Category Archives: Film

Bob Shell: Meditations on Cameras and the State of the Photo Industry Today

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Tony Ward. Self Portrait. Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Meditations on Cameras and the State of the Photo Industry Today

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The first professional level camera that I ever used was my father’s Exakta VX1000. It was an odd beast, obviously designed for a left-handed user, with the film advance lever and shutter release button on the left of its angular body. It had shutter speeds, as i recall, down to 16 seconds, and an internal film knife that let you cut off part of a roll of film if you wanted to develop just a few frames without sacrificing the rest of the roll. That camera was my father’s pride and joy, and he’d saved money for some time to afford it. In those immediate postwar years Japanese cameras were considered junk, and the German photo industry was top dog. The Exakta cameras were made by Ihagee in Dresden, Germany, I have that Exakta now at my house in Radford, just waiting for my release. It came to me on my dad’s death in 2000, along with the rest of his photo equipment. It has the 50mm Steinheil lens, a lens that will focus very close; almost a macro lens, and is super sharp. The Exakta VX cameras were mechanical masterpieces. The VX1000 had a top shutter speed of 1/1000 second, while the less expensive VX500 only went to 1/500. My father got some great photos with that camera. It had no built-in light meter, so you used a separate hand meter or guessed exposure. I got to be pretty good at guessing, plus the black and white films we used were very forgiving. You could miss by quite a bit and still be able to pull off a good print in the darkroom. Of course, we developed our own film and printed the photos in our basement darkroom. For a while my father was the photographer for the Easter Seal Society in Roanoke, and the job came with the privilege of using their very nice darkroom so we would do our developing and printing there.

I must have been 12 or 13 when I “souped” my first film, and printed the pictures. Wow, that was a miracle, watching the images appear in the developing tray under the red safelight! I was hooked but good. And the pleasant addiction never went away. That sense of wonder has been lost in today’s digital world. Not that I’m down on digital, I’m not. I was an early adopter of digital, but never thought of how disruptive it would be to the business I love. Suddenly, almost overnight, major photography companies found themselves in the buggy business while automobiles took over the roads. Some companies made the transition and survived, but some didn’t.

A prime example of corporate head-in-sand blindness is Kodak. Essentially they invented the digital camera, and their electronic sensor division made, and may still make, some of the best digital sensors. But did they build cameras to house those sensors? No, they just sold those sensors to camera companies and gave away that market sector. Yes, there were Kodak professional digital cameras, but Kodak just bought Nikon and Sigma film cameras and modified them with their digital sensors and electronics. They shut down this operation some time ago. You can buy a Kodak branded point-and-shoot digital camera today, but it’s not made by Kodak. It comes from a manufacturer in Asia. So far as I know, the last cameras actually made by Kodak were some APS film cameras made at a Kodak factory in Mexico, where they wrestled with serious quality control issues. The last Kodak black and white photographic paper was made at a Kodak facility in Brazil. Rochester, NY, once “Kodak City” has seen the Kodak workforce drop radically, and people there can no longer look to Kodak for lifetime employment. It’s really sad to see this great American company go down, victim of bad management decisions. The same thing happened to Polaroid, another victim of the digital revolution. Both Kodak and Polaroid were instrumental in getting average Americans to make photographs. None of us in the photographic press anticipated the rapidity of the digital revolution, I’m sorry to say.

And now, there is another digital revolution going on, this one moving faster than anyone could have predicted. It is being driven by the cameras built into cellphones. These tiny cameras keep getting better and better. Last year saw the front covers of Rolling Stone and Conde Nast Traveler shot with iPhones! With cell phone cameras so good, many are asking, “What’s the point of carrying around a camera?”. This is a good question for the vast majority of people. And it’s sending ripples throughout the photo industry. You probably didn’t know that those compact point-and-shoot cameras were the bread and butter of the camera companies, and sales of those cameras provided the R&D money for advanced SLR development. Some companies saw those simple cameras making up 85% of their revenue. Where will that money come from now? I foresee a few camera companies going bust, unable to stay in business from SLR, high end mirrorless cameras, and lens sales alone. I’d say that Sony and Canon have the best chances of survival, as both companies are very diversified, with many other product lines to provide income. Fuji has a good probability of survival, too. I wouldn’t bet serious money on the survival of the others. At the very high end, where digital cameras sell for $ 30,000 and up, companies don’t need to sell many to survive, so it’s likely that Hasselblad, Leica, and Phase One will hang on. At least right now you can’t shoot a Times Square billboard with a cellphone, and there are other applications which require more pixels than even the digital SLRs can produce. Serious photographers will want more image control than phone cameras allow, and for things like wildlife photography only a long lens will work, so cellphone limitations will keep up a demand for more capability. To see beyond about ten years my crystal ball becomes hopelessly clouded.

