Category Archives: Men

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/

 

Also posted in Blog, Film, News, Photography, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: A Stitch in Relative Time

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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A Stitch in Relative Time

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What really is photography? I think it is an outgrowth of our inability to revisit moments in time. The old tentmaker wrote:

The moving finger writes, and having writ,

moves on, Nor all thy piety nor wit

can lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out one word of it.

We move through time headlong, like a boat with no rudder, and must follow the current wherever it takes us. When we die, all the moments of our lives are gone, “like tears in rain.”

That, at least, is the viewpoint of most people, who never realize that they are projecting a Newtonian viewpoint onto external reality. But since 1905 and Einsteinian Relativity we should have realized that we actually exist in a Relativistic reality. Time, that we seek to capture slices of, is not something that flows. It is the fourth dimension of reality that Newton simply took for granted as being the same everywhere. But Einstein showed us that time is not absolute, that it varies depending on the position and motion of the observer. Most of us haven’t integrated Einsteinian Relativity into our daily worldview, we’re stuck back centuries ago with old Isaac Newton.

“Physics itself recognizes no special moment called ‘now’ — the moment that acts as the focus of ‘becoming’ and divides the ‘past’ from the ‘future.’. In four dimensional space-time nothing changes, there is no flow of time, everything simply is…It is only in consciousness that we come across a particular time known as ‘now’ …It is only in the context of mental time that it makes sense to say that all of physical space-time is. One might even go so far as to say that it is unfortunate that such dissimilar entities as physical time and mental time should carry the same name.”. — Russell Stannard, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Open University.

“Particles themselves do not even move, being represented by ‘static’ curves drawn in space-time. Thus, what we perceive as moving 3D objects are really successive cross sections of immobile 4D objects past which our field of observation is sweeping.” — Roger Penrose

So if the time we perceive and the motion we perceive are illusions, what is the point of photography? I’ve been wrestling with that question. Will we one day be able to get outside time and revisit “moments from the past”? I’d be very surprised if we don’t.

Years ago, in the early 1960s, my father came home from his job as a TV news reporter one day very excited. He showed us a press release from the U.S. Navy in which it stated that the Navy had developed a “time camera,” which could take photographs of a scene as it was hours before. The example they used was to photograph an empty parking lot and get images of all the cars that were parked there earlier in the day. We were all wowed by this announcement, and I remember anxiously awaiting more news about this “time camera,” but none was ever forthcoming. Nor was there ever an official denial — nothing. If it was a hoax, I’d have expected some official denial. Periodically over the years I’ve tried to find any information about that camera, but have never found a thing. I’ve always suspected that the information was released to the press by mistake, and quickly withdrawn behind a veil labeled “Top Secret.” Just imagine what a powerful historical research tool that would be!

In a very real sense we always photograph the past. Say you are photographing someone twelve feet away. Light falls on that person and some is reflected to your camera, but it takes time for that light to come from your subject and reach your film or digital sensor. Light travels at a rate of one foot per nanosecond, so if your subject is twelve feet away, you are photographing them not in the present instant when you trip your shutter, but twelve nanoseconds in the past. Your subject is always younger in your photographs! Your camera is always a time machine. However, until that light strikes your film or sensor the image is in the future relative to you.

Now twelve nanoseconds is pretty small potatoes, but what about when you hook your camera to a telescope and point it at the moon, which is one light second away, or at the sun which is eight light seconds away, or even at Alpha Centauri which is 4.3 light years away. You’d be photographing respectively 1 second, 8 seconds, or 4.3 years into the past. From the perspective of someone on the moon, the sun, and Alpha Centauri, you are 1 second, 8 seconds and 4.3 years in their future. So you see their past, but their “present” overlaps with your past so from their perspective they see your past. Clear? Relativity can be confusing!

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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-why-radford/

 

Also posted in Blog, Erotica, Glamour, Hetero Love, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Why Radford?

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Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #35

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Letters  by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Photography by Anthony Colagreco, Copyright 2019

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I have often been asked why I had my office/studio in Radford, VA, not exactly the center of culture..

