Bob Shell: Marijuana Legal in Virginia

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Marijuana Legal in Virginia

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Much to the surprise of many, recreational marijuana became legal in Virginia on July 1. I never thought I’d see something so progressive in stodgy old Virginia.
There are limits, of course. You can have up to an ounce for personal use or grow up to four plants. Possession of more than an ounce up to a pound will get you a $ 25 fine.
If you want all the details you can read the story in the Galax Gazette, an excellent regional newspaper here in southwest Virginia. (www.galaxgazette.com).
The reason this resonates so strongly with me goes back to the summer of 1969.
I was living in Richmond, Virginia, in a nice, three-bedroom, apartment on Grace Street. I shared the apartment with four other people. One weekend we had a friend from Washington, D.C., visiting with us.
Saturday morning, the Richmond narcotics police raided the apartment. They did not knock or identify themselves. I was standing in the kitchen at the back of the apartment when a man strode down the hall and pointed a gun in my face. I had no idea who the hell he was. I was twenty-two at the time, never been in any trouble. This was the first time in my life that I’d looked down the barrel of a gun pointed at my face. It scared me so badly that I almost passed out.
As it turned out, the police searched the place and found nothing. But, in the pocket of the man visiting from D.C. was one ‘joint’, one marijuana cigarette.
We were all arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, a felony at that time, facing possible thirty year sentences!
Now, let me repeat, only one person possessed marijuana, and he didn’t even live there! But, that was how police treated ‘hippies’ in the ’60s.
We all hired lawyers, but were denied bail and spent three months in the old Richmond City Jail.
In court it came out that the search warrant was for a different address. Our lawyers tried to get the case thrown out on those grounds, but the judge refused.
We went to trial, and in a great show of ‘judicial mercy’ were only sentenced to three years each. That’s a cumulative fifteen years for one silly joint.
Thankfully, our lawyers pleaded with the judge and got the sentences suspended. But we were forbidden to associate with each other even though we were best friends. So we were split up, and I went back to Roanoke, where I’m from, and went to work for a local TV station and theater.
My dear friend Mark couldn’t take the stress and killed himself, a promising young life ended for nothing.
The first time I was to meet with my probation officer I showed up and was taken to his office.
He read my file, and said, “Possession of marijuana, eh?”
When I said, “Yes,” he got up from behind his desk, locked his office door, sat back behind his desk, and pulled a joint from a drawer. We shared it. I never had any trouble with my probation officer!
So, after my three years of probation was over, I petitioned the governor to expunge my conviction and restore my rights. He and my father were friends, and my petition was quickly granted. I could vote, own guns, whatever I wanted to do. I took my voting rights seriously, and voted in every election from 1972 until 2007. Then I was convicted on the current absurd charges and lost my rights all over again.
But, back to marijuana. When I was arrested for possession back in ’69, I didn’t have any. But I’d been smoking it since 1965 when I went off to college at Virginia Tech and found it abundant on campus and cheap. I smoked it pretty regularly through the sixties, seventies and early eighties, and then just tapered off.
When my late girlfriend convinced me to try some of hers in 2003, I hadn’t had any in years. The stuff she got from a student at Radford University was by far more potent than anything we had in the ’60s and ’70s! I couldn’t handle it. One hit and I was ‘One Toke Over the Line,’ as Brewer and Shipley sang.
The law legalizing marijuana in Virginia has penalties for giving any to young people under the age of twenty-one, but that’s unrealistic. Once it’s legal, young people and kids are going to get it, just as they already get alcohol.
Now, even though marijuana possession becomes legal on July 1 of this year, selling any amount is still illegal, and the state’s legal dispensaries won’t open until 2024! So you can legally have it, but there’s no legal way to get it!
Also, when marijuana becomes legal on July 1, everyone in jail or prison for possession will be released, right? Wrong! There’s no provision in the law to resentence people serving time for possession of a legal substance!
The legal theory is that they broke the law as it existed at the time, so they won’t be released. The Governor wanted to include a provision in the law that would have automatically resentenced those people, but opposition in our legislature told him if he insisted on including that provision, the bill would die. So he took what he could get.
That’s Virginia politics!

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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/behind-bars/

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.

Bob Shell: On Photography

Photo by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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On Photography

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Someone asked me recently why I wasn’t posting much about photography anymore. Before my conviction in August of 2007, I was ‘a renowned photographer with a long-established reputation,’ to quote Federal Judge Glenn Conrad. I’d been doing photography/cinematography since my teens in the early 1960s, following in the footsteps of my father, who was an avid photographer/cinematographer. He had numerous cameras and lenses, still and 16 mm movie cameras, and a nice darkroom in the basement of our house in Roanoke, Virginia. 

