Nefertari Williams: My Fight to Combat Loneliness

Nefertari Williams portrait. Black activist for women's heart health
Nefertari Williams. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023  

Text by Nefertari Williams,  Copyright 2023


Styling by KVaughn

Hair and Makeup by Octavia Williams


My Fight to Overcome Loneliness


It was over. I looked across the table and found the courage to tell my husband that I felt it was time to end the marriage. 

I had a very difficult childhood. I (so I thought) was an only child and was raised by a disabled single mother who was in her late thirties when when she had me. We didnt have much but we did have each other. We spent a lot of our time playing cute games like I spy with my little eye”. But she often didnt feel well so I was left to entertain myself most of the time. 

As I entered my teenage years I began to understand and respect the power of contentment. Its ok to just be ok. Not happy, not sad – just content. Dont get me wrong, I was a bubbly person (it was probably mostly nervous energy) but it served me well all the same. Once I found my appreciation for contentment I promised myself that I would not allow myself to be in any situation that would cause me to be unhappy. 

I made it through highschool where I even learned how to find joy in making achievements. It felt nice but Id always remember that those feelings are fleeting but contentment didnt have to be if I learned how to answer a few simple questions in my mind. Are you safe ?”….. Did you eat ?” ……. Are you free ?”.  Id ask myself these questions if ever I felt myself feeling sad because I didnt have, like so many of my classmates and co workers, a large family at home to share my life with. 

Sleeping never came easy for me. By the time I graduated from highschool I realized I laid awake for hours pondering on issues that most 18 year olds probably even gave a second thought. One night I had to re-examine my theory on contentment. Was it enough? Was I settling for this content lifestyle when deep down I longed for more. I wanted companionship. So, I met a nice guy and when he chose not to use a condom one day, I didnt protest. Early that next spring, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. 

Motherhood is amazing. You get to have a beautiful little life to love unconditionally for hopefully the rest of your life. However I soon realized that was not enough. My soul was longing for more. I had a boyfriend, I had friends and I had a mother but I realized that I had not taken the time to build a bond with this young man who now had to work while in college to help take care of our new baby so he had even less time to spend with me. 

I am a deeply spiritual person so I would find myself, while my baby was sleeping and in between community college classes and work shifts pondering over my purpose of existing. I even sank so low as to ask God why I was brought into this life only to have such a lonely existence. 

Years past, I eventually got married and gave birth to 3 more beautiful babies. I love being a mom to them. But I soon realized that I repeated history. I never took time to build a bond with the man that I chose to marry. It didnt take long for the loneliness to settle in again. 

By this time I was in my middle 30s and my mother had suffered a massive stroke leaving her unable to speak. I couldnt help but question God again. Why was I left with now no one to talk to. How could this happen. Well if that pity party hadnt been a hoot more disturbing news. Nine months into my 5th pregnancy I suffered a massive heart attack leaving me with a very damaged heart and a weak body. 

My baby and I survived that horrifying ordeal but the fight was not over. On the day that I was released to go home to my family was the day that I realized that all of my feelings of loneliness were not in vein. 

Being disabled, in so many cases go hand and hand with being lonely. I had dealt with both for years so when the opportunity arose for me to help others who better to understand the flight other than me. 

I chose to use this new thing called social media to help people make a connection during times of loneliness. I, with the help of my cousin who lived in another state, chose to set us a platform where people can join, post a picture and chat with each other. I called it IN THIS TOGETHER”. It was an instant hit on Facebook. I didnt make any money but it brought me so much joy scrolling around the World Wide Web looking for people who may just want to make friends, may want a spouse, may enjoy conversation or may be lonely. 

I started the group about a week after telling my husband of many years that I wanted out of our marriage. I had to try to see if taking time to meet someone and build a bond with what God had in store for me. I had to find out if maybe contentment was ok but was it enough with in a marriage. I didnt know the answers to that. I had seen people who seemed to be totally In Love” with in their marriage and it didnt look like my marriage. 

