Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2021
What is it About A Man?
Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2021
What is it About A Man?
Bob Shell: Behind Bars, Copyright 2021
The Latest Update
I’ve been writing these updates for years and sending them to a long list of friends and people who have expressed an interest.
But many people never respond and I have no way of knowing if they’re even getting my updates, or reading them. It costs me 25¢ each to send out these updates, and I just cannot keep it up, since the only income I have is what friends send me, and I’m ever grateful for that. But I need to put my scarce money to better use.
Now that I have a Facebook page,, courtesy of a very generous old friend, www.facebook.com/ BobShellTruth, I will post my updates there and in my blog, www.tonywardstudio.com/blog. If anyone wants to receive my updates and can’t view my Facebook page or blog, let me know and I’ll send the updates directly to you.
The latest on my legal situation: Apparently the Virginia Supreme Court’s Declared Judicial Emergency expired on May 8, although I’ve been unable to confirm that. During that state of emergency most deadlines were suspended and courts were only conducting emergency hearings. Now that the emergency has ended, the clock has begun ticking again on my deadlines. But the Virginia Department of Corrections has not reopened our law libraries, and no one knows when they will, so I have no access to the research computers to conduct the necessary research to write my briefs.
I have two briefs due in the Virginia Supreme Court, and may be able to get deadline extensions if the law libraries remain closed.
On my actions to regain ownership of my forest, which was illegally sold, I’m back in court dealing with procedural matters, but hopeful that I’ll prevail.
Virginia has imposed a new sentencing structure that reduces from 85% to 65% the amount of our sentences we actually serve. That should help me get released before I’m too old for it to matter, even if I don’t succeed in vacating my false convictions.
Many in the legislatures are pushing for sentencing reform, and this is the first of multiple bills to make it into law. Some neighboring states have 50% rules on sentences. Virginia is stodgy and slow to change, but who would have believed in the past that Virginia would be the first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana use? We just did. So there’s hope.
Life in here has gotten much worse during the year-plus long COVID lockdown. The food here at Pocahontas used to be the best in the system, but it has declined seriously in both quality and quantity during the lockdown. It’s all carbohydrates, not good for me and the many others with diabetes. Due to the awful diet my A1C has gone from 6.1 in 2019, to 8.2 when it was checked this month. That’s no small matter.
We used to be able to supplement the awful food with real food from our commissary, but they’ve been out of most things all year. Money does us no good when there’s nothing to buy. The doctor here says, “Eat lots of oatmeal.” Commissary has been out of oatmeal all year!
There are companies like Walkenhorst’s (www.walkenhorsts.com) that specialize in selling to prisoners, but the VDOC won’t let us order from them. A company called Keefe in St Louis has a contract with the VDOC to supply commissaries, and has a monopoly because they give a kickback to the VDOC. That multimillion dollar annual kickback results in high prices to us, and a very limited selection of items we can buy. A cheap 14″ TV available from Wal-Mart for under $ 50 costs us over $ 200, just as one example.
Enough said, wholesale reform of our justice system, top to bottom, is badly needed, but action has been agonizingly slow so far. Police reform is a good step so police stop having an ‘us and them’ mentality and become part of the community. Now we need to take the next step and go after corrupt judges and prosecutors, who put harmless people in prison for ridiculously long times. I had one cellmate who had a 520 year sentence! I’ve known others with sentences over a hundred years, and one friend in here got an 80 year sentence! If the purpose of prison, as is stated, is to reform ‘errants’ so they may rejoin society, such sentences are just absurd. The man with the 520 year sentence never hurt anyone. But he had 52 images on his computer that were judged to be child porn. He didn’t create the images and was never accused of harming anyone, child or adult, but was given ten years for each image. Even his local newspaper called that absurd in editorials, but he remains in prison, costing Virginia taxpayers many thousands of dollars a year. I’m sorry, but I call it as I see it, extra long sentences are ridiculous, particularly for people who never hurt anyone else. They ought to be outlawed as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
I’ll step down off my soapbox now. See you on Facebook or my blog.
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/covid-19-again/
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.
Text by Aliana Ho, Copyright 2021
Heads Held High: The Work of Jamal Shabazz
In looking at the work of Jamel Shabazz, an aura of confidence and righteousness radiates out of his images. There is no doubt that each subject is aware, and focused, on the camera, and giving a show to the audience, with chests puffed and heads high. His work radiates a certain something, and is best explained by Fab 5 Freddy’s introduction to Shabazz’s book Back in the Days: “If among the many emotions you feel while viewing these photos, cool comes to mind, here’s why – back then, cool was all about having the right flavor and savoir faire. Such a style blended a certain brand of rebelliousness with a casual nonchalance…” (pg 4). This “cool”-ness is captured with grace, style, and a sense of excellence in all of his work.