The first time I saw an image I’d photographed magically appear on a blank sheet of photo paper when I dunked it into the developer, I was hooked. 

People today who grow up using digital photography on smartphones never experience that magic moment. I find that sad. 

Over the years I’ve been in prison I’ve watched traditional photography die. First one, then another, then one by one, all of the photography magazines have died. At its peak, there were dozens of photography magazines. I’d get seven or eight a month. Popular Photography had over a million subscribers at its peak. 

Today, I get two photography magazines, Nature Photographer (www.naturephotographermag.com) and Professional Photographer, the magazine of the Professional Photographers of America, to which I belonged for many years. If others have survived as print magazines, I’m not aware of them. 

Even Digital Camera, the magazine I worked for after Shutterbug, is now gone. My favorite of all, and one I wrote many articles for, Rangefinder, is history. 

I also get Digital Imaging Reporter, today’s incarnation of Photo Industry Reporter, a trade publication I used to write for, but it’s published erratically these days. 

Of course, there are some Internet photography magazines, but, so far as I know, nobody has been able to make any real money from an Internet photography magazine, and if a magazine can’t make real money, it can’t attract, pay, and keep good editors and writers, who have to support themselves and their families. 

The once-popular hobby of photography has seriously declined. Any hobbyist who wants to own the finest film cameras ever made can do so for pennies on the dollar, although if they need service, finding someone who can repair them may not be easy. Friends of mine have bought Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica, Rollei, Contax, Leica, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, etc., outfits very cheaply. Darkroom equipment is even cheaper. 

Although the selection is limited, film is still readily available, but you may be unable to buy it locally. In fact, increased demand has even induced Kodak to put one version of Ektachrome back into production. 

I’ve tried to keep up with photographic technology, despite the fact that I haven’t so much as touched a camera in over fourteen years, and have yet to even see one of the mirrorless cameras that are fast taking over for SLRs. 

My cameras, lenses, and other photographic equipment is all in storage, and will remain until my release. Hopefully I won’t be too decrepit by then to rebuild my studio and life as a photographer. 

I used many different cameras over my years in photography. During two different periods I owned camera shops, first for several years in the 1970s, then from 1980 until 1990. The cameras that were my workhorses in 35 mm were Canon, and continued to be until my career was ended in 2007. I wrote several books about Canon, including ‘Canon Compendium,’ the official history of the Canon Camera Company. 

In medium format, I used Bronica S2a cameras with their superb Nikkor lenses before switching to Rollei SL66 in the mid-1970s. I continued with Rollei, using their advanced 6000 series up to my last Rollei, the 6008i, an amazingly capable camera. 

In large format I used a Toyo 4 X 5 monorail view camera with several Schneider-Kreuznach lenses in my studio, and a Zone VI field camera outdoors with those same lenses. 

In the rare instances when a client wanted 8 X 10, I had an old Eastman 2D camera made in 1918 that I used. It still worked fine. I fitted it with a Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 300 mm lens in a Compur Electronic shutter, matching old to new. 

When Polaroid made 8 X 10 film, I shot quite a bit of it in that camera using a borrowed Polaroid processor. 

I was an early adopter of digital photography, though, and was doing most of my work with Canon and Nikon digital SLRs by 2002, but the speed at which traditional photography collapsed was a total surprise, and shock, to me and most of the industry. Luckily, I was able to sell most of my medium format pro cameras before the bottom completely dropped out of the market, using the money to pay lawyers, several of whom said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll never spend a day in prison.’ Here I sit, fourteen years later, still in prison for something that never happened. It is ridiculously difficult to get a false conviction overturned in today’s American legal system.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/hidden-truth_ufos-pentagon/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Darkroom Rental

The Ward Studio Darkroom

Darkroom: Black and white processing and printing services.

This is the darkroom where Tony Ward spent countless days, months and years making thousands of gelatin silver archival prints for his well known body of black and white photographs exploring various subjects including; portraiture, fashion, nude and erotic photography of which he became world renowned.

 

The darkroom was built in 1985.  This unique creative space is available for rent to the public at The Ward Studio on a per project basis.  Photographers that rent the darkroom may keep processing chemicals for developing film and prints stored at the studio for ongoing darkroom sessions.

 

Price for darkroom rental:

We offer a four hour minimum at $175.00. Any time over the first four hours is charged at $50.00 per hour. Photographers are responsible for their own chemistry. Amber bottles are best for storage.

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Price for darkroom consultation:

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Professor Tony Ward is available for one on one consultations regarding darkroom process and technique at $200.00 per hour. 

