Category Archives: Media

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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The Politics of Incarceration

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Back in September of 2020, a federal court ruled that the IRS could not deny any U.S. citizen the CARES Act stimulus money simply because she/he was incarcerated. In early October the Virginia Department of Corrections provided each of us with a 1040 form and instructions on how to apply for the $ 1,200 checks. We all filled out the forms and mailed them to the IRS immediately. So far as I can tell, no one who applied by mail has gotten a penny yet. Those who had friends or family apply for them on the Internet got their first checks long ago, and some have gotten their second ones. That’s about five months since we mailed in our forms! That’s pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. I can always use money!

I wrote on behalf of myself and others to the law firm that sued the IRS, asking for their help. In response they sent me a letter saying to go on the IRS website, call the IRS’s 800 number, or call them for information. Who do they think they’re dealing with? We can’t go on the Internet, we can’t call 800 numbers, and we can’t call them! Their advice is useless to us, all members of the class they sued on behalf of! Like many people on the outside, they don’t understand the restrictions we labor under. 

Yes, we have so-called email, but I can’t enter someone’s email address into the system. They must do it from their end. My email ‘address book’ doesn’t even show the address, just the person’s name! 

What we have is not real email. 

So, because we lack Internet access we wait months for our money! The Business Office here says the IRS is releasing the checks in a slow trickle, five or so per week. There are over 1,000 men here, the majority of whom had to apply by mail. At five checks a week, it’ll take years! If I sound angry, I am. I’m in prison, yes, but I’m still a citizen, with as much right to that money as any other citizen! If I owe the IRS money, they make me pay interest for every day I’m late, but they’re sure not paying us interest for their delay.

People keep asking me how I’m progressing on the legal front. The answer is that I’m not, at least right now. Our law library is closed, so I can’t get on a computer to do my research, and the Virginia courts are operating under a declaration of judicial emergency, meaning they’re only performing basic functions. All my court deadlines are on hold until the Virginia Supreme Court ends the emergency. I’ll have 90 days then to file my briefs. My two suits to get my convictions overturned are stalled because of this, as is my suit to get my forest back. This last has been made all the more poignant by a book I’m reading. 

‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ is the name of a wonderful book by Peter Wohlleben, German forester, who has his own forest.

We don’t think of trees feeling and acting. Wohlleben tells us that’s largely because trees live at a different speed from us. Our nerve impulses move along our neural pathways very fast, in milliseconds. But similar impulses in trees crawl along, taking seconds to move an inch. Time is stretched for trees, compressed for us. To us, it seems that trees act in slow motion, because their lives are unhurried. But they do feel, and they do communicate. A mother tree reckognizes her offspring and favors them by supplying nourishment the younger trees need. The forest community provides nourishment to sick trees, even keeping stumps alive until they can grow into trees again. 

A forest is a community, with the complex conversation taking place underground between roots, where we can’t see it. A symbiosis between tree roots and fungi takes place right under our noses — or feet. 

This book has made me appreciate my forest even more and made me even more determined to get it back. As a famous person once said, “I have not yet begun to fight!” 

Meanwhile, life here continues in lockdown. We get out of our cells into our common area a few hours each day, which is why I can send/receive emails, but we’re fed in our cells, and only leave the building to go to the medical department, or to go to the gym, where they’re vaccinating us. 

We’ve all gotten the first of two injections of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I’m due for number two on the 18th. The vaccine hit me hard. My whole left side was painful for days. My cellmate spent the day after in bed, with chills, fever, nausea, the whole gamut of side effects. Some people had no reaction at all. The nurses told us the harder it hits you, the better, since that means your immune system has been triggered to produce antibodies. 

Some medical authorities are saying that because this damnable virus is mutating rapidly, we may need annual booster shots for each new strain. Guess maybe they could give it to us along with our annual flu shot. 

We’ve had quite a few people here, inmates and staff, catch the disease. Some have had to be hospitalized, and some have died, including a friend of mine I’d known for eight years. 

