Category Archives: Early Work

Bob Shell: Strange Signs



Beware of Dog. Photo: Tony Ward, 1979



Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #20


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018




In my travels I always kept an eye open for interesting things to photograph. Sometimes it was people, sometimes animals, sometimes street scenes, and so on. One thing I saw almost everywhere was signs, sometimes official, more often hand printed. Among the official signs, one of my favorites is a bronze plaque set into a sidewalk in Germany. It reads something like:

On this spot on February 16, 1539,

Absolutely nothing happened.

I’m sure I got the date wrong, but you get the idea. That was either in Munich or Wetzlar.

One time in Germany, Peter Moore took s picture of me next to an arrow sign pointing at me, saying EIN FAHRT. Of course that means “ONE WAY,” as any German speaker knows!

A sign I saw in South Tyrol, the German-speaking part of northern Italy, was in multiple languages, but totally incompressible in any. I think it warned of flash floods, but that didn’t come from the text, but from the little man panicking in rushing water in the pictograph at the top of the sign.

Seen in the American Midwest on the side of a big white building:


Makes you want to walk right in, eh?

On a large factory in Hong Kong:


And in a hotel in that same city, on a plaque on the inside of the room door a number of suggestions for hotel guests, including:


The intent comes through, but a native English speaker would have phrased it differently! You find lots of butchered English in the far east, one of the best sighted in a shop window:


Yeah, sure it is.

In a Chinese restaurant window in, I think, Kuala Lumpur (which itself means “Muddy Junction”) was this:


That one got me to go inside. I don’t know if the prices were really “fair dinkum,” but the food was really good.

Closer to home, driving up Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley through picturesque little towns I spotted this one on the roadside:


Gets the point across, I guess. Not far along the same road, this one:


Took a while to figure out that this person was selling blankets for $ 4.00 per yard! They were actually very nice home made blankets at a reasonable price.

And on the side of a barn in New Bern, Virginia:


I think they stole the idea for that one!

A friend recently sent me this one:




I like that one.

I have a large collection of photos of odd signs in my archive, some of which made money as stock images.

Which leads into another topic, stock photography. Unfortunately, the days when a photographer could earn a nice second income from stock photo sales are pretty much over. I used to get regular checks from the licensing of images I had with agencies. Then along came tbe Internet, and my stock payments lost two zeros on the amount payable line. People used to ask me what’s was the most I ever got paid for a single image. I’d smile and say 78,000. After the shock wore off, I’d clarify that it was Yen, not dollars. It was for the use of one of my images on the cover of the Japanese edition of a Danielle Steel romance novel. Actually, the Japanese editions of several of her books bear my photographs thanks to a real whirlwind of an agent I had in Tokyo. Tony knows who I’m talking about.


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


Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Film, Men, Photography, Popular Culture

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #11



Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2018


Letters From Prison: Part 11, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


As an observer of the world and all its wonders, I am very concerned that we are such poor stewards of this “jumpin’ green sphere.” (as Lord Buckley called it.). Annyone who persists in denying climate change is just not paying attention. The Arctic ice cap is melting! Now people seem to think that only concerns polar bears and Eskimos, but it should seriously concern us all. All of that ice is FRESH WATER, man! Once enough fresh water floods into the Laurentian Sea and desalinates it, this will seriously affect the temperature differential of the Atlantic that drives the major currents (to say nothing about what it will do to the fish). The only reason that northern Europe, the UK, Scandinavia, Iceland, etc., are habitable is the North Atlantic Current, which pumps warm water (and air) up from the tropics and warms things up for the people there. Take away that current, have it loop farther south, or greatly weaken it, and you have Siberia! Sure, people do live in Siberia, but they can’t grow their food there. Shut off the North Atlantic Current and most of Europe becomes too cold for crops. Keep the current shut down and you have a new Ice Age (this same effect causes all ice ages) and it will come to that if the Arctic keeps melting. It’s probably far too late to stop the melting, if we even could.

All that being said, I’m not convinced that we caused this. Many blame us and our addiction to burning fossil fuels, but ice ages are cyclical, and we weren’t around in significant numbers before the last big one, and most likely not around at all for most of them. So I doubt we’re the sole cause of the coming one; but we may well have nudged it sooner; it would have. happened regardless. Of course what’s happening in the northern hemisphere is also happening in the southern, and probably with similar effects. I know a lot less about ocean currents in southern oceans. But the truth, as illogical as it may seem at first, is that global warming at the surface causes and precedes ice ages. And we should be preparing ourselves for this. Most scientists who study the past are “gradualists” who believe that all earth changes take a long time. Their opposites are “catastrophists” who believe that some changes can be sudden. There is evidence accumulating that the last big ice age may have arrived pretty suddenly, perhaps in just one season. Maybe even faster. The mammoths found in the permafrost of Siberia show signs of being flash frozen, and scientists from Japan believe they can extract viable sperm from one and use it to artificially inseminate an elephant to produce an elephant/mammoth hybrid from which they can breed a new herd of mammoths. The famous Beresovka mammoth was killed and frozen so fast that it was still chewing on its last meal. That didn’t happen gradually! Slow freezing allows ice crystals to form inside cells, and those crystals tear up the complex cellular machinery and burst the cell walls, basically reducing tissue to mush. Flash freezing, as Clarence Birdseye discovered, preserves cellular structure, so your frozen foods aren’t mush. Mammoths have been found so fresh that people have dined on mammoth steaks! Gradualism be damned!