So today, 11 years after setting up a site to help combat loneliness I have been told that the group has produced thousands of friendships, hundreds of marriages and couples (even some oops babies) yet the the quest to defeat loneliness still evades us. 

The saga continues. Why are so many Americans feeling so lonely? 


About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  This is Ms. Williams first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.

Bob Shell: Covid Again


Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021


Covid Again


The expected fall surge in COVID-19 cases seems to have come early, hitting many states. Here in Southwest Virginia, we’re surrounded by surges in Tennessee and North Carolina. 

Statistically, the news media are telling us, 95% of the new cases are people not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. 

But, hold on just a minute, and think about what that really means. That means that 5% of these new cases are in fully vaccinated people! Now, 5% seems like a small number, but on the scale of this new surge, it’s one hell of a lot of people! Fifty out of every thousand.

Pfizer is saying that people who’ve gotten both shots will need a booster shot to protect against the Delta Variant. Other vaccine manufacturers haven’t suggested this — yet. And here comes the Lambda Variant, just entering the USA. Here we go again! 

This current surge will likely become an explosion when cooler weather comes. 

And don’t forget the millions of young people only now becoming eligible for vaccination. They now have no protection at all. 

The Los Angeles Times reports on an ongoing study in the UK that has shown that COVID causes ‘significant brain shrinkage’ in people who’ve had it, even when they had only mild cases or were asymptomatic. This probably explains the ‘brain fog’ often reported by people who ‘recovered,’ often long after their ‘recovery.’ 

The brain areas most affected are those related to smell and taste, senses often reported lost or diminished in COVID sufferers. Those brain regions are also involved in memory, particularly memory of experiences that evoked an emotional response. Perhaps ‘full recovery’ from COVID is an illusion.

As Theunis Bates said in an editorial in The Week, “A happy ending to our national Covid horror remains a long way off.” To that I’ll add that there may never be a happy ending.

In my book ‘Cosmic Dance,’ written largely in 2018 and published in April of 2019, long before anyone heard of COVID-19, I said: 

“We’re only now starting to understand the language of the DNA code, yet we’re already tinkering with it to ‘improve’ our crops and livestock, or do silly things like make cats that glow in the dark.” 

“We must be very careful in playing with a code, a language, that we’re just beginning to understand, or our foolish fingers may get burned. I’m very concerned with the willy-nilly introduction of genetically modified organisms into the world’s ecology. We could unintentionally unleash a plague that destroys us or the crops that sustain us. 

Voices have been raised in alarm, but their cries are falling on plugged ears.” 

I usually like it when my predictions prove true, but this time I wish I’d been wrong. 

And I singled out China as the likely culprit, too! Right now, it seems that Australia is the only country to have the guts to point the finger at China. In an editorial in ‘The Age,’ Peter Hatcher says, Australia won’t be bullied by China. Relations between the two countries became hostile last year when the Australian government called for a probe into the origins of COVID-19, and banned the Chinese company Huwei from Australia’s 5G network. China decided to make an example of Australia, levying high tariffs on Aussie wine and beef, then cutting off economic dialogue completely. 

Now China is blocking $ 20 billion worth of Australian exports and holding two Australian journalists in prison on political charges. 

The Australians are not scared of the Chinese bully. Two thirds of Australians surveyed say the country should stick to its values and speak up about Chinese abuses, even if it hurts their economy. “China’s efforts to break Australia’s will has only solidified it.” 

I say ‘Bravo Australia!’ and urge everyone reading this to go out and buy Australian wine and anything else made in Australia! If only the American public had the strength of will of the Aussies! It is time to lay the blame for COVID-19 where it belongs, squarely on China’s shoulders.


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:

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 . 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

Nan Goldin: Immersion and Trust by Abby Harris

Photo: Nan Goldin

Text by Abby Harris, Copyright 2021


Nan Goldin: Immersion and Trust


Trust is a required element for any documentary photographer to have with their subject. Nan Goldin and her work is an excellent representation of that trust. Nan Goldin was born in Washington D.C in 1953 Goldin began her career in photography in 1973 but it was in 1968 when she was first shown how to use a camera. From the very beginning Nan has been dealing with difficult/controversial topics in her life and her work.