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Location: 704 South 6th street Philadelphia, Pa. 19147

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To schedule a darkroom session:

Contact: Tony@TonyWard.com

Phone: 267-475-0828

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Note: Any person using the facility must present proof of being vaccinated for Covid.

Brittany Goldberg: Heavy Metal Hair Salon

Interview by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2021

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Brittany Goldberg: Heavy Metal Hair Salon

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Uncovering interesting women entrepreneurs that are down to earth, smart, witty, and pretty in Philadelphia is really a fun thing. It is hard enough to find decent women friends in general as we get older.  Finding women who want more for themselves outside of their homes not confined to 9-5 is refreshing!

 Women that know who they are, and have known for quite sometime seem to be the ones who make it. To me that is the key to success in anything you do. If you can not see your own vision, a set business plan, and a determination to win, it is just not going to work for you. 

I came across Brittany from her now husband, Jason Goldberg. Jason has been tattooing me at Olde City Tattoo for about five years. This was before the shut down. I had just started a sleeve and was sitting in the chair telling my  girlfriend who happened to come with me that I wanted pink hair. Jason let me know his soon to be wife was opening a salon that did bold color. Now, if you have seen my tattoos you would know If I can trust someone to permanently put bold color on my body; Jason just might have had a great suggestion. 

Needless to say, I made an appointment with Brittany. 

Upon arriving at the Heavy Metal Hair Salon, I knew I was in the right spot!

 A bright pink and black colored interior, funky Heavy Metal art around, and the nicest girls working there. There is no elitist attitude like in some salons.  My favorite piece of art happened to be the gold Kiss head. Brittany could not have been more informative. I thought it would take forever to get the color I wanted. She let me know it would be done that day.

Looking around everyone had perfect hair. There was nothing to be worried about. Not only was Brittany informative, she was personable. Talking to her I felt like I knew her for a while. You always end up talking to your hairstylist. Oftentimes I find myself feeling awkward in really high end salons unless it is for a wedding, or a glam event. I also do not live a normal lifestyle that does not leave me with much to say to a lot of people in general. When I feel comfortable in my surroundings; I am sure there are plenty of people who wished my gift of gab was not so great haha!

When I feel someone’s zest for life and a different vibe; that is what leaves me wanting to know more about the person behind the business. I watched as Brittany took my drab COVID hair to a vibrant dark to light pink. I was so happy to feel Alive again. It’s amazing what a little hair color can do for your soul. 

It felt like COVID continued forever…

When restrictions were lifted I  went back to have my tattoo worked on. I asked how Brittany was doing opening the salon in the pandemic. Jason said she is doing amazing!

I knew then I should interview her. 

Anyone that opened a new business in COVID, a female entrepreneur, and  living an alternative lifestyle that she loves should be on Tony Ward’s platform.

Tony also agreed, and used Brittany as this month’s cover photo.

The photo shoot was a fun day. I always love seeing Tony in his element, and getting to take my own behind the scenes shots as my piece comes together.

Brittany did an amazing job! There is no wonder why Heavy Metal Hair is doing so well. 

She is a pleasure to work with!

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Interview as follows:

Full name:  Brittany Goldberg

Age: 32

Hometown: Abington PA

Present Residence: Philadelphia 

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KK– As a child what activities were you involved with? 

BG– I played a lot of sports growing up (basketball, track, cheerleading, volleyball) and did attend acting and modeling school as well!

KK– What was your family dynamic like?

BG– I’m the second youngest of 5 kids, so things were chaotic at times. We’re all close in age though so it was fun having people to hang out with all the time.

KK– At what point in your life did you realize normalcy was not for you ?

BG– I don’t know that I’ve ever been normal haha!

KK– What was the first bold color you dyed your hair, and how old were you? 

BG– The first color I ever had put in my hair was by my sister while she was coloring her hair fuchsia. It was just a little streak in the underneath of my hair. I was probably 12ish.

KK– If it was much younger was your family pleased?

BG– I think my mom was pretty pissed when she saw but was always supportive of me coloring my hair at a young age after that. As long as it was done by a professional.

KK– When you started being more true to who you are now; were you met with any opposition from your parents, friends,  previous employers, or in relationships ?

BG– I’ve pretty much  been this way as long as I can remember, and I definitely struggled finding a solid group of friends until I was a teen, but my family was always accepting of who I was. I have been turned down jobs though for looking “too extreme” in the past.

KK– Were all of your tattoos and piercings accepted as well ? 

