Darkroom: Black and white processing and printing services.
This is the darkroom where Tony Ward spent countless days, months and years making thousands of gelatin silver archival prints for his well known body of black and white photographs exploring various subjects including; portraiture, fashion, nude and erotic photography of which he became world renowned.
The darkroom was built in 1985. This unique creative space is available for rent to the public at The Ward Studio on a per project basis. Photographers that rent the darkroom may keep processing chemicals for developing film and prints stored at the studio for ongoing darkroom sessions.
Price for darkroom rental:
We offer a four hour minimum at $175.00. Any time over the first four hours is charged at $50.00 per hour. Photographers are responsible for their own chemistry. Amber bottles are best for storage.
Price for darkroom consultation:
Professor Tony Ward is available for one on one consultations regarding darkroom process and technique at $200.00 per hour.
Location: 704 South 6th street Philadelphia, Pa. 19147
To schedule a darkroom session:
Note: Any person using the facility must present proof of being vaccinated for Covid.
One of my friends was the late Galen Rowell, mountaineer/photographer.
At one of the NANPA conferences (North American Nature Photographers Association, of which we were both founding members), we were just kibitzing about different things. The subject of the ‘Nude in Nature’ photography workshops I’d been conducting for years came up.
I don’t know if our conversation spurred it or if his inspiration came from elsewhere, but Galen took on the subject in one of his regular monthly columns in Outdoor Photographer magazine. He was unprepared for the firestorm of outrage he created by suggesting that the nude was a valid subject to be photographed in our national parks. The magazine was deluged with angry letters, he told me.
That struck me as very strange, since some of our finest photographers from Edward Weston on photographed nudes in national parks. At the time Galen wrote about it there was no rule against nude photography in National Parks. I don’t know if there is now.
When I first got the idea for my workshops, I contacted the National Park Service about conducting them in one of our national parks. Basically, they didn’t say ‘No,’ but made it clear I’d be bogged down in bureaucratic BS if I pursued the idea. So I gave up on the idea and put it on a back burner.
I won’t go into detail here, but ultimately I discovered that the bureaucratic paperwork load was much more manageable with state parks. That’s why I ended up holding my workshops in The Valley of Fire State Park, northwest of Las Vegas next to Lake Mead. I had to carry insurance indemnifying the State of Nevada for one million dollars in liability, but since I was only buying it for two days it wasn’t very expensive. Then I had to pay into Workman’s Comp. for the models, even though they weren’t my employees. That was expensive, but, again because it was only for two days, I got most of it back at the end of the year. Then there were forms after forms to fill out, but I managed and held successful workshops there annually through 2002.
It was worth the hassle to photograph beautiful nudes in those gorgeous settings.
My arrest forced me to cancel my planned 2003 workshop there. Even though I was ‘free’ on bond, the court would not allow me to leave Virginia.
Why are so many people in this country so hostile to nudes, in nature or anywhere else? I don’t have all the answers.
Part, I think, is that this is basically still a Puritan country. We tout our First Amendment right to freedom of expression, but tend to freak out if that expression includes nudity.
When I was Editor of SHUTTERBUG magazine, our headquarters were in Titusville, Florida. For those not familiar with the area, Titusville is right across the Indian River from Cape Canaveral, where NASA’s launch facilities are located.
North of the Kennedy Space Center is Canaveral Seashores National Park. For many years the most northern part of these beaches was traditionally a nude beach. People went there to enjoy the ocean and the beach au naturelle. They bothered no one.
Some of the local ‘Christian’ churches got all in a dither over it, and got the county to pass an ordinance forbidding nudity on the beaches. Beside the road leading to the beaches they erected a big sign forbidding nudity.
My response was to photograph a nude model leaning against the sign. Such idiotic nonsense!
When I told my doctor about this nonsense, he commented that he’d known far more people harmed by not seeing nude bodies.
If I’d stuck to photographing still life and landscapes, which make up the bulk of my photography, and not photographed nudes, particularly ‘erotic’ and ‘fetishistic’ nudes, I’d probably still have my freedom. I’m in prison because the judge and jury were offended by my nude photographs, pure and simple. I broke no laws, never had criminal intent, contributed in no way to my girlfriend’s death, but offending community standards was what got me put away. That’s America today.