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-music-photography/

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A.H. Scott: Madison’s Key

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2019

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Madison’s Key

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Mauve painted nails gingerly pressed against Maurice’s chest
Madison whispered, “Babe, you should get some rest”
Maurice’s left hand had a different plan
He placed his hands over hers and warmly remarked, “Whenever I relax with you, my dear. It’s always best”
“You lay back on this bed”, Madison knew their calypso of caressing would soon begin
As he did so, their hands parted ways
He folded hands behind his head and waited for her delightful play
Madison’s auburn locks flowed against the tip of his cock
“Oh”, Maurice reacted from this feathery touch
“And, to think you were just yawning few moments ago”, She purred, “When you’re turned on it, gives me a rush”
Shaft palmed and funneled slowly by both of her hands
Maurice knew he needn’t make any demands
Madison’s mouth proceeded upon him in a silent dialogue of skill and tenderness
Maurice was never a man to be selfish in the sphere of satisfaction
He enjoyed Madison’s delectable attractions
“Feels nice, feels good”, He motioned hands from behind his head and against her swerving shoulders
Madison gazed up at him with eyes of electric ecstasy
Maurice smiled, “To have you is my wish”
Her hands moved from his root and up to his mouth slowly, “Wish fulfilled”
Maurice’s lips lightly tapped against those painted nails, as he would return the favor and taste her flavor
Madison switched places with him upon the bed
She laid back and revealed her precious gem
Maurice polished her to a state of shimmering ascent
Madison’s moans filled the bedroom, as she kept eyes on him
His mouth took her there
There to that place where her core existed
As Madison squealed, Maurice knew he had her
Not just in an exquisite feast of fantasy’s flourishing
But, an excavation and expectation of spiritual symmetry
Madison’s fingers ran through his wavy, brown hair
Maurice’s head moved with precision in the realm of precious pleasure
Connection of root and rose came in moments next, as Maurice and Madison melted in movement
Like a balmy wave in summer, they glided together on that bed with tempered ease
Crashing minutely, yet cresting in a simultaneous tide
This was their comfort as the dew of dedication seamlessly swirled in a scintillating culmination between them
As they locked eyes in that familiar way, each were draped in devotion’s view
She was unlocked and absorbed in his rousing reverie
Maurice was Madison’s key
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here: http://tonywarderotica.com/4827-2/
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Editor’s Note: To see more pictures of Maurice and Madison as well as other pictures and films from Tony Ward’s erotica collection, click herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/category/membership-account/

Also posted in Art, Blog, Diary, Erotica, Fetish, Hetero Love, Men, Obsessions, Photography, Popular Culture, Women

Bob Shell: Pacifism, Guns, Religion, Revolution, etc.

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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Pacifism, Guns, Religion, Revolution, etc.

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I’m a committed pacifist (what used to be called a peacenik). No apology.. I hate war and everything associated with it. I believe that human disagreements are best settled by peaceful means. This is not something I came to later in life, I’ve never read Gandhi or Martin Luther King, it’s just always been my philosophy. In the 1960s I was part of the anti-war movement. While living in Washington, DC, I picketed the Whitehouse and was teargassed on the Pentagon lawn. Later, in Richmond, I was associated with SSOC (Southern Student Organizing Committee, pronounced like “sock.”). We were the southern equivalent of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) which was more of a northern group. I toyed with communism, even had my own “Little Red Book,” The Sayings of Chairman Mao, for a while., but outgrew that phase pretty quickly. Politically, I’m a social ultra-liberal and fiscal ultra-conservative.. I believe in what Woodrow Wilson once said, “I don’t want a government that takes care of me, I want a government that keeps other men’s hands off of me so that I can take care of myself.”

