Category Archives: Popular Culture

Leif Skoogfors: Interview

 

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LEIF SKOOGFORS INTERVIEW:

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TW: When did you first realize your vocation would be to become a photojournalist? Who or what influences in your life early on led you down this path?

LS:  The weekly arrival of LIFE magazine, in those days a respected and worldly periodical showed me the world. I saved up to buy a 1958 book on LIFE’s photo staff and was fascinated by the adventures the men and women who worked for LIFE were.

Politics and world events were part of my blood; my father, a Swedish engineer, had worked for a time in Germany. He was in Prussia as Hitler tried his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. After he returned to Sweden, he was consumed by news about the Finish-Soviet Winter War of 1939, and my father, who had worked in the US, decided his family was best raised there. Three months after the German invasion of Poland, he packed us up, and we emigrated to the US, so current events were subject to daily analysis.

My interest in world events and politics was consuming, and photojournalism combined all of this with art. It was the ultimate answer for me.

TW: What impact did studying with Alex Brodovitch have on your approach to photography and photojournalism in particular?

LS: I’m not sure I fully understood Brodovitch at first. He said to the twenty-plus students who met in Richard Avedon’s studio, he would only talk about photographs that were new to him; or were so terrible as to raise his anger. He ignored the mediocre. And most of my work was mediocre. It led to a healthy self-criticism. There is a push to go beyond, even in the most ordinary projects. And that is an invaluable lesson!

TW: As I reviewed the breadth of your work for this interview, it became readily apparent that the themes you addressed in your visual reporting from 40 years ago are very relevant to the types of demonstrations, marches and protests we see currently on the American streets and throughout the world. What are your thoughts about the Trump administration and the propaganda the white house espouses these days?


LS:
I photographed Donal Trump once, at first as other journalists have written about, he pretended to be his own press agent under another name. I arrived at his Atlantic City casino and asked for the press agent by name, John Miller. A tall blond haired man came down the stairs and I said,”Hi John, good to meet you”. The man scowled and said, “I’m Donald Trump.” We didn’t get along well since I didn’t really know who Donald Trump was. An ego jolt?

More eloquent folks have analyzed The Trump White House. It is clear it sucks. And it is incredibly sad that the current demonstrations must go on to force more change. I’m sorry that my current situation won’t allow me to be out there still.

TW: What was the most exciting assignment you worked on where you believe your photographs may have influenced public opinion for the good of mankind?

LS: I’m not sure my photographs influenced people; I know I tried in my book, “The Most Natural Thing in the World,” done a long time ago. I tried to show the situation there, and the poor folks caught in the middle of a bitter war. Recently a journalist said that the essay in the book, text by friends John and Lenore Cooney, was the most accurate depiction” of “The Troubles” he’d ever seen.

 Just two years ago, I had an appointment with a doctor who had emigrated from Bosnia. When I told her of my time there, she was effusive in thanking me. She said that it was the journalists who covered that terrible war, influencing the US and NATO to come in and enforce a Peace. It made me realize how important the work we do is, helping end a war with the highest mass killings of civilians in Europe since WW2 .

TW:  You have spent a significant amount of your time working with the DART Society and the effects of war and its aftermath. How has seeing so much death and destruction impacted your life and well being?

LS: One of the most severe problems facing any journalist covering current events; from a war zone or a local car crash is Post Traumatic Stress. Estimates range from 15 to 30 percent of photographers who face horrific situations will have to deal with these issues. If not treated, the photographer may experience a lifetime of problems.

I suffered from a severe attack years after covering the irregular war, known as “The Troubles,” in Northern Ireland. Fortunately, I’d also attended a workshop on Post Traumatic Stress given by the Dart Center and found treatment.

I’ve volunteered with this and other groups to raise funds for groups helping journalists both to understand PTSD or receive counseling.

TW: What advice can you offer the young photojournalist who has the compassion to document tragedy?

