Bob Shell: Objectifying and Exploiting Women?

Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Objectifying and Exploiting Women?

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An English friend once gave me a really hard time; she said I was objectifying and exploiting women in my photography. That disagreement caused me to spend some time thinking about this issue. Don’t all photographers objectify their subjects and exploit them? Did Ansel Adams objectify and exploit Halfdome? Did Edward Weston objectify and exploit bell peppers? Is the whole argument ridiculous?

Let’s look at both prongs of this argument. Objectifying is a somewhat strange concept, since it means turning something into an object. But, when you think about it, everything we photograph is already an object, or we couldn’t photograph it in the first place. When we photograph something, we’re. taking a three dimensional object and converting it into a two dimensional representation of itself. So in a sense, we’re de-objectifying it. Hmmmm.

No, that’s not what she was talking about. When she argued that I was “objectifying” women, she meant that I was looking at them as objects, specifically as sex objects. Was I? I’d have to say yes to that. After all, the intent of many of my photographs was to create a sexual frisson in the viewer, be that viewer male or female. If I punched the viewer in the libido, I felt that the photograph was a success. So, was I turning my model into a sex object? I’d argue no, that she was already a sex object before I ever clicked the shutter. I didn’t make her into a sex object, God or evolution did; take your pick. Either way, women are shaped the way they are to arouse interest in men. That’s simply a fact. Her rounded form is designed/evolved to attract men. We even say of a pretty woman that she is “attractive,” usually without really thinking of the implications of that statement.

Let me put on my biologist hat for a moment. Whether we like it or not, we are animals, mammals to be a bit more precise. We are advanced apes. Jared Diamond even says we’re the third species of chimpanzee, after the common chimp and bonobo.. If that offends you, skip on to the next paragraph. In our cousins, the gorillas, chimps, and bonobos sexual attraction is a matter primarily of scent. Females have nipples up high on their chests, practically in their armpits. They have no breasts and wouldn’t know what to do with a bra. There is nothing about their chests to arouse or attract the male. At the other end, they have narrow flat asses without bulging buttocks. We humans, on the other hand, are almost totally visual in our sex cues and have de-emphasized our sense of smell, so much so that our females borrow scents from other animals and plants when they want to send a scent signal. The perfume industry has gotten rich off of that.

But what first gets a man’s attention? Its two rounded areas of protruding fatty tissue, either in front or in back. What Americans call T & A (the English say T & B, “tits and bums.”) This fact keeps “cosmetic surgeons” busy, adding breasts where there are none, or those nature provided are considered inadequate, and reshaping behinds, to produce the “perfect” rounded shape. I’ve always counseled my models against “cosmetic surgery” at either end, preferring their natural shape.

But, back to our argument. Do women objectify themselves when they augment their tops and/or bottoms? I’d argue yes, they do. Do I objectify them? No! One of my models was a former Playboy model. To reach her goal of being a Playboy featured model, she had most of her body reworked. She got there, but who objectified her? Basically I consider that part of the argument silly. How can I objectify someone who has already done it to herself?

Now, on to the second point. Did I exploit my models? Damn well, yes, I did! Did they complain about it? No! Why? Because I paid them well for posing with the thought that I’d someday make money from the pictures. Did I always profit? No!!! And sometimes pictures sat in my files and my agents’ files for years before finding a buyer. Some never did. From a business perspective, my images were my stock, and no business person wants stock sitting in a warehouse for years. At the same time, unlike the warehouse stock of most businesses, my photos don’t lose value from sitting there. My overhead is minimal; some filing cabinets and some digital storage devices. I’ve had substantial sales from images many years old. Most of what I shoot never goes out of fashion.

So on the question of objectifying and exploiting women, I plead innocent to the first and guilty to the second.