I believed then, and still believe today, that war is one of the few things in the universe that is truly evil.

When Dwight David Eisenhower ended his term as President of the USA in 1961, he gave a speech in which he warned of the dangers of what he called “the military industrial complex.”. As a military man himself, he’d seen the growth of war as a business, and a damned big one. The world today is full of manufacturers of the machinery of war. Almost all developed countries have companies that make and profit from war machinery. What happens to these companies if there’s no war anywhere on the planet? They go broke. And they and their stockholders simply can’t allow that, so they stir up regional and tribal conflicts to create and sustain a customer base. Can’t sell more guns, bullets, grenades, tanks, attack aircraft, missiles, etc., if no one is killing anyone else.

Making money from human misery and death is simply wrong, wrong no matter what religion or philosophy you profess. It is ironic that most religions preach peace, but more people have died in religious wars than for any other reason. Christians killing Muslims, Muslims killing “infidels,” even Buddhists, who should be the world’s most peaceful people, killing innocent Muslims in Myanmar. Most of this is caused by an “us and them”mentality. If you’re not one of “us”, you must be one of “them,” and we hate “them.”. Why? Because they’re not “us,” they’re different, and being different is bad, and they probably kill babies or do something else really bad. I think most of “us” and “them” just want to get by and be left alone.

“Thou shalt not kill,” is good advice, but very few heed it. I’ve read that a more accurate translation of that biblical commandment is “Thou shall not murder,” which has a subtle but important difference in meaning. Murder is unprovoked killing, and is rightly prohibited.

Is killing ever justified? I’d have to say “yes,” under certain circumstances. If an enraged man is pointing a gun at me with every indication that he intends to kill me, I’d have no reservations against shooting him first if there was no alternative, but I’d probably try to disable rather than kill. Yes, I’m a pacifist who doesn’t hate guns. I have no problem with guns used properly. Before my arrest, I had two guns, a Remington single-shot bolt action .22 rifle and a 9mm Beretta pistol. I had fun target shooting with them, but never fired either one at anything living, and never would. Both were gifts from my father who thought every young man should learn to handle a gun safely. He gave me the rifle when I was in my teens, and the pistol many years later.

Am I in favor of gun control? Yes. No individual has a realistic need for a machine gun, or semiautomatic rifle of any sort. Remember, when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, and for years after, the state of the art in firearms was the muzzle-loading rifle and single shot pistol. Multiple shot guns of any sort just didn’t exist. And those simple black powder guns were what the authors of the Second Amendment knew and had in mind; guns for hunting, defending the homestead, and for the fun and challenge of hitting targets at a distance. Oh, and for that vanished “gentleman’s sport” of dueling. They didn’t envision personals arsenals like many have accumulated today.

I’ve spent a lot of time in England and Germany, countries with tight regulation of firearms. I could live happily in either country without missing guns. I’m in favor of rational gun control in the USA.

I was just listening to the old Jefferson Airplane song Volunteers, which was one of the late Paul Kantner’s anthems calling for a new American revolution. When that song came out in the early 70s we all thought the revolution was coming in a few years. We envisioned America of the future as a sort of “electric Tibet,” to quote Tim Leary. Well, it didn’t happen. Today it finally seems to be happening, but slowly and against powerful opposition. The legalization of marijuana in all of Canada, the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal, and loosening of draconian drug laws in many US states are all steps in the right direction, but we still have governments that are far too repressive on people. My body belongs to me, not some government. “There shall be no property in human flesh.” I firmly believe that I have the right to do anything I want so long as it harms no one else. I’m not a Wiccan, but I admire the Wiccan philosophy, “An it harm none else, do what you will.”. That was written for Gerald Gardner, founder of Wicca, by Aleister Crowley, whose own motto was ” Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”. Crowley toned it down for Gardner, although to the knowledgeable it means exactly the same thing.