BG– Tattoos yes! My parents took me to my cousin’s shop (Kadillac Tattoo in Manayunk ) for my first tattoo and my mom got one with me. Piercings were sometimes an issue though but to be honest I did go a little overboard with those.

KK– At what age did you start doing those ? 

BG– Other than my ears, my belly button was my first piercing at I think 15?

 My first tattoo was 17

KK– What is your favorite piece on your body? 

BG– The next one 😉

KK– At what point did you realize bold alternative cosmetology was for you?

BG– I always loved doing hair, so when my counselor in high school mentioned tech school as an option, I was sold immediately. When I was a teen, bold hair wasn’t that common especially where I grew up. I wanted to be able to color my hair how I wanted. Beauty school was where I was going to learn the basics. I started tech school at the age of 16 and went every morning for two years straight. I was basically ready to graduate the same time I was graduating high school 

KK– Were your career choices accepted as you got older having an alternative to a 9-5? 

BG-Yes! My parents were always super supportive of me doing hair.

KK– What other career paths were you on before you found what truly made you happy?

 BG– None! Although, when I moved to the Bay Area I thought maybe I didn’t want to do hair forever, so I tried a few different jobs out there. After moving home it was right back to hair.

KK– Being married to a tattoo artist makes you both quite the creative duo. I noticed on your Heavy Metal Mom IG page you were married at the Bates Motel? 

How did that concept come about? The photo of you in the dress and the frayed leather jacket was amazing! The spiked crown just made it perfect. 

BG– Yes! We originally had our wedding planned for August 2020 in Vegas. Unfortunately, due to COVID we had to cancel. We were pretty upset about that and hoped to keep it in Vegas, but weren’t sure what the future would hold for travel. We made a decision to just get married here on Halloween (our favorite holiday). 

While looking for the right venue, I got an ad for Bates Motel haunted house and thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if we could have our wedding there. They got back to us right away and we’re willing to let us use the space! It actually worked out pretty perfectly!

 I ended up buying the first dress I found which was just a simple hi-low black dress. I saw a dress posted in an Instagram post a month or so later and debated it but it seemed too over the top for our outdoor DIY wedding. A week before the wedding I caved and emailed the designer of the dress and asked if she could have it shipped from Germany by the wedding. She sent it out that night and it showed up 2 days before the wedding. I didn’t even open the box until I was at my friend’s house getting ready the morning of our wedding. I brought both dresses, but once we opened the box we knew I had to wear that one, so that whole look came together in about an hour before the wedding!

KK– Did you have someone help plan the wedding, or did you come up with all the little details on your own? 

BG– We DIY’d the whole thing! We couldn’t have done any of it without the help of our friends and family though. 

KK– Being a mother, were you ever judged for your lifestyle and working a lot ? If so, was the judgment more from other mothers, or men? Were you able to overcome it?

BG– Yes, I know people judge me (other moms for sure) but I really don’t care haha. As long as my son is happy, and taken care of that is all that matters.

KK– what are your hobbies outside of your job? 

BG– I love going on adventures with my family. Going to see live music and wrestling, and playing slots. 

KK– How old is your son? Does he think he has a pretty cool mom?

BG– He’s about to turn 7. I like to think he thinks I’m cool!

KK– What kind of personality is he growing into? One of a more normal standard, or taking after his edgy mother ?

BG– He’s so funny and incredibly smart! I don’t know if he’ll follow the edgy lifestyle, but who knows.

KK– Do you have any other certifications, or academic achievements that helped you along the way? 

BG– I did go back to school a few years back to become an educator, but my son got sick, and being a single parent working, schooling, and caring for a sick child proved to be too much of a challenge so I took a temporary drop. Not sure I’ll go back and finish the hours though now that the salon is up and running.

KK– How old were you when you discovered your talent for bold color hair? 

BG– It took a while for me to really take hair seriously. I think before I had my son, it was more just a job. It wasn’t until I got a little older, and more mature that I really stepped up my game and furthered my education. I left my job at Supercuts and went to a more high end salon. It was definitely out of my comfort  zone, but really allowed me to find my place in the beauty industry.

KK– What are your favorite products for keeping bold colored hair vibrant?

BG– Definitely the Brazilian bond builder line (especially the color lock) R+CO gemstone shampoo & conditioner. And if you’re feeling confident, the Celeb Luxury Viral Colorwash & Bondfix Conditioner 

KK– What are some common misconceptions clients have when they come in wanting bold colors ? 

BG– Thinking I’m a magician haha! No, a lot of the time I think they’ve either had a bad lightening experience, or no experience with lightener. They’re convinced their hair will be “fried” if we need to lighten it. Products have come a long way though, and I think it’s important to educate our clients before we start any services so they know what to expect.

