

Scientists in Germany put a black mark on the fish in a place where it could only be seen in a mirror. The fish was confused by the mirror at first, but then caught on and, after checking its reflection in the mirror, tried to remove the mark by rubbing the area of the mark against a hard surface. The mental ability of distinguishing “me” from “the rest of the world” is a very important step up the ladder of intelligence.

Another very simple test uses a three-sided box made of wire mesh. An animal is put inside with a treat clearly visible on the other side of the mesh. The animal is blocked from the treat in front and on both sides. To get the treat it has to master the idea of going away from the treat, out the open back of the box, and around to the treat. Most animals fail this test, futility trying to reach through the wire mesh, which is impossible. Most dogs fail this test, as do most cats. A minority of dogs figure it out, and a larger percentage of cats. Both fail the mirror test, although many years ago I had a cat who figured out mirrors, and also figured out how doorknobs work.

In 1929 a scientist named Constantine von Economo discovered a special kind of brain neuron, that has been named after him. Most brain neurons are blobs with the single axon and multiple dendrites extending in all directions. The von Economo neurons are long and thin with axon and dendrites only at the ends. So far these special neurons have been found only in humans, great apes, whales and dolphins, and elephants. I call them “the neurons of consciousness.”

Humans have about 1.5 times as many von Economo neurons as elephants. Are these special neurons what makes us human? Could a simple mutation that produced these neurons be what elevated us above all other earthly life in sentience? I tend to think that the answer is yes.

It’s purely an untested personal theory, but I think that ingestion of certain substances may spark the production of more von Economo neurons in our brains. Silicon valley has recently discovered the benefits of microdosing with LSD and other psychotropic substances, and has found that it increases productivity in jobs where conceptual thinking is important. Where does any government get off telling people not to use natural substances that improve their mental acuity? The fact that these substances are currently illegal has not significantly reduced their popularity. There must be a good reason for that.

I feel blessed that I came of age when these substances were legal and “magic mushrooms” and peyote buttons could be ordered by mail from magazine ads. Pure pharmaceutical LSD made by Sandoz in Switzerland, where Albert Hoffman discovered it by accident, was readily available. Then in 1969 the government made everything they could think of illegal, shutting down research into therapeutic use of psychotropics. Only recently has very limited research been restarted, often with strong positive results. We’ve been held back from important research for fifty years! And all because of misinformed, ignorant fear. Governments worldwide need to learn that they do not own their citizens, that the citizens own the governments.

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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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-do-you-believe-in-ghosts/

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.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Friends of TWS, History, Politics, Popular Culture, Science

Bob Shell: Jailhouse Nicknames

Jailhouse Nicknames by Bob Shell

 

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Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Jailhouse Nicknames

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Almost everyone in prison uses a jailhouse nickname rather than their real name. I’ve known two men called Mouse and one called Groundhog. The first Mouse was a thin little man who claimed he’d been a bouncer at a local strip club. I didn’t see how, but didn’t question the story. Groundhog was a short, stocky man who did look just like a groundhog. Right now I know a Squirrel, a Bird and a Flea. Then there was Horse Man. He didn’t look like a horse but sounded like one. He’d get outside and let out a neigh and snort that you could hear from one end of the camp to the other. One of my friends is called Chicken Man, or just Chicken for short. He’s called that because he knows all there is to know about raising chickens, which he did on the outside. Then there’s Coal Bucket, who used to be a coal miner. We have a Batman, no idea why he’s called that, also a Spiderman, so called because the entire top of his shaved head is covered by a spider web tattoo, with a big spider in the middle on the crown of his head. I’ve also known a Sleet, and a Smoke, but have no idea how they came by those names, and a Moon. My best friend at Pocahontas was Buzz. He couldn’t remember how he got that name when I asked him, just that people in prison just started calling him that. He’s out now, released early this year. Probably the smartest person I’ve known, inside or out. He told me he’d never been inside a public school, completely home schooled, which says something about public education in western Virginia.