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-the-digital-era/

 

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Bob Shell: The Digital Era

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Photo: Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

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The Digital Era

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Many of you reading this came of age in the digital photography era. Most likely you’ve never used, maybe never even seen, a film camera. My girlfriend Marion was like that. The first time I handed her a film camera she took a shot and then looked at the back of the camera to see the picture – which, of course, was not there! People who grew up with digital photography can’t imagine having to wait to see the pictures. When I first got started, unless you had a darkroom and developed and printed your own, you had to wait days to see your photos. When I had my first camera shop in the early 1970s we had our photofinishing done by a big commercial company called Colorcraft. Their courier picked up film from us every day and delivered the finished photos. As I recall, it took three or four days to get your pictures back. A bit later in the 70s came the innovation of next day delivery. People were amazed to get their pictures that fast. Next came the minilabs that pharmacies, grocery stores, and discount stores installed. Suddenly you could get your pictures back the same day! Some places even offered one hour service. The race was on to be the fastest, but quality was often lost in the rush. People got back poorly exposed or otherwise flawed pictures, and assumed it was their fault, never knowing they could have gotten good pictures from a better lab.

Today those big photofinishing companies are long gone, as are most of the smaller labs. The last lab in my area, run by an old friend of mine, closed at the end of 2018. People who still shoot film pretty much have to develop and print their own unless they live near one of the few labs still in business.

Kodak Alaris has just reintroduced Ektachrome 100 Professional in 35mm rolls and Super-8 cartridges. They must think there’s a market for it, but that leaves open the question of where to get it processed. (kodakalaris.com)

The Lomography people have recently introduced black and white Potsdam 100 and Berlin 400 films. These come in 35mm and 120 roll film sizes, and are “cut from old stocks of a cinematic emulsion, produced by a legendary German company.”. Available online from Lomography (www.lomography.com)

I don’t know much about the current Lomography company. I know they got their start selling a compact camera made by LOMO, Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Works, in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad in Soviet days) and turned that little camera into a cult object. They’ve expanded to selling a wide variety of photographic products. I’d guess that the “legendary German company” they refer to is Agfa. Apparently Agfa had large stocks of film on hand when they went out of the film business. Rollei was selling rebranded Agfa black and white film under their name for some time. In cold storage black and white film will still be good for many years. In a bit of sales hype, they say, “Steeped in a rich past and prestige, this mighty monochrome is not just a tribute to history — rather a part of it.”

I used to collect Soviet era cameras and lenses from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. While the little LOMO point and shoot, the LC-1 was nothing special, LOMO also made the only Russian-built professional camera, the Almas (Diamond in Russian). During the Cold War days, Soviet photographers were cut off from the Japanese professional cameras the rest of the world used. LOMO was tasked with the job of producing a camera for Soviet professional photographers. Superficially, the Almas looks like a Nikon F2, but on closer inspection is revealed as a unique camera. The removeable prism housing is styled like Nikon’s, as are the interchangeable focusing screens. The camera body looks like a Minolta and has a shutter that looks like a Copal, but is a unique LOMO design. To carry on the hybridization, the lens mount is Pentax K mount. The camera is very robustly built and most samples I’ve seen show considerable use. There is a connection on the bottom for a motor drive, but as far as I have been able to determine, that motor drive was never produced. The 50mm lens on my sample is excellent. It’s too bad that this noble experiment vanished when the Soviet Union collapsed and photographers in former Soviet republics gained access to cameras from the outside world. My Almas has no light meter, but there was a meter prism available in small quantities that is rare today. My Almas is the star of my collection of Soviet cameras.

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-musical-instruments/

 

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Bob Shell: Prostitution?

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Photo: Tony Ward. From the book of Obsessions. Copyright 2019

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #32

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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PROSTITUTION?

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As you know, prostitution is illegal almost everywhere in the USA. Should it or other “victimless crimes” be? That’s a question I’ve pondered over for years. Basically, I’m a Libertarian. I’m in favor of the smallest possible government with the least possible intrusion into our lives. I don’t want a government that’s a surrogate parent, or a government that thinks it owns me. I don’t need a parent and no one owns me! And, so long as I harm no one else, government has no damned business intruding into my life. I’ve always felt that way, and being put in prison has only strengthened that belief. I’ve never harmed anyone, but an overbearing government put me here after sticking its long nose into what should have been private grief over an untimely death.

I see nothing wrong with prostitution so long as the woman (or man, but for the rest of this post I’ll talk about women) is doing it voluntarily, and has not been coerced into it. In Germany, and I believe in most of the European Union, prostitution is legal and regulated, with regular medical checkups. The women are businesswomen, each running her own business and paying taxes, not the property of a pimp (pimping is illegal). All are adults under their country’s definition, usually 15 or 16 depending on the country.