As I have said before, I photographed my first nudes in 1969 in the woods at Roanoke’s water reservoir. Looking back at those many years later it was clear that I didn’t have a clue about posing a model, but the results weren’t awful. By 1973-4 when I photographed Kathy G. at the old farm/apple orchard where we lived, I’d spent time reading books on posing, and got some pretty good images, images I’d not be embarrassed to show today. It helped that she was a natural at graceful posing. In those early days I found my models by running ads in the school newspaper at Hollins College, a woman’s school (It’s now Hollins University and co-ed), and in the Roanoke Times classified ads. Later, when I had my camera shop just blocks from Roanoke College, I never had a problem coming up with good models, because word of mouth, the best advertising, spread that I was fun to pose for and treated my models respectfully. Was I attracted to these beautiful young women? Absolutely! After all, I was young myself with a full. complement of raging hormones. Did I come on to them? No way! Photographers as a group already had a dodgy reputation, and I cared to set myself apart from the crowd. I’d have no qualms today about facing any of the women who modeled for me from 1969 to 2007. Of course there were none past 2007 because I was in prison!

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/studio-news-bob-shells-new-book/

 

 

 

Posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Fetish, Glamour, lifestyle, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women

Studio News: Bob Shell’s New Book!

 

NEW BOOK RELEASE!

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Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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COSMIC DANCE

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Those of you who have enjoyed my rambling discourses here will probably like my new book, my first in twelve years. It’s titled COSMIC DANCE by Bob Sbell and is available from Amazon now. (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 quality paperback; $ 5.95 EBook; 203 pages). You can get a feel for the book by reading the sample pages on Amazon.

This book is a collection of essays developed from notes written in a series of notebooks during the last twelve years while I’ve been a prisoner in Virginia. But this book is not about that story. While my body has been imprisoned, my mind has been free to wander and explore, and conduct the type of thought experiments, that Einstein favored so much.

The book is divided into four sections about things that deeply interest me:

I. Physics and Cosmology;

II. Biology and Evolution;

III. The UFO Phenomenon;

IV. Religion “Christianity”;

followed by some appendices.

The book is intended for the general reader interested in these subjects. I’ve avoided technical language and math as much as possible.

Each section steps off from established facts to explore my personal take on things. For example, did you know that you can never photograph the event happening now? To find out why, read page 73.

I’ve been an “armchair physicist” since the early 1970s when my old friend Robert Anton Wilson (see his bio on Wikipedia if you don’t know who he was) introduced me to that strange creature Schrodinger’s Cat, who is even more mysterious than the Cheshire Cat, being simultaneously both dead and alive until observed. The title COSMIC DANCE is a tip of the hat to Bob, whose most influential book is titled COSMIC TRIGGER.

Whether we like it or not, quantum physics is how the universe works. This little tablet I write on wouldn’t work in a strictly Newtonian universe. Neither would your TV, cellphone, computer, digital watch, and all the other electronic devices of modern life. Quantum physics does not follow human logic. Or maybe I should say that human logic does not follow quantum reality. Either way, there’s a mismatch between the two. For example, we humans tend to believe that the past is fixed and invariable, but it’s not. In our quantum universe neither past nor future is fixed, and much of the past has yet to be developed. Cause does not have to precede effect. The equations of quantum physics are time neutral; time may not even really exist.

In cosmology, the accepted theoretical model of the evolution of the universe tells us that galaxies should be evenly distributed throughout space, but in reality they aren’t, they’re in clumps, clusters, “walls,” so the theory must be wrong. That’s important, but cosmologists mostly ignore that fact.

In biology, even though I was originally a biologist myself, I’ve never been satisfied with Darwinian/neo-Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the biological diversity we see in the world. The theory simply doesn’t fit the facts. We need a new theory that does.

Back in the 1960s, when I was on staff at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, it was pointed out to me that there was something wrong with dinosaur footprints. They’re simply not deep enough for the projected weight of the animals, and some animals that we’ve reconstructed as walking on four legs left only prints of their hind feet, their forelegs never touching the ground. On page 137 I dig into this mystery and propose a new theory to explain this odd fact.

On page 159 I delve into the UFO phenomenon. The fact, as the New York Times recently uncovered, is that the Pentagon knows that AAVs, Anomalous Aerial Vehicles, their term for UFOs, are real and has spent millions of taxpayer dollars studying them. UFOs are real, remember that. Some official documentations of what they call “incursions” have recently been declassified. Why the secrecy in the first place? Because the Pentagon doesn’t know what they are, where they come from, or why they’re here, buzzing our ships and planes. Simply put, if they were hostile, and some may well be, our military would be helpless to defend us from them. Government is all about control, and something they can’t control scares the bejaysus out of them.