Some take their names from where they’re from, like Bama from Alabama, and some called me Roanoke, or just Noke, because that’s where I’m originally from. At Pocahontas someone started calling me The Notorious B – O – B, and it stuck. Pretty soon all most everyone called me that. After a while it got shortened to just B – O – B, and I was known by that name throughout the camp. I didn’t mind.

Some here call me Albert, after Einstein, because when I come out of the shower and towel dry my hair, it goes crazy like his until I comb it into submission. A few at Pocahontas called me Colonel, because since my hair turned white I look somewhat like the old Kentucky chicken plucker. Somewhere there’s a photo showing me standing by a life sized statue of Colonel Sanders in front of a Tokyo KFC, two peas in a pod. (When I worked in TV in the early 70s I met the real Colonel Sanders when he came to our station to shoot some local commercials. But my hair was still brown in those days, so we didn’t look so much alike.,)

Here at River North the younger guys have started calling me “Uncle Bob,” which is a sign of respect, and appreciated. I like it better than the other names I’ve been called.

There was a fellow at Pocahontas called Fishbone. I asked him why and he said it was what his sister called him as a kid. There are also those who take their names from cars. I’ve known a Cadillac and a Maserati. I assume those names are for vehicles they dream of owning. If I took my name from a vehicle, I’d be Land Rover! Always wanted one. In the 70s I owned a couple of Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruisers, but never a Rover.

I’ve had some strange/interesting cellmates in my ten plus years in prison. One was a Spanish-speaking Muslim from Guatemala named Vladimir! I’ve had several Islamic cellmates, one Rastafarian, and a smattering of other faiths. My current cellmate follows the Asatru religion, the old Norse faith.

Back to names; double names are also used. At Pocahontas I knew a man called Bam Bam, and later a Woo Woo and a Don Don. Of course, here in the South double names using the person’s first and middle names are common. The mechanic who used to work on my cars was Willy Wayne, and one of my cousins was Randy Ray. If my parents had followed that tradition, I’d have been called Bobby Ed! There was a songwriter some years back called Billy Ed Wheeler, perhaps best known for his song “The Interstate is comin’ through my outhouse.”

On another topic, I’m one of the few men here not heavily tattooed. Most are prison tattoos, frequently very amateurish in execution and always in black ink (made by burning plastic articles and collecting the carbon black). A few have professional multicolored tattoos done prior to prison, some quite striking. Back before my legal troubles I was going to work on a project to photograph tattooed women. A very fine tattoo artist was going to arrange for the women he’d worked on to come in for shoots. The project never happened because of my arrest. This whole ridiculous legal mess brought many proposed projects to a halt. Maybe one day I will be able to pick up where I left off. I’ve still got lots of picture ideas, and more come to me all the time. It’s very frustrating to be stuck here without access to my photography.

I write these posts on a little mini-tablet sold to us by JPay. It has a 3 1/4 inch screen, so the keyboard is tiny, which accounts for the typos that sometimes appear in my posts. Also, this email app tries to think for me. Whenever I try to write my website URL it changes bobshell to bombshell if I don’t go back and override it. Oh, to have a real computer!!

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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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-the-60s/

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.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Media, News, Politics, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: The 60’s

Bob Dylan circa 1960’s. Photo: Charles Gatewood, Copyright 2020

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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The 60’s

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In the summer of 1966 I moved to Washington, DC, to take a job I’d been offered at the Smithsonian Institution as a biological illustrator. I’d been making detailed paintings and pen and ink drawings of insects, birds, and animals since grade school. I was getting published regularly in wildlife magazines around the country, starting while I was still in high school.

In college at Virginia Tech I had a job making drawings of insects for scientific papers written by one of the entomologists there, and was becoming well known in the small population of professional biological illustrators, while studying biology.

I’d become sort of a pen pal with Andre Pizzini, one of the Smithsonian artists, who became my mentor, and helped me get the job there.

So that’s when and why I moved to DC. This was in the American social catharsis that was 1960s, when the civil rights movement was going full bore, the protests against the Vietnam war were accelerating, music was transitioning from Elvis to The Beatles to acid rock, and all of American society was in foment.

