Mel: The Apartment

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

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The Apartment

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The apartment that I rented in Amsterdam at the turn of the 2000’s was a perfect location for me to work from at that point in time.  I had become friends with local businesswoman, Danny Linden who owned a fetish shop on the famous Oudezijds Achterburgwal in the Red Light district.  Danny and I became friends and worked on a number of shoots together for her shop.  She realized that I was going back and forth to the states on a regular basis between 1999 and 2005 so she offered me to stay at an apartment that she managed just around the corner from her shop on a tiny little street that looked on to rows and rows of prostitute windows.  I was such a frequent visitor that they always said hello to me as if I was their neighbor or something.  Yes.  There was the something too.

In this part of the apartment where I made the photographs of Mel there was natural light entering the living area windows. The warm red walls  bathed my models in beautiful afternoon light as we worked through a series of test pictures for the latest body of work.

Mel was one those visitors on a go see.  I remember her most as a makeup artist. However, when I saw how exotic she looked I asked to photograph her right there on the spot.  No conversation before , it was very spontaneous.  I never saw or had the opportunity to work with Mel as a makeup artist this occasion  but I do cherish the brief time that we met. It was fun to have bathed her in such beautiful light.

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To access additional articles by Tony Ward,  click herehttps://tonywardstudio.com/blog/light-table-a-sliver-in-time/

Casting Call: A Sliver in Time

 

Text and Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

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Casting Call: A Sliver in Time

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One of the joys of being a photographer for the past 40 plus years is that I’ve accumulated a  large body of work and incredible visual memories. In this series of pictures,  the subject met me only once but left a trail of images that brings back memories of the days, months and years I worked in Amsterdam photographing some of the most beautiful women in the world. 

On September 25th, 2003 I was out having dinner and drinks at Club Nl, a very well known night club in the heart of the city that was frequented  mostly  by locals.  This was the place where I often met with Dutch friends to enjoy Amsterdam’s nightlife.  It was also a place where I scouted for models. 

On this particular evening  almost 30 years ago,  Frans a close friend mentioned there was a young woman by the name of Layla who wanted to meet me for a casting. Arrangements  were made for the prospective model to meet me at the apartment I was renting in the Red light District.  Layla arrived on a beautiful sunny afternoon looking forward to the opportunity to meet me with hopes that she could model for one of the magazines of which I was a contributing photographer.  She knew that I was a specialist in erotic photography so the sitting went smoothly as she was eager to exhibit her youthful beauty within this small sliver of time that has left lasting visual memories. 

Kitchie Ohh: Memories

Pinup model Kitchie Ohh pinup xmas photo
Portrait of Kitchie Ohh by ClickSave Photography, Copyright 2022

Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2022

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Memories

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We all know that sight, smell, and sound can trigger memory. Neuroscience has proven this to be true, finding that the same part of our the brain that processes our senses is also partly responsible for storing emotional memories. As someone who has on multiple occasions said “this smell reminds me of…” or immediately thinks of someone with just a few notes of a song, I am not at all surprised. I am shocked that it took actual scientific study, though, as it seems a clear and logical connection. 

This sensory-emotional connection is very likely the reason the holidays are so overwhelming for many of us. We decorate, we prepare special foods that emit delicious smells, and listen to songs written and performed specifically for this season. These things are tradition, they’ve been done for centuries, passed through generations. It seems nearly impossible to not be triggered into remembering people and holidays past during the extended period of exposure.  

While our senses can, and do, link happy memories to all of these things, if you’re anything like me, you sit with the opposite type for a little longer, and compare what is to what was. Who was there to who is gone now, or who wasn’t always but now is. Memory and feeling get all jumbled.

When I pull out the decorations, the ones I hand-selected to match my style and home, I can’t help but think of all the pieces I used to excitedly pull out of their storage boxes to help decorate my childhood home and our tree. There were definitely some ornaments that I tried to avoid using only to find that mom had pulled them out to display after I had finished. Those styrofoam, glittery apples were in a word: hideous. But the year we found the squirrels had gotten into the decorations and destroyed them was sad, and something I always think of when trimming the tree. Those apples were from my parents’ first Christmas tree after they were married. I get it now. Sorry, Mom, but they were still ugly. 

When I bake my dozens and dozens of cookies, alone in my kitchen, in the organized, step-by-step, everything-must-be-uniform process I rely on, I remember the way we used to make them growing up. It was an explosion of sugar, flour, and so many sprinkles. It was chaos. The sweetest, happiest chaos of at least half a dozen people in the kitchen and dining room- mixing, rolling, filling, and decorating. Every surface in those two rooms got absolutely covered. We made such a mess. Again, sorry, Mom! But also, thanks. I also recall the batches of cookies that only Grammy made. I loved to see them, didn’t like to eat them – the anisette and almond extracts she loved were not my favorite, still aren’t. I would give up all of the baked goods in the world to have her at the kitchen table with those heavily flavored, secret recipe cookies of hers this Christmas. 