In here we deal with a man based on how he comports himself. We really don’t pay attention to what he’s in for, and usually don’t even know. Of course, there are those who delight in knowing, and in spreading rumors. A prison is a community. I’ve been the victim of rumermongers, based on a totally false rumor started by some lowlifes years ago. It goes away, and periodically pops its ugly head up again. I just ignore it, and carry on being myself. Life’s too short to worry about stupid people telling stupid tales. 

The COVID lockdown has also delayed completion of my next book. I’m calling it COSMIC DANCE II as a working title, but may publish it under another title. I’ll let everyone know when it’s published.

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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.  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-in-praise-of-ecdysiasts/

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.

Also posted in Blog, Men, News, Politics

Kenneth Taylor: Film is Definitely Back

New York Camera & Video

 

Text by Kenneth Taylor, Copyright 2021

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Film is Definitely Back

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Some say the return to film is a reaction to a world where everything has become digital, fast and easy. It is certainly true that shooting film requires you to slow down and this makes it a very enjoyable experience.  Perhaps the reason is even more simple than that. The main reason for the resurgence of film may simply be because it’s beautiful.  That’s what got me hooked.

At New York Camera & Video we’re seeing our film lab get filled with orders on a daily basis. It’s all types of orders too.  Color, black & white disposable cameras, even slide film.  We also sell film cameras and many don’t last on the shelves for more than a day.  There’s also an increasing level of connoisseurship for it.  Many customers know which cameras and lenses are of quality ore even collectible. They can speak in great detail about the differences between film stocks. This has a lot to do passion film seems to bring out in people and the vast amount of knowledge now available on the internet.  We’re seeing customers of all ages. In fact, our older customers are shocked when I tell them our largest demographic of film shooters is roughly between the ages of 18-30.

Our film connoisseurs are a joy to speak with.  However, the most enjoyable aspect of my job is helping someone who wants to get into film for the first time.  They usually start out with something simple like a point and shoot camera. Within a few months after they’ve had some decent results they’re back in the store asking about trading up for a fully manual 35mm camera. Many even take it a step further and get into larger format film cameras. It’s thrilling to see their knowledge expand and the quality of their images progress over time.  It’s  not long until they’re coming in and giving us tips and pointers.

This isn’t just a fad like when fashion from a past decade briefly makes a comeback.  The apps on our phones like Instagram have been trying to emulate film for years.  The look of film never stopped being beautiful.  Kodak and most of the other film manufacturers are doing so well that they’re figured out ways to resurrect discontinued films back to market.

More are on the horizon in the next year or so.  That’s not a venture a company would take on for a fad.  Even our professional digital photographers are beginning to add film to their wedding and portraiture packages.  They tell us their customers are beginning to request it.  Nothing beats the soft look of skin tones shot on film.  We now have to process color film every single day to keep up with volume and we’re constantly getting new regular customers.  If you’re interested in dusting off your old film camera and getting back into it or perhaps trying it for the first time, stop by our store.  We have everything to get you started.  A knowledgeable staff, cameras, hard-to-find batteries, developing, printing, even home processing materials.

About The Author:  Kenneth Taylor is a professional photographer and employee of New York Camera & Video.  To visit his website, click herehttps://www.expoterrestrial.com

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Editor’s Note: New York Camera & Video address: 1139 Street Road. Southampton, Pa. 18966.  Phone: 215-357-6222

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

Bob Shell: Cosmic Dance

Bob Shell: Cosmic Dance

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Cosmic Dance

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The great writer John Steinbeck wrote, “To my certain knowledge, many people conceal experiences for fear of ridicule. How many people have heard or felt something that so outraged their sense of what should be that the whole thing was brushed quickly away, like dirt under a rug?” Steinbeck intuitively knew that the universe is far stranger than the average person realizes, as did Charles Fort before him, and that many strange events happen in this world of ours. They shouldn’t frighten informed people the way they would have in the past. 