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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-nudes-in-national-parks/
Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.
In looking at the work of Jamel Shabazz, an aura of confidence and righteousness radiates out of his images. There is no doubt that each subject is aware, and focused, on the camera, and giving a show to the audience, with chests puffed and heads high. His work radiates a certain something, and is best explained by Fab 5 Freddy’s introduction to Shabazz’s book Back in the Days:“If among the many emotions you feel while viewing these photos, cool comes to mind, here’s why – back then, cool was all about having the right flavor and savoir faire. Such a style blended a certain brand of rebelliousness with a casual nonchalance…” (pg 4). This “cool”-ness is captured with grace, style, and a sense of excellence in all of his work.
Shabazz’s image “Partners”, taken in 1999, is a prime example of his ability to capture the suave nature of his subjects with pride. The two subjects of this image are a classic snapshot of time. The late 90’s aesthetic oozes from the color and framing of the two men, in the flexed muscles and unfazed eyes. “Payback is a bitch” stares you down as the gladiator man at the bottom of the frame looks like he could give a little wink if you looked hard enough. The warmth of their skin tones against the tiled walls feels like summer time, as the gaze of the man on the right pierces through the heat. The use of the flash creates a distinct outline of a shadow behind each man and produces a punchy contrast, forcing the eyes on his subjects, and the gaze of the subjects back to you.
According to his publisher’s book synopsis for Shabazz’s fourth book, Seconds of My Life (2007), he was “introduced to photography by his father, who kept a signed copy of Leonard Freed’s Black in White America on the family’s coffee table” at the age of nine, and from there on out, he felt a strong sense of obligation to capture and portray “his community and the people who gave it life” (Shabazz, 2007). This sense of obligation to community comes across quite beautifully in his images, especially in the ways his subjects are posed. In speaking from my very limited and novice experiences and perspective, I can see a mutual understanding between photographer and subject that produces respect, pride, and self assuredness in his images. Shabazz knows his subjects well enough for them to trust in his vision, and to know that he is capturing them the way they see themselves.
The personal and intimate work of Jamel Shabazz is inspiring to me and my desire to immortalize the beauty and confidence of my community and my friends. Despite there being limited academic literature on Shabazz’s work, I find the work speaks for itself. The merit is in the body language of his subjects, often in public settings, that appear staged but in an organic, comfortable manner. Overall, Shabazz’s prowess has fantastically captured the pride and joy of existing in community as a form of resistance and survival.
Fab 5 Freddy. Back in the Days, by Jamel Shabbaz, PowerHouse Book, 2001.
Shabazz, Jamel, and Lauri Lyons. Seconds of My Life. PowerHouse Books, 2007.
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.
In approaching this assignment, I was drawn to the idea of creating space for reflection. In my own personal reflection on this course and the content I’ve produced, I’ve noticed recurring themes associated with the global pandemic. This pandemic, so deeply ingrained in our collective experiences, has produced such great loss that has been emphasized in so many different forms of expression, almost to an excessive extent. However, the pandemic’s pervasive nature keeps it a relevant and intrusive muse at every attempt of art I make, and often I don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye.
In creating the physical space of the shoot, I included a speaker for music, Oreo cookies for incentive and a token of thanks, and index cards. On these index cards, I asked everyone to write a love letter to someone. I placed no bounds on who the recipient of the letter could be, I just wanted them to sit, reflect on their love for someone, and immortalize it on a colorful index card. Some wrote to their mothers, some wrote to their younger selves, some to their siblings, and some to seemingly random people who got them where they are today. A sentiment that has been circulating the internet right now is the idea that we are all just a collection of habits and quirks of all those we’ve surrounded ourselves with over the years. I wanted to capture the fleeting moments of recognition and appreciation for those people in our lives.
These images represent a piece of ourselves given to this school, this space, and this past year of triumphs and tribulations. To see yourself, and to love yourself is to see and love all of the people who have touched your life, and all of the lives you have touched. I am eternally grateful for the community created out of these trying times, and I hope to never forget the impact every single one of my friends, those pictured and those not, have had on my small life. You know who you are, this is my love letter to you. Thank you and I love you.