Shabazz’s image “Partners”, taken in 1999, is a prime example of his ability to capture the suave nature of his subjects with pride. The two subjects of this image are a classic snapshot of time. The late 90’s aesthetic oozes from the color and framing of the two men, in the flexed muscles and unfazed eyes. “Payback is a bitch” stares you down as the gladiator man at the bottom of the frame looks like he could give a little wink if you looked hard enough. The warmth of their skin tones against the tiled walls feels like summer time, as the gaze of the man on the right pierces through the heat. The use of the flash creates a distinct outline of a shadow behind each man and produces a punchy contrast, forcing the eyes on his subjects, and the gaze of the subjects back to you.
According to his publisher’s book synopsis for Shabazz’s fourth book, Seconds of My Life (2007), he was “introduced to photography by his father, who kept a signed copy of Leonard Freed’s Black in White America on the family’s coffee table” at the age of nine, and from there on out, he felt a strong sense of obligation to capture and portray “his community and the people who gave it life” (Shabazz, 2007). This sense of obligation to community comes across quite beautifully in his images, especially in the ways his subjects are posed. In speaking from my very limited and novice experiences and perspective, I can see a mutual understanding between photographer and subject that produces respect, pride, and self assuredness in his images. Shabazz knows his subjects well enough for them to trust in his vision, and to know that he is capturing them the way they see themselves.
The personal and intimate work of Jamel Shabazz is inspiring to me and my desire to immortalize the beauty and confidence of my community and my friends. Despite there being limited academic literature on Shabazz’s work, I find the work speaks for itself. The merit is in the body language of his subjects, often in public settings, that appear staged but in an organic, comfortable manner. Overall, Shabazz’s prowess has fantastically captured the pride and joy of existing in community as a form of resistance and survival.
Fab 5 Freddy. Back in the Days, by Jamel Shabbaz, PowerHouse Book, 2001.
Shabazz, Jamel, and Lauri Lyons. Seconds of My Life. PowerHouse Books, 2007.
About The Author: Aliana Ho is an Anthropology major, Visual Studies & Health Studie Minor student at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa. Class of 2022. To see additional articles by Aliana, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/aliana-ho-love-letters/
Text by Lipi Paladugu, Copyright 2021
Lee Norman Friedlander was born on July 14th, 1934 in Aberdeen, WA. He gained his education at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and then moved to New York where he focused on taking pictures of the American social landscape. Friedlander is primarily a street photographer, and his images are recognized for being candid portraits of urban settings. Many of his photographs capture overlapping light and reflections in windows. Friedlander claims that his photographs aren’t premediated. Rather, he works to spontaneously capture whatever is ahead of him. His images draw out a tension between people and things in a street by making them all feel equal in the image. Friedlander’s images have been curated and published multiple times. Notably, he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Documents exhibition which was curated by John Szarkowski in 1967. His most famous published work includes The American Monument (1976), America by Car (2010) and Self Portrait (2000), which was a series of self-portraits he started in the 1960’s. The image we are looking at was also published in 1978 in Lee Friedlander, Photographs.
The image, titled New York City was created in 1965. It is a black and white gelatin silver print. It measures 17cm by 25cm. While it isn’t a super small print, the dark shadow on the right, and the dark wall at the top half of the print, in some ways makes the image feel smaller. There is a lot going on in these darker areas, but we are still drawn toward the ground, which takes less that 50% of the entire composition. The size effectively accomplishes the goal of placing things within the right proportions.
Gelatin silver prints were extremely popular during this time, especially for artistic projects such as this because of the high level of detail that it revealed. It consists of a layer of paper, a layer of baryta, and a layer of gelatin. The gelatin layer contains the light-sensitive silver compounds. After it is exposed to the negative and developed in a chemical bath, the image is relatively permanent and has a smooth surface. Silver gelatin prints were created and popularized as an alternative to platinum prints. The silver prints were first introduced in the late 1800s and experimented with by Alfred Stieglitz. However, it wasn’t until World War I and later, when platinum papers became harder to obtain, that silver prints became more popular.
The detail in this image is extremely interesting to the viewer- from the stains on the ground and the speckled walls to the clean lines of the stars on the flag in the store window, there is a lot to see, but it isn’t overwhelming either. The use of black and white is also very impactful here. The shadow on the right becomes even more mysterious because it conceals something within it while still staying in frame. Also, the iconography of the flag is emphasized. Even without color, the flag is easily recognizable, and muting the bright red, blue of the flag into grayscale equalizes the power balance of all the subjects in the frame.