That fine Welsh writer Arthur Machen had an otherworldly experience that profoundly changed him, and incorporated that magic in his works, particularly in his last novel ‘The Green Round.’ 

But still, the average person today lives mentally in a Newtonian universe, while the reality is that the universe is strongly non-Newtonian. Our whole society is structured on an antiquated, Newtonian notion of how things work. Our sciences, aside from physics, operate on strongly Newtonian ideas, particularly medicine and biology. This is not just wrong, it is profoundly dangerous. 

A person today may realize that solid matter is an illusion, hiding the quantum dance of uncertainty, at an intellectual level, but in day to day life treats ‘solid’ matter as something to knock up against. The eastern mystics long ago realized the truth, that what we perceive with our multiple senses is an illusion – Maya – not reality, and worked on ways to pierce the veil and perceive the cosmic dance as it really is. 

Western science denied this truth until Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Planck and others saw glimpses of the other, hidden reality, and laid the foundations of quantum mechanics, how the Universe really works. It is no accident that many of them looked to eastern mysticism for answers. 

The door into this strange, wonderful, and sometimes frightening, reality was first opened for me by my old friend Robert Anton Wilson, in my opinion one of the most profound thinkers of the 20th Century. RAW, as I call him in shorthand, understood quantum reality in an intuitive, magical way, and incorporated that understanding in his writings. In a virtual way, he took my hand and led me through that door, approaching and reaching that brave new world through humor. As he said, “The music of the spheres contains a loony laugh.” 

My little book COSMIC DANCE is, in many ways, a tribute to RAW, and my attempt to carry forward his work that was cut short by his untimely death. 

I’ve done my best to live in the real world, the magical world of quantum physics, which seems so counterintuitive and illogical to our normal ways of thinking. But this is how things really work. Much of our advanced technology only works because quantum physics is the way the Universe works behind the veil. The quantum computers now being developed will change science in radical ways. 

I firmly believe that human progress will depend on each of us coming to grips with quantum reality and changing our thought processes to admit the Magic of quantum reality. It’s fast approaching, whether we’re ready or not. Elon Musk and other advanced thinkers are warning us of the dire consequences of not being on board the quantum train.

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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.  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://tonyward.com/bob-shell-in-praise-of-reality/

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.

Also posted in Blog, Popular Culture, Travel

Andrea Blanco: Gianni Versace a Seductive Mind

Gianni Versace a Seductive mind by Andrea Blanco

 

Text by Andrea Blanco, Copyright 2021

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Gianni Versace a Seductive Mind

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Gianni Versace was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy in 1945, the son of a dressmaker is why Gianni became interested in fashion at an early age. He spent a lot of time in her workshop learning the craft from his mom while developing a talent for drawing fashion figures with a charcoal marker. He was very interested in art and poetry during his youth.

Gianni was always a familiar person and from a young age his muse and main inspiration was his sister, Donatella. The relationship between them was very close and they have a multitude of stories to tell about their lives together. In fact it was Gianni at just 11 years old who convinced his sister to dye her hair blonde due to her fanaticism for Patty Pravo, a famous  Italian singer.

Gianni’s career in the world of fashion began in 1976 with designs made for his own sister, after having worked for
various companies in the sector. With the help of his brother Santo, he decided to create his own brand with the symbol of the medusa as the company logo. Gianni had a great interest in classical culture, therefore, this mythological character that represents strength, power, and to ward off evil was the perfect logo for his firm.

Art has always been an important part of Gianni’s life. During his lifetime he collected some classics including Degas and Modigliani. He also enjoyed the work of contemporary artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the fashion world, Yves Saint Laurent was a steady influence.

With respect to Pop Art, Andy Warhol played with the idea of producing images of Campbell’s soup or icons like Marilyn Monroe and turning them into works of art.  In the same way, Versace influenced by Warhol designed garments stamped with the image of Marilyn Monroe have become unique pieces.  Allessandra Fanari, a teacher at the L’institut Marangoni in Paris says, “when we talk about art the concept is more important than the object itself. If you change the context of an object you turn it into something different, into art itself.”