LS: I would advise any young photojournalist always to be prepared to offer compassion or help when covering traumatic events. Often, just letting a subject you know the pain they may be suffering will help. And never be afraid to ask for help yourself.

TW: If you were to start your career over again, what would you do differently if anything?

LS: If I was starting my career over, what fun would that be! I’d wish for the opportunity for an excellent liberal arts education and add another language and some decent art courses. Drawing is a fast way to learn about two-dimensional work, and that’s what a photograph is all about.

TW:  Now that you are retired from the grind of day to day photojournalism, what is a typical day like for you since you had the recent health challenge?

LS: Unfortunately, I’ve suffered some health challenges, not to mention the infuriating limitations of advancing age. But I try to spend as much time going over my archive in anticipation of placing it with the University of Texas. I love finding a beautiful photo I’d overlooked in the past, something that surprises me. I also realize that my work covers history and I’m proud to have worked during the “golden age of journalism.”

TW:  Who is your favorite photographer and why?

LS: Too many, I fear. Among them, Cartier-Bresson for his “Decisive Moment,” Gene Smith for his passion, and Jacques Henri Lartigue for his sense of humor. Ed van der Elsken also influenced me, perhaps with the romanticism of his book “Love on the Left Bank.” I still have the first edition of that work from 1954.

TW:  How would you like to be remembered?

As one of the hardest working photojournalists!

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Portrait of Leif Skoogfors with Special Warfare unit.

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About The Photographer: Leif Skoogfors (born 1940 in Wilmington, Delaware) is a documentary photographer and educator. He was born in Wilmington, Delaware, one month after his family, including brothers Olaf and Eric, fled Sweden as World War II broke out. His family crossed the North Atlantic in December 1939 on a neutral Norwegian ship.

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Editor’s Note: Licensing of photographs available through Getty Images. Leif Skoogfors, Copyright 2020.

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Film, interview, Men, News, Photography, Politics, Portraits, Travel

Bob Shell: Civil War?

Civil War

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Civil War?

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I decided to write about a touchy topic this time, the American “Civil War.”. Why do I put that in quotation marks? Because there never was a civil war within the United States. A civil war is, by definition, a war between different factions within one sovereign nation.

Let me point out some uncomfortable facts.

First, Virginia, my home, when she joined the United States, reserved the right to leave it at any time, that was in writing. Choosing to leave the Union was Virginia’s right. This was no different than Britain’s current decision to leave the European Union. You don’t see the European Union threatening to attack and invade Britain, do you? And if they did, would it be a civil war? Hardly.

Virginia chose to sever her ties to the United States of America and, instead, join the Confederate States of America. That was her right, and in doing so she broke no law or treaty.

The CSA was recognized by many countries, European and elsewhere, and had a binding peace treaty with the USA. Although not well known, one of the CSA’s allies was Russia, which sent warships to break the USA’s blockade of crucial ports, and deliver supplies.

But northern business interests wanted to prohibit the CSA from buying cheaper goods from elsewhere, so they started their blockade, and ultimately strangled the CSA. Before the separation they had been charging Southerners ridiculous prices for their goods while buying southern goods, primarily cotton, at very low prices that they dictated. High tariffs discouraged importation of goods from Europe, Russia, and others.

You’re probably asking, what about slavery? Wasn’t that the reason for the war? Not really. Slaves were expensive to buy, house, feed. The great majority of southerners could not afford them. My own ancestors were poor farmers and couldn’t have afforded slaves, even if they’d wanted them. And if southern states hadn’t left the Union, slavery probably would have continued, simply to hold down the cost of southern cotton and other agricultural goods. But the big plantations with hundreds of slaves were not the norm for the average southern tenant farmer, who was little more than a slave himself to the land owners. At the surrender, General Lee asked for only one concession, that his men be allowed to keep their mules. They were all poor farmers and without their mules they could not plow their land. Lee kept his men’s welfare ahead of all else.

Lincoln’s vaunted Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves, only those in. the southern states. Slaves in northern states remained in bondage. That’s a fact.