KK– What kind of training do you send your employees to as far as continuing education on color ? 

BG-Classes have been sparse since COVID. We all keep up on new trends and show each other new tricks. We take advantage of online classes as well.

KK– When did you decide you wanted to be an entrepreneur, and open your own salon? 

BG– I wasn’t happy where I was, and Jason and I had kicked the idea around for a while. I saw a commercial property pop up on Passyunk Avenue.  We figured we would  at least  check it out. Unfortunately, it needed too much work so we passed. The property manager let us know about a salon who’s lease was up in a few weeks though. We signed the lease on that one just a few days later. It all happened really fast! Two weeks after the lease was signed the city shut down, so we had plenty of time to get everything together. 

KK– What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome opening being we live in Philadelphia?

BG– Luckily it was already a salon so we really only had to do cosmetic work. During COVID it was really hard getting the equipment and color I needed. I was hesitating even buying the bigger equipment considering there was no end in sight with COVID, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to open. State board still came out to inspect which I was really grateful for, and that gave me the motivation to actually furnish the area. Then get it ready to open once they gave us the green light.

KK– Was the city accepting of your eighties themed alternative salon? 

BG– Yes! The other businesses on The Ave were super welcoming!

KK– How did you come up with the theme?

BG– I really just had a vision for what I always wanted my salon to look like, so it was really awesome seeing it come to life! Some things I had how I wanted but then decided I didn’t love it so it’s still evolving each day.

KK– Do you find respect is an easy thing to achieve in your area(s) of work? 

BG– Sometimes. I think a lot of people think hairstylists just, “play with hair” all day. That’s not the case at all, and I think stylists deserve so much more! We truly do it all. 

KK– Recently you had the first post COVID event at the shop. How did the Sick66 Jewelry pop up go? 

BG– The pop up was a pretty big success!  We had a really nice turnout and everyone had an awesome time! I’d like to start doing pop ups every couple months or so. 

 KK– What do you do to overcome stress?

 BG– I’m a huge advocate for self care. I take time alone whenever I can to just unwind from the day. 

KK– Do you have a wellness routine? 

BG– I go to my favorite spa in the city every month for a massage and some me time. My job really takes a toll on my body, so it’s so important to take care of myself physically and mentally.

KK– What is it like trying to balance being a mother, wife, and now running a successful new business? 

BG– Very challenging haha. I’m still figuring everything out, but we’re getting there!

KK– Have you had many mishaps when trying to achieve these bold colors on other people? 

BG– Sure have! I think we’d all be lying if we said we haven’t. I think transparency is key. If I’m not happy with something, my clients know I’ll say something right away and do what I need to get it right. 

KK– Are your friends supportive of you not having much free time now?

BG– Yes! It’s hard, but I’ve been making it a priority to make time for friends now that things are starting to be a bit more steady. 

KK– Are you currently happy with your endeavors?

BG-Happier than I could explain, and so grateful everyday.

KK– What tips would you give women just starting on their road to entrepreneurship?

BG– I’m still figuring things out myself, but I guess if I could give any advice, it would be to stay true to yourself and always do what you think will be best for your business. You might piss some people off along the way, but at the end of the day, no one will care more about your business than you. 

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Learning more about Brittany made me  respect mothers that go after it all even more so than I did before. Otherwise, how are we really fulfilled living through someone else ?

The days of having to choose family or career are over.

Brittany has her son, an awesome new husband, got married in COVID, had a DIY wedding that was gorgeously the right amount of Halloween & class combined into one, and a flourishing new alternative color hair business.  If you think for one second as a woman in 2021 you have to stay stuck in your situation; it might be time to dig deeper. 

 I suggest you start talking to women like Brittany. 

She might just give you that inspiration to START your own dream.

Look out for more upcoming events at the Heavy Metal Hair Salon

Heavy Metal Hair Salon

1604 E Passyunk Ave 1st Floor

Philadelphia, Pa 19147

(215)-467-1757

www.Theheavymetalhairsalon.com

IG- @heavymetalhairsalon_

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About The Author: Katie Kerl is a Philadelphia based veteran contributor to Tony Ward Studio.

E- Mail: Kate.kerl32@gmail.com

Instagram: @kerlupwithkate 

For additional articles by Katie Kerl, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/katie-kerl-philly-reloaded-life-after-lockdown/

Heads Held High: The Work of Jamel Shabazz by Aliana Ho

Photo: Jamal Shabazz

Text by Aliana Ho, Copyright 2021

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Heads Held High: The Work of Jamal Shabazz

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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. 

Citations:

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. 

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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/