Thanks to Gianni’s great knowledge of the history of art, he was able to combine opposing styles giving rise to extravagant and unique designs.  In addition, he was passionate about the Baroque period, its forms, extraordinary flair and style.  Versace knew how to see art, appreciate it and express it through his designs as a way to show the world beauty.

He is considered one of the first designers who related fashion and music by collaborating  with good friends such as Elton John, Whitney Houston, and Madonna.  Those collaborations brought him great prestige and notoriety on the international stage, getting music and Hollywood celebrities to start looking towards him in the early 1990s to design costumes for their performances and movies. Gianni brought the rock concerts to his catwalks and made fashion shows popular in different sectors by using actors, movie stars and singers as his models.

At the beginning of the nineties, Gianni Versace put together all the top models of the moment on the same catwalk, an action that changed the history of fashion, since until then super models were reserved for magazines.

Under his motto “I don’t have time for the boring monotony of good taste” he combined leather, lace and metal to fill Haute Couture with sensuality and a move away from minimalism with a strong brand identity recognized for its extensive use of color and extravagant prints.

There are many reasons for Gianni Versace’s lasting success. According to Tony Ward,  currently a visiting Instructor of Fine Arts at Haverford College and former lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, “one of them is that he was one of the first fashion designers to reveal his sexuality. It was a risky decision because many in his field thought that he would alienate his client base, however that was simply not the case.” In addition, “Versace differed from most fashion houses because Gianni believed in running a family business and that was one of the keys that allowed the brand to continue with success after his death in 1997.” On the other hand, Ward considers that the way Versace combined fabrics with bold color, graphics and modernist design was the work of his genius.

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Portrait of Bryan Abrams by Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

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For some mega fans like Bryan Abrams, a prolific collector of Versace since meeting the designer in 1982, spoke at the University of Pennsylvania about his Versace collection during one of professor Ward’s fashion classes. Bryan has collected exclusive and unique pieces for years, because he states, “wearing Versace is completely different from any other brand. Gianni created a completely new way of looking at fashion.  His colors and vibrancy are like no other fashion house. When you wear Versace, you stand out!”

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Portrait of Andrea Blanco

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About The Author:

Andrea Blanco is studying for a masters degree specializing in fashion communication and marketing in Barreira A+D, Valencia (Spain).  “I studied this because I love fashion and everything in this world and I like to learn more about fashion and art, fashion and music, history…. Moreover I like to be up on the latest trends. Someday I would like to work in fashion communications and share my passion for fashion with the world.”

Also posted in Art, Blog, Fashion, Glamour, Models, Popular Culture, Travel

Bob Shell: The Incredible Shrinking Business

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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The Incredible Shrinking Business

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I didn’t come up with that title. An old friend, veteran of the photography magazine business, used that phrase and it stuck in my mind. When I first got serious about photography in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were many quality 35 mm SLRs to choose from. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, SLR stands for ‘Single Lens Reflex’, the type of camera that uses a flipping mirror to let you see the view from your lens directly, projected onto a viewing screen. Most allow lens interchangeably. Until recently, almost all high end cameras were SLRs. But, recently, a new type of camera has come along, generally referred to as ‘mirrorless’. One disadvantage of the SLR design is that the mirror must flip out of the way during the actual exposure, causing a momentary loss of the image at the moment of exposure, and vibration in some cases. This led to incidences of eyes closed in photos when someone blinked at just the wrong instant, and worse, you never knew it until the film was developed. This is one of the things that mirrorless cameras eliminate. 

Back in ‘those thrilling days of yesteryear,’ when I first delved into photography, we had many brands of SLR cameras to choose from. Some, in no particular order, were Alpa, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Yashica, Contax, Miranda, Rolleiflex, Ricoh, Cosina, Chinon, Exakta, Edixa, Praktica, Praktina, Olympus, Voigtlander, Pentax, Kiev, Topcon, Kowa, Samsung, Contarex, Contaflex, Icarex, Kodak Retina Reflex, Petri, Mamiya, Vivitar, Konica, and, of course, Leica, although the first Leicaflex SLR was a wildly impractical design. 