The movie The Day After Tomorrow used this idea to good effect, and it was based on Whitley Strieber’s book The Coming Global Superstorm, where I first encountered these ideas. I’ve since read much on the subject, and I’m convinced.

What’s this got to do with photography? you may ask. Well, I didn’t only photograph unclad females. In fact, the majority of my stock photography sales have been of landscapes and nature pictures. As I mentioned before, I’m (through Shutterbug) one of the founders of NANPA, the North American Nature Photographers Association, and was Technical Editor of Outdoor and Nature Photography magazine. I care about the natural world deeply. If I’m wrong about the coming ice age, and I truly hope I am, I’d like to see the natural world be around for future generations to love, and photograph. Weather isn’t the only threat to the natural world, we are destroying it at a ridiculous speed. There is nothing more absurd than cutting down forests to raise more cattle for our hamburgers, yet we’re doing it at an alarming rate. Those forests make the oxygen we breathe! Do we want to eat our burgers while sucking on a tube from an oxygen tank?


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 at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here


Also posted in Blog, Documentary, News, Politics, Popular Culture

Upcoming Exhibitions: Stanek Gallery



Scene of the Crime on Exhibit at Stanek Gallery



A picture entitled, “Scene of the Crime” will be part of a group  exhibit entitled: People, Places & Things at Stanek Gallery, 242 North 3rd Street in Philadelphia. The opening reception is  this coming Friday, May 4th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.  This picture is part of a series of tableaux vivants created by Tony Ward between the years 1993 to 2000.  This will be the first time the artist exhibits this particular body of work in Philadelphia, where the pictures resulted in his second monograph, Tableaux Vivants, Edition Stemmle. Zurich, Switzerland, fpublished in  2000.  There are very limited editions of these vintage silver prints available and are now being offered for the first time to collectors at Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia.  In 2005,  “The Figure” another picture from the series sold (modern print 42″ x 62″) at an exhibit in  Paris to a collector from London for $18,000 dollars, the highest price paid for a single work by Tony Ward to date.


The Figure


To learn more about Tony Ward’s tableaux vivants, click here: visit this page


Also posted in Art, Blog, Books, Cameras, Documentary, Erotica, Exhibits, Fashion, Fetish, Film, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, women

Diary: A Fashion Shoot at the Jersey Shore



Holly: Wearing a Black Latex Dress



Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018


Diary: A Trip to the Jersey Shore


Holly and I had worked together many times before leading up to this shoot at the Jersey shore.  I first met her at Delilah’s Den, a well established gentlemen’s club on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia.  Back then she was a shot girl and one evening she came over to me while I was seated at a table next to the main dance stage when she asked if I wanted a shot? I said no but I would like to have your number. I explained that I was a contract photographer for Penthouse and was at the club that evening scouting for new models. She reached for a napkin on her server tray and jotted down her contact information.  That marked the beginning of 1o year run between a photographer and young woman that would quickly become his  muse.  At 21 years of age Holly began to appear in countless Penthouse pictorials, Playboy and she even crossed over briefly into fashion layouts for mainstream publications based in New York.  This particular photo was created in the parking lot of a seedy Atlantic City motel where we set the stage for a series of fashion fetish photos featuring Holly as a fetishistic bon vivant.


To see additional pictures of Holly , become a member, click here


To access additional Diary entries, click here


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Stanek Gallery: Exhibition Announcement



Stanek Gallery: People, Places & Things. May 2018.



Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018


I am honored to announce my participation in the first inaugural photography exhibition at  Stanek Gallery,  located at 242 North 3rd street in Philadelphia.  The group exhibition was curated by the legendary art gallerist and dealer Sande Webster Brantley, who I came to know during the early 1990’s when she had her first gallery on Locust street near Rittenhouse Square. She would later move to fancier digs at 2008 Walnut Street before closing the gallery in 2011 to pursue curating and art consulting.  Sande was one of the first if not the first female art dealer in American history to embrace African American artists works as equal to their white counter parts.  It is with this distinction that makes Sande Webster’s vision of art free of racism, bigotry, discrimination or prejudice. In celebration of this exhibition I would like to express my deepest appreciation for being included with these most distinguished artists, some of whom I’ve known since the 1970’s.  Shout outs to: Adger Cowans, Willie Williams, Donald Camp, Arlene Love, Robert Reinhardt, Ada Trillo, Ronald Tarver, Andrea Baldeck, Anthony Barbosa and Stanek Gallery.


Another Place Another Time. Will be on view at Stanek Gallery

Another Place Another Time. Will be on view at Stanek Gallery




To learn more about the exhibit at Stanek Gallery, click here


Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Exhibits, Models, News, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women