Lincoln was not much concerned with the slaves. He was concerned with preserving the Union. He famously said that if he could save the Union by freeing all of the slaves he would do that, but if he could preserve it by freeing only some of the slaves he would do that, and if he could preserve the Union by freeing none of the slaves he would do that. He didn’t care about the slaves, only his precious Union.

Certainly slavery is a despicable evil, and I’m not defending it in any way, but it was not the cause of the war. The 13th Amendment to our Constitution outlawed slavery, right? Wrong! The Amendment contains an exception. Slavery is allowed as punishment for crime. So, slavery is alive and well in America today. I know; I’m legally a slave.

The formation of the CSA allowed southerners to ship their goods overseas where they got better prices, and to import cheaper manufactured goods. And that was the problem. Northern industrialists wanted to keep the South captive to supply them raw materials cheaply and buy their manufactured goods at higher prices than a global free market would have allowed.

People who don’t know history don’t know that my namesake and distant cousin, Robert E. Lee, was offered command of the Union army by Lincoln. After some soul searching, he turned it down. His loyalty was to Virginia, he said. He could not betray his Commonwealth.

After the war Mark Twain approached Lee with a publisher’s high offer to co-author Lee’s memoirs. Lee turned down the offer, saying it would not be right to make money from the blood of his men. Twain then went to Grant, who accepted the offer. That shows the difference between the two men.

It was Lee who brought black men to worship with him in his church in Lexington, Virginia, where he settled after the war to head up Washington College; which is now Washington and Lee University, where he lies entombed in Lee Chapel.

My several times great grandfather, Hugh McCracken, joined the Virginia army and fought under Lee. He survived the war and went home to his farm, where he raised his family. I’ve read his war diary, and it is pretty graphic. He speaks of having to get water from a stream with dead men and horses upstream because it was the only water to be had. Amazingly, he was never wounded or contracted disease, even though he saw action in several major battles.

So I am proud of my simple southern farmer heritage, and refuse to be intimidated by the PC fools who besmirch the memory of good men who fought to save their country from an invading foreign army.

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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 more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/wuhan-virus/

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

Bob Shell: Wuhan Virus & UFO’s

Covid-19

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Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Wuhan Virus

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I usually like to be proved right in my predictions, but this time is an exception. I wrote most of my book COSMIC DANCE in 2018 and published it in March of 2019. In it (page 90), I predicted a plague caused by GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) that would disrupt worldwide civilization. Now it has happened.

Luc Montagnier, the virologist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the HIV virus, has examined the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, and stated that it was genetically modified by splicing genetic material from the HIV virus into a bat coronavirus using genetic manipulation tools found only in labs. He speculates that this may have been part of an effort to develop an HIV/AIDS vaccine.

The virology lab in Wuhan had already been criticized for poor containment procedures, and was known to be collecting and working with bat coronaviruses. Coincidence? I don’t really believe in coincidence most of the time, but especially this time.

THE LANCET, the world’s oldest and most respected medical journal, says that the evidence that the virus came from the Huanan Seafood Market just isn’t there, and points out that the first cases in Wuhan had no connection to that market whatsoever. One of their contributors speculates that it escaped the virology lab either through poor waste disposal techniques or in the body of a lab worker who became infected.

These are facts, contradicting the propaganda spewed out by the Chinese government, which has tried to divert the world’s attention from their lab. The whole world is suffering from incompetent lab workers in that virology lab. It will be a long time before we see the end of this plague from a virus specifically created to infect humans.

Many, for political reasons, have attacked President Trump for casting the blame for this nightmare on China. I am emphatically not a Trump supporter. I think both major political parties are fucked-up disasters just waiting to implode our country, and, in fact, I think Mr. Trump just isn’t up to the job of President of the United States, but this time he’s right. China was at fault for operating a virology lab that could not contain the viral material it was experimenting on, and should be held accountable for this global catastrophe..