All were either Japanese or German, with a few Russian and Ukrainian, and the outliers Samsung, the sole offering from South Korea, and Alpa from Switzerland. I’m sure I missed some, but all were capable of making decent images. 

My first serious SLR camera was a somewhat beat up Nikon F that I bought from a friend when I was living in DC around 1967. It had a 50 mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens, but no light meter, so somewhere I got a Gossen Lunasix hand meter to use with it. Camera and meter were later stolen when I was away from my apartment for a few days. 

I didn’t have much money in those days, so my next camera was a Zenit B Russian-made SLR that I bought from Cambridge Camera Exchange in New York, $ 39.95 mail order, brand new. It produced surprisingly good images, but was clunky design. Later I had more money, so I bought a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL from the camera department at J.C. Penney. In those days every major retailer had a camera department, and price competition was fierce. 

I’ve always been a tinkerer. I have to know how things work. I never owned a 35 mm camera that I didn’t take apart to see how it worked. So, in the early 70s I took the camera repair mail order course from National Camera in Colorado. I had a ball taking cameras apart and putting them back together, usually with no pieces left over! Once I gained some confidence, I began repairing cameras for money. But, in those days camera repairmen were mechanics, electronics hadn’t invaded the insides of cameras much, aside from the simple electronics of built-in light meters. 

All of this is leading up to the electronic invasion of cameras, first starting in the later 70s. I’d be totally out of my depth trying to fix one of today’s digital cameras. 

In many ways, it’s like cars. I was at home when cars had points and plugs to be gapped, and the only electronic item in my tool chest was a timing light. Work on one of today’s cars without a diagnostic computer — forget it! 

Same with cameras, in many cases they require diagnostic equipment only factory service technicians have access to. 

Not long after I got serious about photography and camera repair the first attrition of camera brands began, with brands like Edixa, Praktina, Kowa, Petri, falling by the wayside. In the mid-70s Zeiss-Ikon, the famous German camera maker folded its tent and dropped out of the camera business, their last camera the gorgeous Zeiss-Ikon SL706. They just couldn’t compete with Japanese prices, although the Zeiss-Ikon SL706 was reborn as the Rollei SL35M with cosmetic changes, built at Rollei’s ill-fated manufacturing plant in Singapore. 

I won’t try to list the companies that collapsed over the 70s and 80s and into the 90s, but suffice it to say that they fell like leaves in a forest, the last collapses being those that couldn’t make the transition to digital imaging. Minolta, one of the oldest Japanese brands, went into bankruptcy and was bought by Konica, only to have that iconic brand itself go bankrupt. It’s an open secret that Minolta was acquired by Sony, a company that had avoided the SLR market for years. That’s why Minolta lenses fit the first generations of Sony SLRs before they went mirrorless. Even the Minolta Alpha designation for their SLRs was retained by Sony. 

With the recent announcement that Olympus is shutting down its camera division, a serious photographer has only Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, and Pentax to choose from, Pentax being the only one not to go mirrorless and retain the flipping mirror. I wouldn’t invest in Pentax’s long term survival, but I’ve been wrong before, and some photographers prefer the traditional mirrored SLR’s viewfinder. 

Do I expect the photo business to shrink even more? Certainty. Demand for high end cameras is way down, and lower end cameras were killed by cellphones with built-in cameras, some of which produce remarkably good images. I’ve seen full page pictures in several magazines shot with iPhones. But, for those times when the cellphone just won’t do, such as long telephoto shots of nature and sports, the high end camera is still essential.

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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.  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://tonywardstudio.com/blog/in-praise-of-reality/

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.

Also posted in Art, Blog, Film, Light Table, Men, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraits, Travel