Have I known and patronized prostitutes? Yes and no, respectively. Some of the women who modeled for me also earned money as “escorts.”. I didn’t care so long as they were good at modeling.

When I first started photographing nude models I was young and pretty naive about things. I ran an ad in the Roanoke newspaper for models willing to pose nude, and got a number of responses. One of them was a very pretty black woman who lived in one of the big housing projects in Roanoke. On my first shoot with her I brought her to my home studio and found her to be a natural at posing. She had a great, expressive face and was slender and very flexible. After a couple of hours of shooting I told her we were through for the day and I’d take her home. She put her hands on her hips and a pout on her face and said, “Ain’tcha gonna fuck me?”. It turned out she was afraid I wouldn’t pay her unless she “serviced” me. I put her mind at ease by paying her and assuring her nothing else was expected. After that she modeled for me several times and we became pretty good friends. Last time I saw her, she was pregnant with a “trick baby.”. I never saw or heard from her again after that. I felt bad for her because I was pretty sure she had turned to prostition because there weren’t many other opportunities available to her to make money.

Other models I knew had turned to escort work just as an easy way to pick up extra money. One I knew put herself through college with modeling and escort work, and went on to a successful career. She liked and respected me because I kept my hands to myself and never hit on her for sex during or after a modeling session. We also became friends.

Back in the 60s when I was living in DC, I knew a high class “call girl.” She had a very nice apartment in an upscale building, expensive clothes, and ate very well. She kept in shape with regular exercise. Her clients were senators, other government men, lobbyists, and wealthy businessmen. She only had one client a night, and charged hefty fees for her services and her confidentiality. When I was between jobs one time she let me stay at her place for a couple of weeks and fed me. On evenings when she didn’t have a client, we sat around and listened to music and talked. We talked philosophy, about the latest books we’d read, etc., but she never talked about her work or her clients. She took her confidentiality very seriously. I knew her for a couple of years and never knew the names of any of her clients.

I used to go to Las Vegas often, but I never frequented the legal brothels outside town in the desert. Was I tempted? Not really. I’d never had to pay for sex and just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. Since there is no federal law against prostitution, and no state law in Nevada, it’s up to local jurisdictions to regulate. It’s illegal in the city of Las Vegas, but legal in a nearby county where the brothels are.

Once in Tokyo I’d gone out bar hopping with some executives from one of the big camera companies. By the end of the evening, after visiting many little bars where we drank warm saki and ate various things on skewers cooked on hibachi drills, we were holding on to each other just to stand up. As I was getting ready to take a cab back to my hotel, the senior of the two said, “Bob-san, I have arranged for a girl in your room tonight,” He saw my negative reaction and misunderstood, “Don’t worry, she is very clean girl, you won’t catch anything!”. In Japan it is an insult to turn down a gift, so I had to pretend I was pleased, and flopped into the cab and headed off to my hotel, falling asleep on the way. Shortly after I stumbled and fumbled my way back to my hotel room, there was a quiet knock on my door. I opened the door and there stood a lovely young Japanese woman, more of a girl really, since she looked like she couldn’t have been out of her teens. Even if I’d been interested, I was still pretty blotto, and doubt that I could have done anything. I explained my predicament in slurred English, and she seemed to understand. “No worry,” she said, “I tell Mr. —– that you perform very strong.”. I was grateful to her for understanding, gave her a generous tip, and sent her off into the Tokyo night, then fell across the bed and woke up hours later with a fierce hangover.

She was probably older than she looked, since Japanese men tend to like really young-looking women. When I was sending glamour and nude images to my Tokyo agent, she was always telling me my models looked too old, even though they were barely legal in the US. She wanted models who looked around 13, and I couldn’t get across to her that in the U.S.A. I could get arrested for photographing girls who looked underage, no matter how old they really were. It’s called “virtual child pornography,” and is illegal, which I think is a totally ridiculous idea. I’ve photographed 16 year old nude models in Germany, where it was totally legal, but I can’t bring those pictures into the U.S.A. They’d be illegal here. It’s sheer insanity!

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonyward.com/bob-shell-bondage/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Erotica, Fetish, Men, Obsessions, Popular Culture, Women