Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
Adventures in Nude Photography
In my world travels I’ve always sought to photograph local women. In most countries that hasn’t been a problem. In early years I used word of mouth to find models, and later I used the Internet. One Model Place (onemodelplace.com) was a good source for the USA and Europe, and by now may have expanded to more countries. I’ve used them to find models in Germany and France. In England, when I was going there often in the 90s, there were small rental studios everywhere, each with a book of available models, so finding models was easy.
Once when I was in Hove/Brighton with some extra time on my hands I looked up a local studio and went by and checked out their model book. I really liked the look of one model named Tarnya Blackwell, so I booked the studio and her for a couple of hours the next day. I turned up at the appointed time and so did she. She was a very attractive, graceful young woman with a very Cockney accent, like the accent Adele has when she isn’t singing. I had my Fuji GW 670 II and a Canon EOS-1 and the studio had several nice Courtenay monolite flash units with umbrellas, “brollies” to the British. As we began to get ready for the shoot, she asked me if we were going to be doing “Continental pictures.”. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she explained a bit bashfully that that meant explicit photos. She was obviously relieved when I told her no, I had nothing like that in mind. We proceeded to have a very nice couple of hours and I found her very fluid in her movements and totally relaxed in front of my camera. But there was one slight hitch, she kept her front toward me for all the shots, only turning a bit sideways for some. When I asked her to turn around she picked up a long piece of fabric and held it behind her blocking her butt. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so I asked her. “Me bum is pale,” she replied. I told her I didn’t care so she sighed and dropped the cloth. Her “bum” wasn’t noticeably pale, but it was crisscrossed with livid red whip marks! So, Tarnya was more than a bit kinky. I really didn’t care, and that brief bit of tension blew away and we got into the groove again. I got some great photos from that shoot.
Another time, also in England, in 1993, I did a shoot with a lovely young woman, Karen Boyle, who was Miss Jamaica that year in the Miss World pageant in London. She had come out to Chris Knight’s home at Cooling Castle and I spent a couple hours photographing her at the crumbling old castle and grounds. I was using a Canon EOS-1 and the superb Canon 28-80 f/2.8-4 L lens. That lens is so sharp that I generally put a Zeiss Softar #1 on it when photographing glamour and nudes, as I did for all the photos that day. I’ve had one of my best photos of Karen on the main page of bobshell.com for years. She’s one of the prettiest women I ever was privileged to photograph. Half English and half Jamaican, with flawless cafe au lait skin. The English weather actually cooperated for the day. There had been light drizzle on the drive, but by the time I reached Cooling it had stopped, leaving the sky bright and overcast; the world’s biggest softlight! Perfect weather for photography, only if you look carefully you’ll see that the toes of Karen’s boots are wet from walking through the damp grass. I toned it down a bit with Photoshop, but I think you can still see.
Once when I was going to Germany for a week I checked out One Model Place’s listings for Germany and got in touch with a nice young woman who agreed to drive to Cologne for a day’s photography. To my surprise, when she arrived at my hotel she turned out to be an American, the wife of an American serviceman stationed over there. We worked half the day in a big public park alongside the Rhine and then I did some available light pictures in my hotel toom , which had a very big window with a white curtain, a perfect diffuser. This was in 2002 and I was shooting with a Nikon D100 that I was evaluating. Very nice camera.
On another German trip serendipity put me in contact with a young woman named Malika from Morocco. She had a great face, very long dark brown hair, stunning figure, and medium brown skin. The first time I met her she was wearing a white T-shirt and very tight jeans. She sat down in a chair in my hotel room, smiled playfully and pulled up her T-shirt. “Like my tits?”. she asked. When I said I did, she grinned and said, ” They’re fake, of course!” Like so many breast enhancements done in Europe, they looked far more natural than ones done over here, which are usually too big. Also, when done in Europe the scar is usually in the armpit and hardly noticeable. Anyway, Malika was a lot of fun, but wanted my assurance that her father back in Morocco wouldn’t see the pictures. I felt I could safely assure her of that. So far as I know none of my photos have ever been published in Morocco!
The only place I had trouble finding local models was in Southeast Asia, where the women all seemed naturally camera shy. I had no trouble in Japan, of course. And when I did shoots in the Caribbean I had to bring my models with me for the most part. I did have a very pleasant surprise when conducting a workshop in 1998 on St. Thomas at an estate when a really nice looking young woman who was working at the estate came down to where we were photographing the three models I’d brought down, threw off her clothes, and joined in. We all got some great photos of her and at the end of the day I paid her just like the other models. That’s the first and only time something like that happened!
I had my photo studio in Radford, VA, starting in 1981. My first location was three blocks from Radford University, formerly a woman’s college but still with about a three to one ratio of women to men. You’d think I’d have no trouble getting models from there. I tried running ads in the school newspaper, but got very little response. I put a “Models Wanted” sign in my front window, also to very little response. I ended up letting the local models I worked with spread the word for me. It took a while, but eventually I had aspiring models showing up frequently. I stayed at that first studio location for ten years, and then .moved to a location on Main Street (two blocks from the police station) in 1992. I was there until my trial in 2007. (Two allegations made at my trial bear mention: First that I was concealing my presence. On Main Street just up from the police station? Give me a break! That was totally ridiculous! Second, that there was something shady about me always coming and going through the back door. Duh, the parking lot was in back of the building and I had a reserved parking space right by the back door. I should come out the front door and walk all the way around the building to avoid looking suspicious? The lead detective on my case said he didn’t know I was there. After all, I’d only been there eleven years!)
One of my more unusual aspiring models was a policewoman in a nearby town. Very pretty, with a great personality. But there was a problem. She spent months outdoors directing traffic in a short sleeved uniform. blouse. Her arms from below where the sleeve ended were very brown, while all the rest of her was pale. What could I do? I did the simplest thing and showed her the photos from our test shoot. “My arms look awful!” she exclaimed. Yep. My Photoshop skills weren’t up to fixing that, and there weren’t many poses I could use that would hide her arms. We did get a couple good back shots with her clasping her hands in front, but we mutually decided that we’d have to wait until she got a desk job and her arms matched the rest of her. I don’t know if the desk job never came through or just what happened, but I never heard from her again. That was a shame because I really liked her.
I’ll save more of my adventures for another time. Next time I’ll talk about other hated tan lines!
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/covid-19-2/