Category Archives: Men

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, Media, News, Politics

Bob Shell: In Praise of Ecdysiasts

Portrait of Miko by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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In Praise of Ecdysiasts

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Because I spent more than thirty-five years photographing nudes, I appreciate people comfortable in their skin. Ecdysiasts are people, usually female but also male, who make their living taking off their clothing to music, strippers in common parlance, but also modern dancers. 

I found my best photography models from among their ranks. It’s not that I specifically sought out strippers, that’s just how it turned out. In the pre-Internet days I found my models in two ways, advertisements in college newspapers, and word of mouth. I don’t remember how many times I’d have a model in my studio for a shoot, and after the photo session she’d say, “I have this friend…” I always told her to invite the friend in with her next time for a test. In several cases these friends turned out to be better models than the original woman. This was particularly the case with dancers, and dance students who tended to have other dancers/dance students for friends. 

The other best models I found were naturists, commonly called nudists. There was a naturist camp near Richmond, Virginia, called ‘Whitetail Park’ where I must say all the tails I saw were nicely tanned, and I found a number of very good models. It may still be there, but I’ve been unable to travel since 2003. I also found a large nudist colony in Cologne, Germany, beside the Rhine River right across from the Koln Messe, the giant exhibition halls where international trade shows used to be held, and found models there when I was in Germany. 

After the rise of the Internet, I found most models through my own website (bobshell.com) and sites like OneModelPlace and ModelMayhem. 

The other way I found models was referrals from other photographers. My late friend Johnny Meeks of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, referred a number of very good models to me. Johnny was the original drummer for the Allman Brothers, whom he met while in art school in Sarasota, but turned from music to photography. 

Now, before anyone calls me a sexist for concentrating on photographing women, I’ll say that I also photographed a few men, but I find the more rounded contours of the female body more attractive photographically. 

I always paid my models well, even when I was first starting out and had little money myself. I also kept scrupulous records, keeping signed model releases in a file of everyone who ever modeled for me. After my arrest in 2003, the police had access to those releases, which have name, address, and Social Security number, and tried for more than four years to find anyone who’d ever modeled for me with anything negative to say about me. My models never felt exploited, and a number are friends today. 

I’ve photographed nudes in Virginia, Illinois, Louisiana, California, Nevada, Maine, Florida, etc., and internationally in England, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Japan. In every case I honored whatever the local laws were, but the USA is the most restrictive, allowing me to only photograph women eighteen and older. 

My career as a photographer was cut short by my conviction in 2007, based on testimony the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia says was, “Just wrong!” Once I’m out of here and free again, I plan to renew my career. I’m full of repressed ideas for photos.

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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/cosmic_dance/

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, Erotica, Film, Glamour, Hetero Love, Models, Nudes, Obsessions, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraits, Women

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, Media, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraits, Travel

Old School Shirtmakers New York

 

About:

In the heart of Pendleton’s Historic District, New York Clothier distinctively sits on the corner of the St. George Plaza (originally the Hotel St. George built in 1900). A modern haberdashery, New York Clothier is an American designer and shirt maker of the exclusive labels Old School Shirt Makers New York and Ponderosa Jacks.

New York Clothier offers hand-crafted shirts, bow ties, knitwear, curated lifestyle goods and is committed to manufacturing in the USA and has since its inception in 2007. Its main focus is to offer a masculine statement, rooted in American style both updated and traditional.

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To Access the Online Store for Old School Shirtmakers New York, click herehttps://newyorkclothier.com

Also posted in Advertising, Art, Blog, Fashion, Fetish, Media, News, Popular Culture, Portraits, Store, Travel

Bob Shell: The Wheels of Justice

Bob Shell: The Wheels of Justice

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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The Wheels of Justice

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Early this year, I filed an ‘Independent Action to Vacate for Fraud on the Court, to get my false convictions overturned.

It took me more than three years to do the legal research and write this Independent Action. An Independent Action is like a Motion with more chutzpah. They are used to effect some action by a court, in this case to vacate my convictions. I identified five different frauds that the Commonwealth (Virginia is a Commonwealth) committed against me, documented in detail.

The most significant frauds were false testimony given by the Commonwealth’s main witnesses, false testimony without which the jury would never have believed the allegations against me, and I could never have been convicted.

The judge in Radford just sat on my Independent Action, refusing to rule on it, which prevented me from appealing to the Virginia Supreme Court, what I’ve wanted all along.

His refusal to act was a violation of the Canons Of Judicial Conduct, the rules judges are supposed to follow, and require prompt response to filings.

After waiting months with no ruling on my action, I petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus against the judge. A Writ of Mandamus is a legal instrument forcing a judge to act, when he should act, but doesn’t.

In response to my petition, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a ‘Show Cause’ order against the judge, ordering him to rule on my action, or show cause why he couldn’t or shouldn’t, by November 15. Instead of responding to the ‘Show Cause’ order, he wrote an overdue order denying my Independent Action, to forestall the Virginia Supreme Court from coming down on him over nonresponse to their ‘Show Cause’ order.

But, and here is the truly astounding part of this judicial Odyssey. He wrote the order citing the correct case number, but denying the WRONG case!

His order denies an ‘Independent Action for Violation of Speedy Trial,’ a totally different case filed a year earlier and that he already denied, and which has nothing to do with my action for fraud, which doesn’t even mention speedy trial!. Incompetence of this level is hard to believe!

I have asked the Virginia Supreme Court to come down hard on him for this. This is my life at stake, and he couldn’t even be bothered to act on the right case!

Right now, we are under a State of Judicial Emergency declared by the Virginia Supreme Court, meaning that courts are operating at the bare minimum, and all VDOC law libraries are closed. I can’t do the research and appeal anything right now. Once the Judicial Emergency is over, I’ll have 90 days to appeal the judge’s denial of my speedy trial action, and take whatever action the Virginia Supreme Court decides is appropriate in this judicial SNAFU over my fraud case. What they will do is anybody’s guess.

My guess is that they will order the judge to go back and act on the right case, even though he clearly missed their deadline to respond to their ‘Show Cause’ order.

I’ve tried repeatedly to get an order to depose the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Examiner, who says the medical testimony used to convict me was, “Just wrong!” but the same judge has blocked my efforts to get the Chief ME’s testimony on the record. The Chief ME even volunteered to be deposed and forego his usual fee, but without a judge’s cooperation I can’t have a deposition done.

It’s plain to anyone who looks at the evidence that I was wrongly convicted, but the judge and prosecutor don’t want to admit that they sent an innocent man to prison for an extraordinarily long sentence, so my efforts to set the record straight have been blocked.

A friend recently asked me how I’ve managed to keep my spirits up. The answer is that I have a clear conscience, because I did none of the things I was accused of. In my own mind, I know the truth, and nothing will ever change that.

My other legal actions are also on hold because of the Judicial Emergency, that doesn’t look to end anytime soon.

My photography studio’s contents are still in storage, waiting for my release. Friends have kept the storage rent paid. If anyone reading this who hasn’t contributed to this cause would like to help, please contact me. Thank you to everyone concerned about my welfare. I’m doing well health wise except for arthritis, which is always worse in cold weather.

Happy Holidays to all!

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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/covid-19-is_holding-me-hostage/

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, News, Popular Culture, Travel