In the mid 70s, after the near collapse of the US economy (caused by the infamous Arab oil embargo and other economic factors) wrecked my first camera shop, I worked for a year for Woolco Department Stores managing the camera department in one of their Roanoke stores. I didn’t like that job, because department managers didn’t really manage anything, and quit to take a job with Ritz camera in Blacksburg. When that didn’t work out (my selling style was to spend the time with the customer to find out what that person needed to buy to accomplish what they wanted to do, and sell them that. The regional manager said I was spending too much time with the customers!), I found myself working in the photo lab at Virginia Tech, where I’d gone to school. We developed and printed film shot by the two staff photographers, and when both of them were busy, I’d occasionally be asked to go out and shoot a “grip and grin” photo of the university President shaking hands with some visiting dignitary. But I wanted to be the photographer, not a lab rat in the basement, so after a year or so at this I left and took a job with Gentry Studio in Blacksburg. They were a combo of photo studio and camera shop, the perfect job for me.

I worked there for several years, honing my own photography skills in their studio after hours. I liked working there very much, but always had the itch to do my own thing. After all, even the best boss is still your boss, and I never liked working for other people. Gentry Studios had three locations, Salem, Blacksburg, and Radford, all long established. The owner decided to close the Radford studio, so I took the leap and took it over. I changed the sign to Shell Studio and expanded the camera shop portion. This, as I recall, was in 1980, and the rent on the large studio location was $ 300 a month! Amazing, eh? But at times I had trouble coming up with that money. I inherited the job of photographing the sororities at Radford University and some other school business, plus selling all the materials required for the photography courses. This, plus portraits and some commercial work kept me going for a while, but money was tight. To pick up some extra income I began writing for a relatively new photography publication initially called Shutterbug Ads, a buy-sell-swap newspaper for photographers. Initially there was not much editorial content, and that was often poor in quality, but the owner wanted to improve the quality and become more of a mainstream magazine. When I first wrote for them they were printed tabloid size on yellow paper, and writers were paid in copies.

Parallel to this I had started a photographic equipment import and distribution operation. I had almost accidentally stumbled upon Enna Werk, a small German optical company in Munich that had just lost its US distributor. So I began importing and wholesaling their products, primarily camera lenses, slide viewers, slide projectors, and the Ennascop opaque projectors. After a year I broadened my product lines to include Fisher tripods and video lights from Italy, COIL aspheric magnifiers from England, and Lamborghini camera bags and sunglasses. These additional product lines resulted from meeting people at photokina in 1980, which I also covered for Shutterbug. For ten years I ran this business in parallel to acting as Shutterbug’s Technical Editor. By 1990 it had become just too much to do all of this, so I sold the import/distribution business. Shutterbug had by then transitioned to being a real magazine with ever-growing subscription list, distribution to booksellers, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, etc., and they offered me the job as Editor at a payment rate I could live on. As I have said before, though, I was never an employee of Shutterbug. I contracted to supply editorial services at a fixed monthly rate. This allowed me the freedom to set my own office hours, stay away from office politics, and take on noncompeting projects, like writing books. By the late 80s I was writing several books a year as well as writing for Photo Industry Reporter and some other noncompeting publications. Since I could do my work from anywhere, I stayed on in the Radford studio location, at 202 Third Avenue, right in downtown Radford. I probably would have stayed there indefinitely, but the roof leaked and the landlord refused to fix it. After two studio floods my insurance company said they would not pay for any more water damage, so I was forced to move. Luckily a great location became available, a former pharmacy measuring about 35 X 80 feet at 239 West Main Street, just a short distance from the police department. I kept my studio there from 1992 until 2007, fifteen years. So I had studios in Radford, on major commercial streets, for 20+ years, but when the police came to my studio after Marion’s death the detectives said they didn’t know I was in town! Some detecting!!

I wanted a big studio space, and the new location was ideal, since I had begun conducting studio workshops for groups of photographers. The monthly rent there started at $ 500 a month, and by 2007 had only gone up to $ 525! And that included a reserved parking space right by the back door. The rent also included heat in the winter. Amazing, and one of the main reasons I stayed in Radford all those years.

Anyway, that’s the story of why I was in Radford, somewhat abridged. I’d probably still be there, doing my photography, writing for books, magazines and websites, and generally enjoying life if the police hadn’t foolishly blamed me for Marion’s death. Their simple-minded nonsense destroyed me at the peak of my career. The plain fact, never disputed by anyone, is that I was not even there when Marion overdosed. When I found her unconscious, I immediately called 911 and did everything in my power to help her.