In my section on religion, I tackle religion, specifically so-called “Christianity,” on the simple premise that it’s a political system, not a religion, and is terribly dangerous because of that. It seeks to control the bodies and minds of all, believer and nonbeliever alike, as the current brouhaha about abortion shows anyone with open eyes. Our nation’s founders wanted separation of church and state for damned good reasons, and laws based on religion violate that principle, and should not be on the books. The “Christian” Church held back scientific progress and intellectual freedom for centuries, brought us the Dark Ages, and continues to try to do so today. Today’s “Christianity” has little or nothing to do with the simple, peaceful, and beautiful teachings of Yeshua, the man the Romans called Jesus.

I didn’t write this book to have readers agree with me and accept my ideas. I wrote it to make readers think, often outside their everyday comfort zones.

Like Robert Anton Wilson, I seek to make people agnostic, not just agnostic about religion, but agnostic about everything.

I hope you’ll buy and read my book, agree or disagree.

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-female-nudes/

 

 

Posted in Blog, Books, Documentary, Men, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel

Mikala Mikrut: Minimalism – A Modern Luxury

Apartment by Tony Ward Studio. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Mikala Mikrut, Copyright 2019

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Minimalism – A Modern Luxury

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Growing up a fan of Vogue and stalking Pinterest for spectacular oddities I could never afford, I’ve come to realize that big fancy mansions aren’t filled with memories and trinkets. They’re filled with artistic, bold pieces to take the spotlight one room at a time. All the big houses, even mansions, I’ve entered felt empty to me. There were clearly furniture and decorations, so why did it feel like something was missing? With this on my mind, I analyzed the homes I was more familiar with. Something in these middle class, well lived, well loved homes was always filled. Whether it be the garage, the attic, a closet, or even a drawer, something was always designated as junk space.

I began to wonder why that is. Grand pictures of impersonal, simplistic decor was somehow more beautiful than the collections people have introduced to me over the years. They could have shared all of the glorious memories attached to them. Still, all I would see was a bunch of vintage spoons I wasn’t allowed to use or dolls that would never break eye contact, teasing me with perfect, dusty curls I wasn’t allowed to brush. These memories that others attach don’t enlighten a sense of appreciation for the inanimate objects. In fact, they have a better chance of making me feel guilty.

In a completely hyperbolized example, I would much rather take John List’s signed Tiffany original skylight than my grandmother’s prized angel figurines. Isn’t that awful? To prefer a mass murderer’s window, for all intents and purposes, over what a loved family member has spent a lifetime to collect? But I would love to walk under dazzling colors from the morning sun, warm mug in my hand, fuzzy blanket as a shawl, making my own memories with the glass. I never met John, so making what was his my own would be cake. I will always have the memory of how much my grandma loved her angels, but taking them on as my own would leave me with the constant reminder of her connections with them. Filling my space with memories that aren’t even mine.

My point is, I believe the majority of us are hanging onto clutter. Whether it’s because we are entirely too sentimental or haven’t carved out the time to purge. For the love of yourself, make your home a safe place for your mind and soul. If something isn’t serving a purpose or bringing you joy, get rid of it! If there’s a big empty wall in your home and a piece from a local artist you can’t get out of your head, buy it! Life is too short to not serve yourself. Why are you hanging on to that ugly knick knack from your mother in law, because it’ll hurt her feelings that she got you something you don’t like? Why won’t you let yourself spend a little extra on the all natural cleaning product that you like the smell of, because you feel you only deserve to spend as little as possible?

Whether it’s because they have the space or lack of unresolved mental trauma, rich people wear minimalism beautifully and I personally drool at the aesthetic of having only what I need and really desperately love. We have this sense to hoard and give things. I propose we shift our mindset to seeking and giving experiences. One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received were trapeze lessons, my favorite summers were spent on lakes. Memories are my souvenirs, and that’s the best part. If that’s not enough, take pictures! Those store neatly in the cloud, or make your photos the decor of your home. Let’s all avoid becoming the next episode on Hoarders.