While growing up Nan was aware of her sister’s struggle with repressing her sexuality and the pain it caused her and in turn in 1965 Nan’s older sister took her own life after struggling for years. After her sister’s death and her introduction to photography Nan began right away to use the camera for change. In her first solo exhibition Nan chose to cover the lives of gay and transgender people in Boston. Highlighting and living within this community became a running theme for Goldin and lead to her most famous work “ The Ballad of Sexual Dependency”. These photos are a still documentary of the LGBTQ community post stonewall in New York City. Drugs addiction, the AIDS epidemic, sex, and relationships are all shown in “ The Ballad of Sexual Dependecny”, yet these photos were not only taken to bring awareness they are also autobiographical. Nan immersed herself in this neighborhood, watched and made art out of her and her friends’ struggles. This is not to say she was taking advantage of her subjects’ pain, she lived it with them, experienced it with them, grieved with them.

Continuing with her love of drag queens and the LGBTQ commuity Nan traveled to Bangkok and shot “ Yogo Putting on Powder”. Their is a sense of calm in this photograph, like Nan is not even there. This is just a testament to the trust and bond that Nan builds with her subjects and how she makes her art. One can almost imagine the conversation they might have had and the ease they both were feeling. The atmosphere of the room feels transformational, the movement at the left edge of the frame, the act of putting one’s makeup on, drag queens themselves. The casual outfit of Yogo while they are mid-powder emphasizes the feeling of transformation and the stages of it. Even though Nan is a documentarian, one can tell the thought she puts into each photo. All of the costumes, color, and shine in the background of this photo gives it depth but it doesn’t take away from Yogo and her simple act of putting on makeup. The balance of elements makes everything visually appealing to the audience. The lighting perfectly highlights Yogo’s skin and the feeling of comfort they must feel around Nan to let her photograph them like this. Nan has the ability to show the beauty, and simple things within underrepresented communities. “And to show them with a lot of respect and love, to kind of glorify them because I really admire people who recreate themselves and who manifest their fantasies publicly. I think it’s really brave. I just really have so much love and respect and attraction for the queens. So I don’t like her stripping them and exposing them according to her own preconceptions of who they are”. Nan throughout her career has shown a love and appreciation for every community she has photographed and the viewer can feel that through every photo.


About The Author: Abby Harris is a sophomore enrolled at Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Abby Harris, click here:

Leah Haidar: Friendly Faces

Photography and Text by Leah Haidar, Copyright 2021


Friendly Faces


This body of work includes portraits of my closest friends.  I am titling it “Friendly Faces” because I have truly found my place with them.  We all live in the same hall and live our daily lives together.  We are all remarkably different, yet find common ground in valuing the safe space we have built together.  I wanted to convey my friends as their authentic selves.  In order to do so, I let them choose their own outfits to accurately express themselves.  Besides the occasional brush of one’s hair, or posture adjustment, their presentation was their own.  I decided to capture photographs of my friends at the end of our senior year because it is a very nostalgic time for us all.  I am happy they will be able to hold onto these memories of themselves at Bryn Mawr for one of the last times. 

These photographs were taken outside at some of our favorite spots on Bryn Mawr’s campus including Taft Garden and Rhoads Beach.  Luckily for us, Bryn Mawr has such a beautiful campus that almost every spot would have been perfect for a portrait.  I focused mainly on searching for spots that would best frame my subjects.  I found myself intrigued by bushes and flowers, vines on stone arches, benches, and window reflections.  These interests helped me frame my friends so their backdrop would be as pleasing to look at, as the subjects themselves.  I wanted their background to be bold, but not outshine them.  And because all of my photographs took place outside, I found the best light for my subjects to be right before sunset. 

I really enjoyed learning how to take proper photographs of my friends.  I enjoyed making them laugh and scowl at the camera.  They were really good sports throughout this experience and I hope that their effervescent presence is captured through these photographs.  