The despised Lyndon B. Johnson was president, followed by the even more hated Richard Nixon.

We were asking ourselves why, in idealistic America, we had a two tiered society, with blacks as second-class citizens. “White Only” signs were on restrooms, restaurants, and in other places. We were drafting our young men and shipping them off to southeast Asia to be slaughtered. Country Joe was singing the “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” — “And you can be the first ones on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”. Many of my high school friends were drafted and some did come home in boxes. All for a stupid war the US should never have gotten itself mired up in.

I got caught up in the protest fever. I joined protests, picketed the White House, was teargassed on the lawn of the Pentagon, holding and calming a hysterical friend. Saw soldiers lined up in front of that imposing building to guard it from us, unarmed kids. Saw those same soldiers. break down in tears when girls put flowers in the barrels of their rifles. They were no older than us, didn’t want to be there, caught up in an idiotic confrontation.

The Smithsonian Institution was created by a gift to the United States from James Smithson, an Englishman who never set foot in America. He left us a fortune in his will to create, “in Washington,DC, an institution for the increase and dissemination of knowledge among men.”

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian depends on Congress for funding, Smithson’s money having run out long ago. Projects I was working on often lost their funding, and I bounced from job to job, working for a while at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, just outside DC, drawing mosquitoes for the Southeast Asia Mosquito Research Project, that I learned was a CIA front when the Washington Post outed it. So I actually worked for the CIA for a while, although I was never a “spook.”

Please remember that America in the 1960s was like an alien planet compared to today. Many years of inflation hadn’t yet made the dollar practically worthless like it is today. Gasoline was less than 25 cents a gallon, an expensive car was under four thousand dollars and you could get a hamburger for fifteen cents and a bottle of Coke for a dime. I paid fifty bucks for my first serious camera, a used Nikon F with lens and a separate handheld light meter. That was a significant investment for me, since the museum projects paid me sixty bucks a week, which also happened to be the monthly rent on my big, two-bedroom apartment in central DC.

The sex, drugs, and rock and roll movement was in full flower, and I leaped in with both feet, going through a succession of live-in girlfriends, popping psychedelics, which were still legal, and going to rock concerts.

Some people I knew had bought an old movie theater, the Ambassador Theater near Georgetown, and tore out the seats, leaving a bare concrete floor. They brought in west coast bands like Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, and many more, plus local bands like The Andorene, and had an elaborate light show projected behind the bands on the old movie screen. Since I knew the people, I never paid admission, and was there just about every weekend.

For live music, there was also the Merryweather Post Pavilion just outside DC, founded by the Post cereal fortune heirs, which was an outdoor theater, with seating and overflow onto a big lawn. I listened to Ravi Shankar there, and folk groups like Peter, Paul and Mary.

I was making Beardsley-esque pen and ink drawings of nudes for the Washington Free Press, an underground newspaper of the day, doing art on commission for anyone who’d pay me, and living well, but not extravagantly. When I was between grants I’d head up to New York City and hang out with people I knew, taking in the East Village scene, going to concerts by groups like The Velvet Underground, The Grateful Dead, The Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine, Bob Dylan and many others. I was in my twenties and enjoying life to its fullest.

In 1968, for reasons I no longer remember, I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and lived in “the fan,” the area near Virginia Commonwealth University, where my cousin, the same age as me, was living. We’d grown up more like brothers than cousins, and many who knew us in school thought we were brothers. I lived with him and his wife until I found an apartment of my own and was happy in Richmond until early summer of 1969, when the apartment I shared with four others was raided by the Richmond police. One man, who was visiting from DC had one marijuana “joint” in his pocket, and they arrested all six of us for possession! Marijuana possession was a felony back then, and we could have been given up to thirty years, but we all got three years each, suspended. That meant being on probation for five years. That was my first brush with the American “justice system.”

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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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/parole-denied/

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.

Also posted in Affiliates, Art, Blog, commentary, Documentary, Film, Friends of TWS, History, lifestyle, Music, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture