Studio News: Lost Negatives Due to Flood

Inez. At the Penthouse Club New York. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

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Studio News: Lost Negatives Due to Flood

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It is always a good practice to go back through the files to find new pictures that were never made available to the public before. Unfortunately, some of the negatives from this shoot for Neiman Marcus in May of 2004 were lost during a flood at the studio on July 25, 2021.  The flood was caused by a ruptured water main at the corner of 6th & Bainbridge streets in Philadelphia.  We were at ground zero during the event taking on thousands of gallons of water before the Philadelphia Water Department was able to shutdown the water flowing at break neck speed through the ruptured pipe. 

It has taken me weeks to sift through the losses of countless negatives that were in the darkroom suite while I was  in the process of reviewing negatives from the archives for an upcoming exhibition at the Dupree Gallery opening on October 1, 2021.  Unfortunately, some of the images I was considering to exhibit have been destroyed due to catastrophic flood damage to the negatives that were in the process of being printed in the darkroom in consideration for the exhibition. 

This color negative of  Inez, modeling lingerie for my client Neiman Marcus  survived the floodwaters. Approximately, twelve thousand seven hundred and twenty  other negatives in color and black and white did not have the same fate. 

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Bob Shell: Behind Bars

the image is designed to create a metaphor for life behind bars
Behind Bars. Photo Illustration: Tony Ward. Copyright 2021

Bob Shell: Behind Bars, Copyright 2021

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The Latest Update

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I’ve been writing these updates for years and sending them to a long list of friends and people who have expressed an interest. 

But many people never respond and I have no way of knowing if they’re even getting my updates, or reading them. It costs me 25¢ each to send out these updates, and I just cannot keep it up, since the only income I have is what friends send me, and I’m ever grateful for that. But I need to put my scarce money to better use. 

Now that I have a Facebook page,, courtesy of a very generous old friend, www.facebook.com/ BobShellTruth, I will post my updates there and in my blog, www.tonywardstudio.com/blog. If anyone wants to receive my updates and can’t view my Facebook page or blog, let me know and I’ll send the updates directly to you. 

The latest on my legal situation: Apparently the Virginia Supreme Court’s Declared Judicial Emergency expired on May 8, although I’ve been unable to confirm that. During that state of emergency most deadlines were suspended and courts were only conducting emergency hearings. Now that the emergency has ended, the clock has begun ticking again on my deadlines. But the Virginia Department of Corrections has not reopened our law libraries, and no one knows when they will, so I have no access to the research computers to conduct the necessary research to write my briefs. 

I have two briefs due in the Virginia Supreme Court, and may be able to get deadline extensions if the law libraries remain closed. 

On my actions to regain ownership of my forest, which was illegally sold, I’m back in court dealing with procedural matters, but hopeful that I’ll prevail. 

Virginia has imposed a new sentencing structure that reduces from 85% to 65% the amount of our sentences we actually serve. That should help me get released before I’m too old for it to matter, even if I don’t succeed in vacating my false convictions. 

Many in the legislatures are pushing for sentencing reform, and this is the first of multiple bills to make it into law. Some neighboring states have 50% rules on sentences. Virginia is stodgy and slow to change, but who would have believed in the past that Virginia would be the first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana use? We just did. So there’s hope. 

Life in here has gotten much worse during the year-plus long COVID lockdown. The food here at Pocahontas used to be the best in the system, but it has declined seriously in both quality and quantity during the lockdown. It’s all carbohydrates, not good for me and the many others with diabetes. Due to the awful diet my A1C has gone from 6.1 in 2019, to 8.2 when it was checked this month. That’s no small matter. 

We used to be able to supplement the awful food with real food from our commissary, but they’ve been out of most things all year. Money does us no good when there’s nothing to buy. The doctor here says, “Eat lots of oatmeal.” Commissary has been out of oatmeal all year! 

There are companies like Walkenhorst’s (www.walkenhorsts.com) that specialize in selling to prisoners, but the VDOC won’t let us order from them. A company called Keefe in St Louis has a contract with the VDOC to supply commissaries, and has a monopoly because they give a kickback to the VDOC. That multimillion dollar annual kickback results in high prices to us, and a very limited selection of items we can buy. A cheap 14″ TV available from Wal-Mart for under $ 50 costs us over $ 200, just as one example. 

Enough said, wholesale reform of our justice system, top to bottom, is badly needed, but action has been agonizingly slow so far. Police reform is a good step so police stop having an ‘us and them’ mentality and become part of the community. Now we need to take the next step and go after corrupt judges and prosecutors, who put harmless people in prison for ridiculously long times. I had one cellmate who had a 520 year sentence! I’ve known others with sentences over a hundred years, and one friend in here got an 80 year sentence! If the purpose of prison, as is stated, is to reform ‘errants’ so they may rejoin society, such sentences are just absurd. The man with the 520 year sentence never hurt anyone. But he had 52 images on his computer that were judged to be child porn. He didn’t create the images and was never accused of harming anyone, child or adult, but was given ten years for each image. Even his local newspaper called that absurd in editorials, but he remains in prison, costing Virginia taxpayers many thousands of dollars a year. I’m sorry, but I call it as I see it, extra long sentences are ridiculous, particularly for people who never hurt anyone else. They ought to be outlawed as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. 

I’ll step down off my soapbox now. See you on Facebook or my blog.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. 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 additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: http://onywarderotica.com/bob-shell-covid-19-again/

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.

Studio News: Water Main Break

Water Main Break: 6th & Bainbridge Streets. Philadelphia


Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

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Water Main Break

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In the early hours of Sunday, July 25th a 100+ year old cast iron thirty inch water main broke at the intersection of 6th & Bainbridge Streets in Philadelphia, causing a massive flood of epic proportions. Water department  officials on the ground at the epicenter claimed that it was the largest main break they had ever seen.