About The Author: Leah Haidar graduated Cum Laude from Bryn Mawr College BA in Sociology. Class of 2021

Faizah Khan: Lewis Hine-New York City from the Empire State Building

Photo: Lewis Hine

Essay by Faizah Khan


Analysis on Lewis Wickes Hine


Lewis Wickes Hines was born on September 26, 1874 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Although he grew up to study and become a sociologist, he is most remarkable for his later work in photography and its influence on child labor regulation. That said, much of Hines’ work is centered around the struggles of working class people. He was determined to advocate for them and bring about necessary change in order to improve their lives. By capturing powerful photographs of the work ethic of the lower class (through their actions or attire), Hines revealed the inequality and suffering that the working poor faced which consequently raised public awareness and pushed for social reform.

At an early age, Hines lost his father which forced him to quickly adopt jobs ranging from factory to sanitation services. This firsthand experience of working extensively long hours in dangerous working conditions would trigger Hines subsequent path towards advocating for hardworking American workers. Following his undergraduate studies, Hines was hired as a teacher where he taught students about studies related to botany. He was eventually assigned the role to be the school’s photographer which began his experience with photography. From a project that was initially assigned to his students, Hines took on the project himself and began photographing immigrants at Ellis Island in New York. Right from the start, Hines’ focus was concentrated in the struggles of various ethnic groups facing poverty. His early work in photography thus recorded photographs of immigrants, sweatshops, and tenements.

While Hines continued to pursue his education and eventually achieved his Masters in pedagogy from New York University, his work in photography continued. He was most passionate about changing the conditions that existed for child workers which is why he eventually quit his job as a teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School to be an investigative photographer for the National Labor Committee. There, Hines was hired to capture images of children as young as seven working with dangerous machines in factories, mills, and mines. As committed as he was to this role, Hines had to conceal his intentions to the owners of these workplaces because many were against social reform. This forced Hines to portray himself as a salesman of some sort before entering the premises of where these children worked. In fear of being caught, Hines kept record of the children he interacted with as he would secretly record notes in his pocket and measure their heights by the buttons of his coat. It was clear that for Hines, photography was more than just art. Photography served as a tool in educating the public and spreading awareness about the issues of society. As such, his photographs moved his audience so emotionally that his work contributed to the result of the government enforcing child labor protection laws.

Hines’ journey in photography continued as his work allowed him to travel to Europe and work alongside the RedCross to photograph scenes from World War I. After this mission, Hines continued to document scenes depicting living conditions in a rapidly growing industrial society. He eventually moved back to New York where he was offered the opportunity to photograph the Empire State Building‒‒the tallest building in the world at the time. Stories of Hines being suspended up on a crane reveal how challenging yet exhilarating such an opportunity was. While Hines had much of a successful career in photography and brought about the changes he had hoped, much of his work would have been forgotten if not for Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland, who showcased his work just before his death.

In the Lutnick Fine Arts Center, one of Hines’ photographs related to the Empire State Building project is hung in the gallery. The photograph itself captures the rungs of a crane with the view of Manhattan’s landscape in the far background. I was drawn to this image because being born and raised in New York City, I had a particular affinity for pictures of buildings and skyscrapers. For me, it gave me a sense of home and familiarity. Pictures of New York in the 1930s is also always very exciting to see because the landscape was rapidly changing into a more urbanized setting and to be able to capture such a moment is historically relevant. The fact that Hines was actually capturing these photographs amid the Empire State Building being constructed conveys how quickly New York’s landscape was changing.

After learning about Hines’ backstory with photography and his prior experience, his portfolio that showcases a lifetime of his work began to make sense. However, the photograph displayed in Lutnick is interesting because in Hines’ portfolio of the construction of the Empire State Building, most of the images consist of hard working men working on dangerously elevated cranes. Such images depict the dedication and excitement of the construction of the then world’s tallest building to exist. The men who helped construct the building, whom Hines photographed, were also featured in Hines’ book called Working Men. In contrast to these photographs of men at work, the photograph described in this section depicts a quiet scene of Manhattan from the view of the Empire State.