I’m not at all religious these days, but a dozen years at Catholic school sure drilled an appreciation for those Christmas hymns into my head. I can even still sing a few of them in Latin. Though, I do prefer the non-religious carols and above all, enjoy the jazzy, swingy versions like those performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. No matter what style they might be sung in, I cannot hear “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” without giggling at my Poppy’s versions. In case you were wondering, he insisted they were “Mark and Harold Angels Sing” and “God Rest Ye Gerry Mendelson.” Newer versions of misheard lyrics have weaved their way into the holiday memories thanks to my nieces and nephews. I think Poppy would have loved them and sang along. 

Laughing while crying, smiling but sad, enjoying the presence of others while unable to ignore the void left by those absent. The holidays as an adult have taken a more reflective turn for me. I appreciate that I am able to see Santa and remember that time Aunt Betty decorated her entire bedroom to be Christmas year round. Or that year I learned the truth about how presents magically appeared under the tree after I heard one go thumping down the steps with Grammy chasing behind it cursing in Italian like we didn’t know what she was saying. And the time our extended family pollyanna was too much for the restaurant and Nanny was asked to never book there again. (For the record, I do not blame the management of that establishment at all! We were a lot then, and even more now!) All the visits from distant family friends and relatives, the local ones too, that slowed, stopped and have since faded to memory. All of it that comes rushing back with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, brings with it a twinge of sadness, sure, but most importantly, overwhelming gratitude that in all my years on this planet, I have been completely surrounded by love. No matter what else may change, that never will. 

There are at least 14 holidays that occur in December. Each, I am sure, comes with specific sensory-emotion-memory triggers. So whichever one is yours, I wish you the happiest, merriest, best one ever.

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Pinup model Kitchie Ohh in xmas theme lingerie
Portrait of Kitchie Ohh by ClickSave Photography, Copyright 2022.

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About The Author:

Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits for over the last 20 years, currently with a food-related Philadelphia nonprofit. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then shes worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles.  She has been featured in -and on the covers of- multiple print and digital publications. Over the years she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for local Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn. 

In addition to her food insecurity-related work, she has also volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even on the events team of a local brewery, pre-pandemic.  

Youre just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is be both.” The model and the homemaker,  sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.  

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To access additional articles by Kitchie Ohh, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/kitchie-ohh-beyond-the-playground/

 

Kitchie Ohh: Beyond The Playground

 

Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2022

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

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Creative Direction: KVaughn

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Hair & Makeup: Michael Connor

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Photography Assistant: Anthony Colagreco

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BEYOND THE PLAYGROUND

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Most often, when we think of a bully, we think about the bigger kid on the playground picking on the smaller ones; pushing them around or beating them up for their lunch money.  The problem is so much more complex and, I can assure you from experience, it goes well beyond the schoolyard; running rampant in office settings, social groups, and in families around the world. 

I have already shared at a very surface level that I suffered years of verbal abuse from my peers growing up. The daily reminders of everything that was wrong with me lead me to believe that they must be right. I just wasn’t good enough, and it hurt like hell. I did my best to avoid anything that made me a target. I faded into the background, withdrew into myself, and watched with a mixture of relief and extreme Catholic guilt as the bullseyes were drawn on other kids’ backs. I coasted, invisible, right on through high school graduation. Paralyzed with fear that I would encounter a new crop of bullies with new things to hate about me, I opted out of college. I did explore my independence by moving out of my parents home.  

Entering the workforce, full-time as a teenager, I was kind of a novelty in the office. I was, and still am, incredibly responsible, dedicated and hard-working. Only now, I’m nowhere near as naive. I often found myself responsible for my workload, plus the things that coworkers didn’t want to do. Experience told me that speaking up would make me a target, so I just did the work and kept my mouth shut. Soon, I was doing the work and taking the blame for nearly everything that went wrong or didn’t get finished, even if I had nothing to do with it. I had countless meetings about performance-related problems that weren’t actually mine. Someone needed to be reprimanded, might as well be me. They knew I wouldn’t fight back. Next, I was pushed into covering extra hours, holidays, all the shifts no one else wanted. “You’re not dating anyone, you don’t have kids, no reason you can’t do this. You don’t have anything to do.” Ouch. If I ever was lucky enough to have a day off, the very next time in the office I was berated with how inconvenient my absence was for everyone.  I did eventually reach my limit and left.

Having learned a little bit about office dynamics and politics, the next job was a vast improvement.  Not perfect, but I gained some respect – and learned how to set some professional boundaries. This angered the office bully. They came for me, personally. I declined a happy hour invitation. They told everyone I wasn’t coming because I thought I was “too good” for them. I ate salad for lunch and it was clearly and directly a statement about the unhealthy choices they made for their midday meal. Leaving the office for the gym every evening was an equally heinous rebellion against them. A prominent member of the community left one of our events saying “see you later, hon.” The minute we were back at the office, I was accused of having an affair with this married man. Everything I did was wrong, but I wasn’t doing anything!