At approximately 2:00AM a resident of The Ward Studio was awakened by a large crash of water breaking glass on a floor below her bedroom prompted her to get up to see what was going on.  The resident, a close friend of the Ward family, had the presence of mind to immediately begin videotaping the wall of water descending onto the property. 

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LIWEI VIDEO

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Within minutes all of the below grade rooms including; lounge area, kitchen, dressing room, darkroom suite, editing room, workshop and bathroom were all under approximately 24 inches of water.

There was extensive damage done to the property, including  thousands of vintage black and white and color negatives that I was preparing to review in anticipation of an upcoming exhibition in the fall.  

The city of Philadelphia has stepped in to mitigate the damage while my family sorts out the damage and loss.  Mitigation efforts are currently underway to save as many negatives as possible. All activities including studio and darkroom rentals have been suspended until further notice.

Bob Shell: On Photography

Photo by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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On Photography

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Someone asked me recently why I wasn’t posting much about photography anymore. Before my conviction in August of 2007, I was ‘a renowned photographer with a long-established reputation,’ to quote Federal Judge Glenn Conrad. I’d been doing photography/cinematography since my teens in the early 1960s, following in the footsteps of my father, who was an avid photographer/cinematographer. He had numerous cameras and lenses, still and 16 mm movie cameras, and a nice darkroom in the basement of our house in Roanoke, Virginia. 

The first time I saw an image I’d photographed magically appear on a blank sheet of photo paper when I dunked it into the developer, I was hooked. 

People today who grow up using digital photography on smartphones never experience that magic moment. I find that sad. 

Over the years I’ve been in prison I’ve watched traditional photography die. First one, then another, then one by one, all of the photography magazines have died. At its peak, there were dozens of photography magazines. I’d get seven or eight a month. Popular Photography had over a million subscribers at its peak. 

Today, I get two photography magazines, Nature Photographer (www.naturephotographermag.com) and Professional Photographer, the magazine of the Professional Photographers of America, to which I belonged for many years. If others have survived as print magazines, I’m not aware of them. 

Even Digital Camera, the magazine I worked for after Shutterbug, is now gone. My favorite of all, and one I wrote many articles for, Rangefinder, is history. 

I also get Digital Imaging Reporter, today’s incarnation of Photo Industry Reporter, a trade publication I used to write for, but it’s published erratically these days. 

Of course, there are some Internet photography magazines, but, so far as I know, nobody has been able to make any real money from an Internet photography magazine, and if a magazine can’t make real money, it can’t attract, pay, and keep good editors and writers, who have to support themselves and their families. 

The once-popular hobby of photography has seriously declined. Any hobbyist who wants to own the finest film cameras ever made can do so for pennies on the dollar, although if they need service, finding someone who can repair them may not be easy. Friends of mine have bought Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica, Rollei, Contax, Leica, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, etc., outfits very cheaply. Darkroom equipment is even cheaper. 

Although the selection is limited, film is still readily available, but you may be unable to buy it locally. In fact, increased demand has even induced Kodak to put one version of Ektachrome back into production. 

I’ve tried to keep up with photographic technology, despite the fact that I haven’t so much as touched a camera in over fourteen years, and have yet to even see one of the mirrorless cameras that are fast taking over for SLRs. 

My cameras, lenses, and other photographic equipment is all in storage, and will remain until my release. Hopefully I won’t be too decrepit by then to rebuild my studio and life as a photographer. 

I used many different cameras over my years in photography. During two different periods I owned camera shops, first for several years in the 1970s, then from 1980 until 1990. The cameras that were my workhorses in 35 mm were Canon, and continued to be until my career was ended in 2007. I wrote several books about Canon, including ‘Canon Compendium,’ the official history of the Canon Camera Company. 

In medium format, I used Bronica S2a cameras with their superb Nikkor lenses before switching to Rollei SL66 in the mid-1970s. I continued with Rollei, using their advanced 6000 series up to my last Rollei, the 6008i, an amazingly capable camera. 

In large format I used a Toyo 4 X 5 monorail view camera with several Schneider-Kreuznach lenses in my studio, and a Zone VI field camera outdoors with those same lenses. 

In the rare instances when a client wanted 8 X 10, I had an old Eastman 2D camera made in 1918 that I used. It still worked fine. I fitted it with a Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 300 mm lens in a Compur Electronic shutter, matching old to new. 

When Polaroid made 8 X 10 film, I shot quite a bit of it in that camera using a borrowed Polaroid processor. 

I was an early adopter of digital photography, though, and was doing most of my work with Canon and Nikon digital SLRs by 2002, but the speed at which traditional photography collapsed was a total surprise, and shock, to me and most of the industry. Luckily, I was able to sell most of my medium format pro cameras before the bottom completely dropped out of the market, using the money to pay lawyers, several of whom said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll never spend a day in prison.’ Here I sit, fourteen years later, still in prison for something that never happened. It is ridiculously difficult to get a false conviction overturned in today’s American legal system.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. 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 additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-hidden-truth-about-the-pentagons-ufo-report/

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.

Darkroom Rental

The Ward Studio Darkroom

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.

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Price for darkroom consultation:

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Professor Tony Ward is available for one on one consultations regarding darkroom process and technique at $200.00 per hour. 

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Location: 704 South 6th street Philadelphia, Pa. 19147

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To schedule a darkroom session:

Contact: Tony@TonyWard.com

Phone: 267-475-0828

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Note: Any person using the facility must present proof of being vaccinated for Covid.