Upon my initial observation, I noticed that the photograph was over matted and that the photograph was much smaller in comparison to the overall size of the frame. The empty space that surrounded the image forced me to look closer and analyze the photograph for its details a lot more as well. The photograph appeared to be a scenic landscape of Manhattan. Given the dark skies and bright lights shining from the buildings, I was convinced that the image was shot during the nighttime. As such, this image differentiates itself from Hines’ related photographs since it does not capture any working men but rather, it captures a breathtaking view of the city. Such a photograph appeals to me because it encapsulates busy city life amid the dark.

The reason why I was intrigued by this photo was because I was curious as to how Hines was able to capture such a shot. My first guess was that Hines situated himself to have a high vantage point to be able to capture what I believed was a bridge at first. However, I now know that Hines must have been suspended on a crane due to the construction. I imagine that Hines had a low vantage point as his shots capture the foreground of the scene like the crane that presents itself very apparently, in contrast to the huge landscape before him. He must have used a wide angle lens which, paired with a low vantage point, allowed him to capture a scene that was captivating and awe-inspiring.

An observation of Hines’ photograph, and for most of his images as well, reveal his use of a very shallow depth of field. In the photograph, the body of the crane is a lot clearer than the landscape in the background. Hines must have used a wide angle lens and aperture to capture more light and a fast shutter speed to achieve such a shallow depth of field without blur of any hand movement. In a general perspective, most of his portraits, whether it is of working men or children, seem to embrace this kind of depth. Such an aesthetic choice allows the observer to take in more of the details of the person in the photograph, rather than the background which still remains relevant, but only ever so slightly in comparison to the main focus of the portrait.

The photograph displayed in the art gallery was printed in gelatin silver. In other words, the image consists of silver metal that was suspended in a gelatin layer. Considering that it was the first time bromide and silver were combined in one solution to develop light sensitive material, this invention radically changed photography as it allowed photographers to expose plates and develop them days or weeks later. In doing so, photography became more accessible for anyone to participate in throughout the 20th century. Consequently, it is no surprise that Hines used this technique to develop his prints since it was very popular at the time.

In a broader context, the invention contributed to the modern day processing of analog film photography. The gelatin silver process begins with the paper itself, which consists of an emulsion layer that contains bromide, silver nitrate, and gelatin. The prints are then developed since the photograph is only visible after being submerged and agitated in a chemical bath. The way that Hines developed his photos indicate very little visible grain with high resolution. As mentioned, the quality of the photograph is very clear and focused. This overall aesthetic makes the image look very sleek and sophisticated. Such technique in Hines’ work allowed him to capture the breadth of a range of groups, from European immigrants to American workers. Recognizing that his camera had the power to spread a message across the country, Hines utilized his skills in photography to expose harsh conditions that existed and needed to be addressed by social reform.

Lewis Hines redefined how photography could be used as an instrument to advocate for social injustice. Through his photographs, he swayed the hearts of the public which inevitably influenced laws in place to change. His work that captures working men and children, immigrants, and soldiers not only reflect a consistent theme throughout his career as a photographer, but it reveals his commitment to sharing the lives of working class people who often go unnoticed in society. Due to his efforts, he was able to share their unique stories to a wide audience and contribute to social change.



Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lewis Hine”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Oct. 2020, Accessed 29 March 2021.

Cycleback, David Rudd. Guide to Identifying Photographs: Gelatin SILVER PRINTS. 2003,

Mussio, Gina. Lewis Hine: How Photography ENDED Child Labour in the USA. 29 Aug. 2014, d-labour-in-the-usa/.

Museum, George Eastman, and George Eastman Museum. “The Gelatin Silver Process (10 of 12).” Smarthistory,

“Lewis Hine.” International Photography Hall of Fame,


About The Author: Faizah Khan is a sophomore enrolled at Haverford College.  Class of 2023