The real reason the Radford police, prosecutors, and court felt they had to destroy me was that some of my photography was frankly erotic (many Americans are terrified of open sexuality), and at the time of Marion’s death we were working on a book of erotica for a German publisher. The book was ultimately published as Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope by Goliath, first in their MixOfPix series. There is nothing pornographic about this book; no penetration, the photos are no more revealing than Playboy and far less revealing than Penthouse. We even Photoshopped some photos because we wanted to sell the book in most countries of the world, and put the text in English, German, French, and Spanish, for that reason as well. The book was published under my pseudonym Edward Lee, a pseudonym I’d used often since at least1993 (I don’t really remember when I first used it; it’s actually my two middle names. Over the course of my career I’ve used a number of pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. Many writers have done so. My friend Don Sutherland used something like 16 or 17 different pseudonyms.)

At my trial the prosecutor waved a copy of the book around at every opportunity, shoving it at my witnesses’ faces – “Have you seen THIS?”. He always seemed surprised when they answered, “Yes, Bob gave me a copy.” He was offended that they weren’t offended! None of my friends and former models found the book objectionable.

I just managed to keep my business going doing the 4+ years I was out on bail awaiting trial. I wrote four books, numerous magazine articles, held workshops, had a gallery show of my photographs in Chicago (but couldn’t go to it!), did my own photography, and generally tried to live a normal life during that time. But the prosecution was determined to convict me, and used false evidence and practically every other dirty trick in the book to. convince the jury that I was a scumbag who regularly drugged and raped my models, even though they couldn’t locate a single former model with anything negative to say about me. Not a one! And they looked for more than four years. As a lawyer I know said, if that had been true, surely someone would have come forward.

I’m almost tired of repeating that I am a totally innocent man destroyed by a corrupt political system because I dared to be different. They sentenced me to 32 1/2 years, when the Virginia sentencing guidelines recommended a maximum sentence of three years! The Virginia Dept. of Corrections classifies me as a “numerical lifer,” which means that even though I don’t have a life sentence I’m unlikely to live long enough to get out. That’s really depressing!

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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-wherefore-blog/

 

Also posted in Blog, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Travel

Bob Shell: Fighting Monsters

Artwork by Christopher Suciu. Copyright 2019

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #33

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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FIGHTING MONSTERS

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Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”.

I’ve been fighting a monster known as The Commonwealth of Virginia since my life was disrupted in 2003 by false criminal charges after the death of my girlfriend Marion Franklin. Have I succeeded in not becoming a monster myself? I hope so.

When you’re charged with a crime by a state, that state devotes all of its vast resources to insuring that you are convicted. Unless you are wealthy, it’s a very uneven match, and you must be prepared to lose everything, even if you win the case. Lawyers, court reporters, expert witnesses, bail bondsmen, etc., don’t work for free. Everywhere you turn, someone is standing there with their hand extended for money. I’ve never been wealthy, just comfortable, and the whole legal process bankrupted me.

Last night I had a dream. I was sitting in an auditorium somewhere with friends. We were on the front row. The Commonwealth’s Attorney (CA) came down the aisle, turned to me and asked, “Mr. Shell, did you wear sunglasses on your drive over here today?”. I said that I had. “You see,” he barked, “he admits to an illegal activity.”. I must have looked totally confused because he said, “Don’t you know that it’s illegal to wear sunglasses after you’re accused of a crime? ”

Just a dream, right? But not so far from reality. After my arrest I spent thirty days in jail before my lawyer could bail me out. When you’re out on bail it’s just like probation; you have to report to the Probation and Parole office regularly, and any infraction, no matter how minor, can get your release cancelled and you thrown back in jail. One day I was going somewhere in town, don’t recall where, when a town cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for having a burned out brake light. I had no idea the light wasn’t working. For a while it looked like the CA was going to try to revoke my bail over this! I had the light fixed immediately and carried the receipt to traffic court. Luckily, the judge dismissed the charge. But by driving with a burned out brake light, I was technically committing an illegal act while out on bail! And if they want to, they can revoke your bail over almost anything, even a parking ticket!

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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-prostitution/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, News, Politics, Popular Culture, Women

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, Film, Obsessions, Popular Culture, Women