Things that happened at that job were the final straw. I was working in that position at the time I had my revelation that not one of the names I was called, not a single thing I was accused of, or made to do, had a damn thing to do with me. That realization gave me back all of my power and my voice. I didn’t – and don’t – need to shrink myself down, make myself invisible or watered down for the benefit of another. I can say no, I can refuse to take on more than I’m able, I can defend myself against insults and allegations. Professionally, personally, socially, in relationships. I am worthy of respect and should not accept less.

It’s an ongoing process of undoing all of the damage; I don’t think it will ever be finished. There will always be people who just can’t hold their tongues. Their obligation to point out flaws, try to exploit them, and put others down is a force they just cannot resist. I could write a whole book of very scathing stories, with damning details from various people who have entered and thankfully exited my life over the years. But like I said, their behavior has got nothing at all to do with me. Neither forgiven or forgotten, I’ve accepted, let go and moved on. And I am so much better for it. 

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About The Author:

Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits for over the last 20 years, currently with a food-related Philadelphia nonprofit. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then shes worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles.  She has been featured in -and on the covers of- multiple print and digital publications. Over the years she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for local Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn. 

In addition to her food insecurity-related work, she has also volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even on the events team of a local brewery, pre-pandemic.  

Youre just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is be both.” The model and the homemaker,  sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.  

 

Shanell Verandez: A Musical Journey


Text by Shanell Verandez, Copyright 2022

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

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Assistant to Photographer: Anthony Colagreco

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Creative Director: KVaughn

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A Musical Journey

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Hola, My name is Shanell  and I am a “Jane of All Trades and Master of None”. I have dabbled in almost every Artistic, Academic, Athletic and Spiritual endeavors one can possibly expose themselves to. I feel blessed to have an open mind and heart to be able to comprehend what I am absorbing from different kinds of people, places and things.
 
Most of all, Music has been one my favorite artistic endeavors, it runs through my family’s bloodline literally….I started when I was 6yrs old in Elementary school with a Music Aptitude test that I passed with flying colors which enabled me to receive an instrument of choice. My music teacher guided me to a room filled with instruments. It looked like a treasure chest! I wanted the Cello, they didn’t have one, so my teacher suggested the violin, but my arm length was too long.  So ,she finally introduced me to the Viola and the start of my ongoing relationship with that instrument began.
 
Then in Junior high school came another desire to play another instrument, the Oboe.  Once again, another unavailable instrument, but the teacher brought out an elegant beauty, the French horn. I was baffled because I had never seen this instrument before, so the teacher instructed that I had a week to blow one note in that instrument or move on. This instrument was meant to be mine, because by the end of that week, I got the note( a high C) and another musical relationship began.
 
I have another relationship with an instrument we all take for granted, the vocal cords. My singing journey began in a Baptist church set in a row house in the Historic “Black Bottom” section of Philadelphia. Most of my family was either in the choir, playing the drums or organ as well being a member on the church board. I had the chance to sing solos that were taught to me by my Aunt. Later on in life at High school I was singing in the bathroom stalls with my friend and we didn’t realize that there was another person present until she knocked on my bathroom stall and asked me to come out. She was a vocal teacher and an active Opera singer that had an interest in me becoming her student. I started studying with her and it turned out to be a very powerful  relationship out of my musical “ménage a trois”. She guided my vocal career throughout the years( high school and college, beyond).
 
So one would wonder… What is holding me back? I would point the finger at those who didn’t believe in me and tried everything in they could to block me, but no, I need to get past that pain and realize it is me holding myself back. Why? It is because I have really terrible stage fright and I have to believe in myself more and become more centered. The very thought of becoming more focused and centered within myself has inspired me to take another step and start writing songs, here is one I would like to share with all of you, the song is Titled …
                    
                   ” Soul Centered “
                    
                     Sittin’ on a Whim
                    Just Wastin’ Time
                     Feel like I’ve Lost
                           An Oasis 
                    Traveling thru Time
                    A Rush of Feelings 
               To Get Up and Get Mine
          
                        Soul Centered 
                    Is where I want to be
                         Soul Centered 
                    Is where I want to free
 
                    Different but Familiar
                             From Afar 
                  Sometimes it makes me
                     Wonder why you are
 
                     A Touch of Brilliance 
                     Growin’ From Within 
                  I’ve Trekked on Somethin’
                   Different why it’s a Sin
 
                          Soul Centered 
                     Is Where I Want to Be
                          Soul Centered 
                     Is Where I Want to Free
  
One Day I will be able to perform this Song during my Music Journey… Peace❤️
 
Editor’s Note: This is Shanell Verandez first sitting with Tony Ward for the Vixen’s series. To see all of the work to date from the new series, click herehttps://tonyward.com/new-work-the-vixens-series/