Of the five categories that John Szarkowski discusses in his book The Photographers Eye, the frame(s) in this image are most significant in the image’s composition as it tells us what Friedlander wanted us to see in this scene. Frame asks the photographer what they should include and what they should reject. Szarkowski also says that the frame “isolates unexpected juxtapositions… The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms and shows their unfamiliar fragment” (70). The most striking part of the frame is that the right side of the frame is almost entirely covered by a shadow. Out of the shadow, a single foot sticks out. While the foot is extremely well lit, the rest of the body is hidden in the shadow (an unfamiliar fragment) which draws intrigue to the foot. Within the image, the shadow on the right, the wall in the top half, and the left and bottom edges of the photo frame the well-lit sidewalk. The sidewalk becomes the focus of the image despite being the least “eventful” place in the image. The foot is the only object visible on the sidewalk in this framed area, which further highlights its presence. The framing allows us to deduce that the image is about the foot walking on the sidewalk- not about the store in the back or the owner of the feet. When paired with the title of the image “New York City” and Friedlander’s background, it becomes even more apparent that we are looking at the candid movements of people through the street. Another key framing in this image is the American flag in the store window. Despite not being able to see all sides of the window, there is a framing with the border of the image. As New York City is one of the representative cities on America, this position of the flag alongside the street is very poignant. The flag is above the street, but also not framed within the center of the image. This positioning makes us know we’re in American streets, but also that this is about the people more than it is about the place. In addition, in most representations of the American flag or interactions with it, the flag is hoisted high above everyone else, and people stand still, facing the flag, in some form of patriotic performance. In this image, there is movement parallel to the flag, not toward it. The framing of the image feels purposeful in highlighting this.
On initial glance, I was drawn to this image because the way the objects in the image were placed was not something I had really seen before. The American flag stood out easily but soon after my eyes dropped to the large sidewalk. It wasn’t until after I’d noticed these things that I saw the foot on the right. It could have to do with the way people read in English- from left to right. To me, the image feels like it’s divided into three sections which is a result of the framing. First we have the sidewalk, then the storefront, and lastly the foot and shadow on the right. Friedlander loved to juxtapose people and things in this manner to comment on urban scenes, and I feel the equal importance of all different parts of the image. While I am naturally intrigued by who the foot belongs too, I also feel like it doesn’t actually matter- it’s just representative of any dweller in the city. In addition, the (mostly) empty sidewalk shows its wear and tear, and how constantly it is used by people in the city. This is a striking contrast to the flag in the storefront that is shielded from the outside air and doesn’t appear to be used- it’s just meant to be looked at.
In many ways, this image feels timeless to me. The icons in place are easily recognizable. Most images of the city are busy and overwhelming, but this image doesn’t feel like that to me. There is mystery and it calls for intrigue, and the viewer wants to see more.
“Lee Friedlander.” Artnet, www.artnet.com/artists/lee-friedlander/.
“Lee Friedlander.” Fraenkel Gallery, 29 Apr. 2021, fraenkelgallery.com/artists/lee-friedlander.
Szarkowski, John. The Photographer’s Eye. Museum of Modern Art, 2007.
Wagner, Sarah S. Gelatin Silver Prints, National Gallery of Art, www.nga.gov/research/online-editions/alfred-stieglitz-key-set/practices-and-processes/gelatin-silver-prints.html.
About The Author: Lipi Paladugu is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2021. Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. To access additional articles by Lipi Paladugu, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/lipi-paladugu-light-reflected/
Text by Sharon Wang, Copyright 2021
William Wegman in Review
William Wegman, an American painter, photographer and videographer, who is primarily known for his photography and videography work featuring his dogs. Wegman was born in Holyoke, MA in 1943 and grew up with an interest in art. He pursued further involvement in the art world and attended Massachusetts College of Art in painting and received a MFA in painting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Wegman started off his art career as a painter and officially transitioned into photography in the 1970s. Wegman’s first muse that got him into photography was his Weimaraner called Man Ray. Man Ray “volunteered” himself into Wegman’s frame, as Wegman remembered : “he always seemed to want to be in the space that I was activating with these objects I was photographing. So I did take his picture and figured out ways to include him now and then, and he was always very happy when that happened.” Since then, it has impacted Wegman’s life and career entirely and left us with these compelling works that portray an intimate relationship between him and his dogs with a pinch of funness. Man Ray was the central figure in most of Wegman’s creations during the 70s and early 80s for multiple videotapes and photographs. After Man Ray died in the year of 1982, Wegman continued to work with some new Weimaraners and their descendants several years after. Wegman was renowned for the creations he had done in collaboration with his Weimaraners. Besides his incredible work, he devotes himself to “being fun” and the pleasure is not only reflected in his work, but made him being featured on Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live.
Handsome, a print by William Wegman at Haverford, photographs Wegman’s Weimaraner leisurely lying on the hand of someone unknown to the viewers. Compared to the size of the hand, it is not hard to conclude that the Weimaraner featured in this photograph is still a puppy. The relaxing posture and the half-sleepy eyes communicate a sense of trust from the puppy. As Wegman described his relationship with his dogs, “my dogs are happy because I engage them very fully. I don’t leave home without them.” The intimacy and mutual trust is announced in Handsome, and reinforced by the warm tone. The general theme color is toned to be more bright and yellow, producing a mellow environment that resembles the comfortableness one would often experience when being at home. The family-like color choice extends the affection between Wegman and his puppy into almost the love of family members. Additionally, Handsome was photographed in a setting that matches the color of the subject, — a light brown, camel color, with a pinch of yellow. The consistency in the color with the almost square framing of Handsome give the viewer a simple, but stable and soothing impression when appreciating this photograph.
About The Author: Sharon Wang recently finished her sophomore year at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa. To see additional articles by Sharon Wang, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/sharon-wang-traveling-under-the-pandemic/