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About The Author: Mikala Mikrut is a junior enrolled at Southern Utah University. To access additional articles by Mikala Mikrut, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/mikala-mikrut-red/

Posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Fashion, lifestyle, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel, women

Vibe Rouvet: The Latest From France

Vibe Rouvet

 

Vibe Rouvet: The Latest From France

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Press Release

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Vibe Rouvet began her studies in private lessons starting at the age of eleven with the renowned vocal instructor Marie Claude Cinelly. Vibe learned about opera singing from a master and had her first stage appearances in churches as well as some concert halls in Landes and Pau, France and its surroundings.  She’s been studying lyrical singing since the age of fifteen a the conservatory of Pau, where she is still studying with Ms. Delay.

While attending the conservatory she also began to study theater, choir conducting and harpsichord. In April Ms. Rouvet particpated in a master class Hourtin with Isabelle Germanin and Fabrice Boulanger,professor at the CNSM in Lyon.  She participates in choir, concert and also as a soloist at performances at the conservatory. She was booked for a recital last March in Morlanne and at the heritage preservation project on May 30th in Geaune, France.

Last summer she enrolled in a masterclass in Salzburg, Austria at the Mozarteum with Helen and Klaus Donath for two weeks including a performance in a concert at the Mozarteum. 

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Vibe Rouvet

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Here are a few links to her performances:

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To access additional articles about Vibe Rouvet, click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/artist-highlight-vibe-rouvet-voice-of-an-angel/

Posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Glamour, Models, Music, News, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, women

Bob Shell: Female Nudes

Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Female Nudes

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Why did I choose to specialize in photographing female nudes? That’s a question I was often asked at my lectures and workshops. My answer is that I know of nothing in nature more beautiful than the human body, particularly lithe young bodies unashamed to be naked for my camera. That’s why Marion appealed to me so much as a model; she was a natural nudist. Whenever we were in private places, off would come her clothes!

Some of my best models were referred to me by my late friend Ed Harper. Ed and his wife were both regulars at a nudest retreat near Richmond, and Ed was an avid photographer who often photographed women he met there. He’d refer the best of them to me, sometimes coming to my studio to photograph them with me. These young women were all completely comfortable posing nude, and since they were nudists, they didn’t have tan lines. Tan lines are the bane of photographers. Yes, they can be Photoshopped out, but that’s a lot of work. I once had a policewoman who wanted to model for me, The only problem was that she spent a lot of time outdoors directing traffic, so her arms where they weren’t covered by her short sleeves were much darker than the rest of her, which was relatively pale. I had to give up on her, because my Photoshop skills just weren’t up to fixing that!

Tattoos can also cause problems. One of my favorite models, who modeled under the name Elkie Cooper, had a bunch of tattoos, and I don’t know how many hours I spent in Photoshop when I wanted them out of a particular picture. In most cases I would not have gone to all that trouble, but Elkie had a magnificent body, and a wonderful personality, and brought my photos of her to life. Of course, when they fit the mood of the photo I’d leave the tattoos alone.

Skin blemishes are also a problem for photography as are scars. And I once had a model show up for a shoot with a real shiner of a black eye. She gave me the old “walked into a door” line, but I didn’t believe a word of it. We did what we could with makeup, and I posed her with her good eye toward the camera, and I don’t think any of the magazine’s readers saw anything amiss. When you’re on deadline you make things work.

My biggest peeve was when a model would make some drastic change in her look and not tell me when I contacted her to set up a shoot. I’ve had models cut off all their hair, change it to a weird color, put it in dreadlocks, get breast enlargement, gain a lot of weight, and so on, so that the person who showed up at my door looked nothing like the person I thought I was booking.

Why I chose to photograph women is simply that I don’t do well photographing men. Oh, I’ve tried, but I find the angularity of the male body much harder to pose. Of course, when I was running a portrait and wedding studio I photographed anyone who came in and wanted their picture taken (very few wanted nude photos!) I realized pretty quickly that I really didn’t like that type of photography, so I cut way down on the amount of this work by raising my prices until I was the most expensive photographer in the area. I worked a lot less but ended up taking in about the same amount of money. By the end of the 80s I was making more money from magazine work and the books I was writing than from photography, so I sold the business and moved on, only photographing things I wanted to photograph. I never looked back.

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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. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-meditations-on-cameras-and-the-state-of-the-photo-industry-today/

Posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Erotica, Fetish, Film, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women