I’ve been concerned that we’d face a plague like this since genetic engineering tools like CRISP-R and others have been developed and unleashed with little or no control. Genetic engineering tools able to tamper with the DNA/RNA of organisms are available to anyone able to master the basics of their use. This is a ticking time bomb, just as if tactical nuclear weapons were sold openly on eBay. In fact, it’s probably far more dangerous.

Nature is a highly complex set of interrelated systems, all kept in balance by natural checks developed over millions of years. Creating GMOs and taking even a small risk that they will escape the lab is foolhardy and exceedingly dangerous. It’s happening today, worldwide, and it was just a matter of time before a plague was unleashed.

As we’ve begun to learn, putting the genie back into the bottle once its escaped is damned near impossible.

Sloppy lab work in China has already killed far more Americans than the entire Vietnam war!

And, news reports tell us that people are terrified. In states with newly reopened businesses, there was sparse turnout. Bar Axe in Atlanta reopened but there were only two customers all weekend. Shopping malls in Georgia and Texas reopened, but were nearly empty. A clothing store clerk at a mall in Austin said, “There’s absolutely no one coming around here!” Polls show that four out of five people won’t go to restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, or other businesses, even when those reopen. (Source THE WEEK magazine, May 15, 2020)

On another topic, in COSMIC DANCE I also talked about the “Tic-Tac” UFO videos unofficially released by the US Air Force. On April 27, 2020, the Department of Defense issued a press release laying to rest claims of fakery. The videos, one taken in November 2004 and the other two taken in January 2015 are authentic, according to the DOD. The officially released videos can be found at the Naval Air Systems Command FOIA Reading Room at:

https://www.navair.navy.mil/foia/documents

The press release states: “After thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public as to whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there was more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remains classified as ‘unidentified.'”

I’m only sorry that my friend Stan Friedman didn’t live long enough to see the cause he devoted his life to acknowledged as real by the Department of Defense. And, as the press release reveals, that investigation of unidentified aerial phenomena continues, in spite of previous official denials. “The truth is out there,” as Fox Mulder told us.

Meanwhile, my personal legal battles are still all on hold, with the courts shut down except for emergency hearings. Until our law library reopens and I can get back in there, there’s very little I can do. It’s very frustrating to be so close to regaining my freedom and to be stymied by this damnable Chinese virus.

Stay well everyone!

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Portrait of Bob Shell, May of 2020. Pocahontas State Prison

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 more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/meditations-pandemics/

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, Portraits, Travel

Emily Williams: Home/Solitude

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Photography and Text by Emily Williams, Copyright 2020

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HOME/SOLITUDE

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I dedicate this series to my grandfather, Leon Williams.

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Driven by my frustration with the passage of time without a singular place to call home, I started to think about the meaning of home—a feeling rather than a physical space. A feeling that I chased, both literally and figuratively, while running countless miles on roads both familiar and unfamiliar. Listening to the sound of my own feet, in part, lead me to this series.

As the series grew, it started to center around solitude, the feeling I always circle back to when meditating on home. I wanted to explore the range of emotions contained in solitude—from loneliness, to peace, to anger. I aim to create visual representations of quiet that convey and explore the nuances among feelings that come with large amounts of time spent alone.

My photography searches for the evidence of humanity—an unmade bed, an abandoned shoe, an open window, a dilapidated gate—to discover who was or will be in that space. I want to find places that mean something to whomever may have inhabited them but appear vacant at the moment they are photographed. I felt the mundane, uninhabited nature of these scenes best convey solitude.

In the first few months of working, I mostly photographed inside houses. I was drawn to the easily recognizable evidence of their inhabitants. Later, other spaces that were not as easily recognizable as inhabited, such as landscapes and abstract pieces, were incorporated into my work.

Throughout the year, I have been consistently concerned with the geometry of my compositions with the exploration of different patterns of light. How light shapes what we see, how it defines space, and how its presence and absence creates mood fascinates me.

