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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Diana Desiderio: Night Swim

Portrait of Diana Desiderio by Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Diana Desiderio, Copyright 2021

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

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2006 is feeling closer and further from me everyday. I was wrestling professionally on PPV, a guest on the Howard Stern show and I had finally done an amazing shoot with Tony Ward for Hustlers Taboo magazine. Things for a then 24 years old me were happening. I didn’t have a set career or any clue as to what direction I was going to go. That’s what you do in your 20’s. Aimlessly going on with life as it was coming, just riding the wave. July of that year had made everything stop when my older sister had passed away that summer in a car wreck. The devastation hit me harder than one could ever imagine. I wiped out off of that wave I was riding and found myself over the next five years slowly sinking to the bottom of the abyss that was called life. Self destruction quickly set in. I had left wrestling; was being over medicated with psych drugs, which led me to my journey of self medicating which led to a full blown narcotic addiction. 

Rock bottom is a lonely place, but a perfect place when your down, hopeless and out. I had managed to push everyone and anyone that ever gave a damn away. Undoing all that I was working for or towards. That’s how quickly you can rise and fall. When your young, things are there for the taking and you just take it all for granted. Why not, it’s all right there being handed to you hand over fist. And I took it all, but when my life was hit by tragedy I was 100% accountable for letting it all go to ruin. I don’t regret facing those bad times. Talking about it and doing what it took to get through them. Putting in the work and getting help so that I can get the real me back to myself. It’s not easy and for everyone. I had to realize I was meant for so much more; that I deserved way better than what I was encountering. By this time, December 2011; I was 29. And I signed myself in at a rehab facility voluntarily and got the long awaited help I needed. I chose life. Coming back into the world after being down so damn long is surreal.  You are not only relearning who you are organically; but releasing the demon that carried you through the darkness and didn’t want to let you go. Life feels like a night swim; alone and bare allowing the universe to see every bit of you. Raw, exposed and unapologetic. 

I worked really hard through the years trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my life. Not many people who go where I’ve gone get to live to fight another day. I also had faced a new struggle with body image issues. I was no longer a 20 something thin model type. I was healthy, but I let my physicality go as I was more focused on staying the course of the straight and narrow instead of looking at all of me and keeping on top of myself. I needed to find a purpose again. I needed to continue the work. It was time to manifest change across the board.

In 2015, a lifelong film producer friend of mine offered to host me for a visit to her L.A. home. At that point life went stagnant and I needed a reset. While visiting, she had gotten a quick commercial gig for a popular money app we are all familiar with today and asked if I wanted to make a few bucks being a Production Assistant. Going on runs, being on set, supporting the big wigs. In the freelance film industry; you take the work when it comes but on your own terms. This had my attention right away. Take as much work as you want, make your own schedule, and gain a career without having to drop 100k on film school?! SIGN ME UP. I saw if you worked hard and put the time in this could blossom into the career for me.

I came home from my trip to SoCal and decided that this was an opportunity that I could not turn down. 33 years old, I packed up and drove across country with hopes that this could be my shot. It was. I’ve worked with recognizable names; commercials, short films, still work and music videos. I had worked hard and made my way up from a PA, grabbing Directors coffee and running errands to a Production Supervisor. Being a Production Manager/Supervisor you are the center of the universe of a shoot. You prep the job by getting everything all the crews need in order to support the Directors creativity so that we can make the project come to life, while hiring the crew and vendors as well.

It is all a chaotic world until we actually get up to the day of shoot; that’s where I can focus on the accounting aspects for the company and start pulling all the behind the scenes elements together.  There’s no business like show business. It’s 24/7, and thankless at times. It would be a lie to tell you something was missing for me out there in LaLaLand. I’m East Coast born and raised. Home was calling. 

I had arrived back home to Philadelphia on New Years Eve 2018. Humbled, harmonious and able to continue everything I had worked so very hard for in my career, I was welcomed with open arms in the city of brotherly love. It’s been a crazy journey to say the least, life’s been give and take; times are up and down. Whenever I feel like I start to lose myself again; I try to remember who I am during that night swim; raw, exposed and unapologetic. And keep going.