I used analog and digital processes in making and printing my photographs. I have printed on 11 in. x 14 in. Ilford warm tone, silver gelatin paper, and made inkjet prints on Baryta Photo Rag paper of the same size. I started by printing on the Ilford warm tone paper in the darkroom, and found that it allowed for more detail to be visible in heavy shadows. I chose the Baryta Photo Rag because it was the closest digital equivalent. I have used both the analog and digital processes in order to print each photograph in the process that suits it best. The photographs are taken primarily with Kodak 400TX film, in both the 35mm and 120mm sizes; I have on several occasions used Ilford HP5 for my 35mm photographs. Both of these films have a wide exposure latitude, allowing me to push and pull them as needed and giving me the flexibility to shoot in a wide range of lighting situations.

My work is inspired by that of Abelardo Morell, mainly from his three series Childhood, Still Lives, and Light, Time, and Optics. He records light and shadow, patterns, and domesticity to create compelling photographs of the everyday. I draw aspects of my creative process from Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, where Murakami seamlessly connects his work as a fiction writer with running.

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About The Author:  Emily Williams is a recent graduate of Haverford College majoring in Fine Arts and History.  Class of 2020.

Also posted in Art, Blog, Film, Photography, Travel, Women

A.H. Scott: Teddy Bare

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

 

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Text by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2020
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Teddy Bare
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Mary used her key that Teddy gave her to pop into his house when he wasn’t there to enjoy his pool in the back.
White dress with black buttons was quickly undone, as Mary peeled off blush colored bra and panty.
She knew he would be home soon and took a quick swim to cool off.  
Coming to the shallow end of the pool, she pulled herself partially onto the deck.
Resting her head atop of her arms on the edge of the pool, Mary closed her eyes with her legs lightly brushing against the Italian marble so cool.
Teddy had arrived to his home about ten minutes earlier and changed out of his boring attire into something frisky for this sunny afternoon in August.
Teddy bare was a pleasant sight out of the corner of Mary’s eye, as he dove into the opposite end of the pool.
Little was a splash made as his sights were set upon her.
Mary closed her eyes again and called out to the swimmer approaching her, “Teddy, how was your day?”
Coming closer to where she was, Teddy was eager to reply, “Better now to have your luscious body beaming beneath the sun’s rays”.
Mary was no fool, as she perched herself slightly outside of the waterline of that pool. Her ass was like a peach on the horizon of a ripple of water.
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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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Teddy had hands quite sizable, which Mary enjoyed in any kind of variable on her body.
That first touch of fingers making contact with her hips made Mary murmur a bit.
Scooping upward around both breasts, Teddy’s hands massaged each nipple slowly and pressed his body inside of her from behind.
Inside of Mary’s flower, she welcomed every insertion of this man’s desire.
Yet, this woman had her own sense of power in being with him.
Natural slip and slide of mutual inches of expanding pride were setting off sparks in the shallow end of that pool.
Teddy’s hands caressed her moist ass with adoring care, as Mary’s palms playfully drummed out a beat against the edge of that pool.
So good it was, as she made her move on him with measured pace of motioning herself around in that water to face this lusty man of this house.
Their eyes met as did their flesh again and again. Water moved between them with every point of contact, as intensity and serenity filled their gazes.
Tongues teased one another; with his tip racing along right side of her neck and soft kisses she was giving to his left cheek and parallel pectoral.
Feeling him inside of her, Mary’s soul pulsated with that headiness of horniness that she rarely revealed to anyone.
As for Teddy, he was a man consumed with pleasure in being with a woman who knew what she needed and expressed herself as wanting in fulfillment.
Locomotion of push and pull was theirs in that water, as Mary’s arms and legs wrapped around Teddy’s body.
Trickle of culmination, confidence and care came in satisfaction’s exhalation and roaring enthrallment in that pool area.
On a sun-drenched afternoon in August that was delightfully beyond compare, Mary expressed her deepest gratitude to Teddy bare.
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Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywarderotica.com/onehundredthousand/
 
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