About The Author: Diana Desiderio  is a motion picture production manager based in Philadelphia.

Bob Shell: Covid-19 Again

Covid-19

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Covid Again

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The expected fall surge in COVID-19 cases seems to have come early, hitting many states. Here in Southwest Virginia, we’re surrounded by surges in Tennessee and North Carolina. 

Statistically, the news media are telling us, 95% of the new cases are people not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. 

But, hold on just a minute, and think about what that really means. That means that 5% of these new cases are in fully vaccinated people! Now, 5% seems like a small number, but on the scale of this new surge, it’s one hell of a lot of people! Fifty out of every thousand.

Pfizer is saying that people who’ve gotten both shots will need a booster shot to protect against the Delta Variant. Other vaccine manufacturers haven’t suggested this — yet. And here comes the Lambda Variant, just entering the USA. Here we go again! 

This current surge will likely become an explosion when cooler weather comes. 

And don’t forget the millions of young people only now becoming eligible for vaccination. They now have no protection at all. 

The Los Angeles Times reports on an ongoing study in the UK that has shown that COVID causes ‘significant brain shrinkage’ in people who’ve had it, even when they had only mild cases or were asymptomatic. This probably explains the ‘brain fog’ often reported by people who ‘recovered,’ often long after their ‘recovery.’ 

The brain areas most affected are those related to smell and taste, senses often reported lost or diminished in COVID sufferers. Those brain regions are also involved in memory, particularly memory of experiences that evoked an emotional response. Perhaps ‘full recovery’ from COVID is an illusion.

As Theunis Bates said in an editorial in The Week, “A happy ending to our national Covid horror remains a long way off.” To that I’ll add that there may never be a happy ending.

In my book ‘Cosmic Dance,’ written largely in 2018 and published in April of 2019, long before anyone heard of COVID-19, I said: 

“We’re only now starting to understand the language of the DNA code, yet we’re already tinkering with it to ‘improve’ our crops and livestock, or do silly things like make cats that glow in the dark.” 

“We must be very careful in playing with a code, a language, that we’re just beginning to understand, or our foolish fingers may get burned. I’m very concerned with the willy-nilly introduction of genetically modified organisms into the world’s ecology. We could unintentionally unleash a plague that destroys us or the crops that sustain us. 

Voices have been raised in alarm, but their cries are falling on plugged ears.” 

I usually like it when my predictions prove true, but this time I wish I’d been wrong. 

And I singled out China as the likely culprit, too! Right now, it seems that Australia is the only country to have the guts to point the finger at China. In an editorial in ‘The Age,’ Peter Hatcher says, Australia won’t be bullied by China. Relations between the two countries became hostile last year when the Australian government called for a probe into the origins of COVID-19, and banned the Chinese company Huwei from Australia’s 5G network. China decided to make an example of Australia, levying high tariffs on Aussie wine and beef, then cutting off economic dialogue completely. 

Now China is blocking $ 20 billion worth of Australian exports and holding two Australian journalists in prison on political charges. 

The Australians are not scared of the Chinese bully. Two thirds of Australians surveyed say the country should stick to its values and speak up about Chinese abuses, even if it hurts their economy. “China’s efforts to break Australia’s will has only solidified it.” 

I say ‘Bravo Australia!’ and urge everyone reading this to go out and buy Australian wine and anything else made in Australia! If only the American public had the strength of will of the Aussies! It is time to lay the blame for COVID-19 where it belongs, squarely on China’s shoulders.

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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-on-photography/

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.

Bob Shell: Nudes in National Parks

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021

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Nudes in National Parks

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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.

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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-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.

Nan Goldin: Immersion and Trust by Abby Harris

Photo: Nan Goldin

Text by Abby Harris, Copyright 2021

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Nan Goldin: Immersion and Trust

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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. 

https://bombmagazine.org/articles/nan-goldin/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/23/nan-goldin-photographer-wanted-get-high-early-age

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About The Author: Abby Harris is a sophomore enrolled at Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Abby Harris, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/abby-harris-floral-sunset-2/