Category Archives: Film

Bob Shell: Meditations on Cameras and the State of the Photo Industry Today

tony ward cameras meditations industry photography

Tony Ward. Self Portrait. Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Meditations on Cameras and the State of the Photo Industry Today

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The first professional level camera that I ever used was my father’s Exakta VX1000. It was an odd beast, obviously designed for a left-handed user, with the film advance lever and shutter release button on the left of its angular body. It had shutter speeds, as i recall, down to 16 seconds, and an internal film knife that let you cut off part of a roll of film if you wanted to develop just a few frames without sacrificing the rest of the roll. That camera was my father’s pride and joy, and he’d saved money for some time to afford it. In those immediate postwar years Japanese cameras were considered junk, and the German photo industry was top dog. The Exakta cameras were made by Ihagee in Dresden, Germany, I have that Exakta now at my house in Radford, just waiting for my release. It came to me on my dad’s death in 2000, along with the rest of his photo equipment. It has the 50mm Steinheil lens, a lens that will focus very close; almost a macro lens, and is super sharp. The Exakta VX cameras were mechanical masterpieces. The VX1000 had a top shutter speed of 1/1000 second, while the less expensive VX500 only went to 1/500. My father got some great photos with that camera. It had no built-in light meter, so you used a separate hand meter or guessed exposure. I got to be pretty good at guessing, plus the black and white films we used were very forgiving. You could miss by quite a bit and still be able to pull off a good print in the darkroom. Of course, we developed our own film and printed the photos in our basement darkroom. For a while my father was the photographer for the Easter Seal Society in Roanoke, and the job came with the privilege of using their very nice darkroom so we would do our developing and printing there.

I must have been 12 or 13 when I “souped” my first film, and printed the pictures. Wow, that was a miracle, watching the images appear in the developing tray under the red safelight! I was hooked but good. And the pleasant addiction never went away. That sense of wonder has been lost in today’s digital world. Not that I’m down on digital, I’m not. I was an early adopter of digital, but never thought of how disruptive it would be to the business I love. Suddenly, almost overnight, major photography companies found themselves in the buggy business while automobiles took over the roads. Some companies made the transition and survived, but some didn’t.

A prime example of corporate head-in-sand blindness is Kodak. Essentially they invented the digital camera, and their electronic sensor division made, and may still make, some of the best digital sensors. But did they build cameras to house those sensors? No, they just sold those sensors to camera companies and gave away that market sector. Yes, there were Kodak professional digital cameras, but Kodak just bought Nikon and Sigma film cameras and modified them with their digital sensors and electronics. They shut down this operation some time ago. You can buy a Kodak branded point-and-shoot digital camera today, but it’s not made by Kodak. It comes from a manufacturer in Asia. So far as I know, the last cameras actually made by Kodak were some APS film cameras made at a Kodak factory in Mexico, where they wrestled with serious quality control issues. The last Kodak black and white photographic paper was made at a Kodak facility in Brazil. Rochester, NY, once “Kodak City” has seen the Kodak workforce drop radically, and people there can no longer look to Kodak for lifetime employment. It’s really sad to see this great American company go down, victim of bad management decisions. The same thing happened to Polaroid, another victim of the digital revolution. Both Kodak and Polaroid were instrumental in getting average Americans to make photographs. None of us in the photographic press anticipated the rapidity of the digital revolution, I’m sorry to say.

And now, there is another digital revolution going on, this one moving faster than anyone could have predicted. It is being driven by the cameras built into cellphones. These tiny cameras keep getting better and better. Last year saw the front covers of Rolling Stone and Conde Nast Traveler shot with iPhones! With cell phone cameras so good, many are asking, “What’s the point of carrying around a camera?”. This is a good question for the vast majority of people. And it’s sending ripples throughout the photo industry. You probably didn’t know that those compact point-and-shoot cameras were the bread and butter of the camera companies, and sales of those cameras provided the R&D money for advanced SLR development. Some companies saw those simple cameras making up 85% of their revenue. Where will that money come from now? I foresee a few camera companies going bust, unable to stay in business from SLR, high end mirrorless cameras, and lens sales alone. I’d say that Sony and Canon have the best chances of survival, as both companies are very diversified, with many other product lines to provide income. Fuji has a good probability of survival, too. I wouldn’t bet serious money on the survival of the others. At the very high end, where digital cameras sell for $ 30,000 and up, companies don’t need to sell many to survive, so it’s likely that Hasselblad, Leica, and Phase One will hang on. At least right now you can’t shoot a Times Square billboard with a cellphone, and there are other applications which require more pixels than even the digital SLRs can produce. Serious photographers will want more image control than phone cameras allow, and for things like wildlife photography only a long lens will work, so cellphone limitations will keep up a demand for more capability. To see beyond about ten years my crystal ball becomes hopelessly clouded.

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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-music-photography/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Men, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel

A.H. Scott: Madison’s Key

tony ward erotica memberships available online collection archives key

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2019

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Madison’s Key

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Mauve painted nails gingerly pressed against Maurice’s chest
Madison whispered, “Babe, you should get some rest”
Maurice’s left hand had a different plan
He placed his hands over hers and warmly remarked, “Whenever I relax with you, my dear. It’s always best”
“You lay back on this bed”, Madison knew their calypso of caressing would soon begin
As he did so, their hands parted ways
He folded hands behind his head and waited for her delightful play
Madison’s auburn locks flowed against the tip of his cock
“Oh”, Maurice reacted from this feathery touch
“And, to think you were just yawning few moments ago”, She purred, “When you’re turned on it, gives me a rush”
Shaft palmed and funneled slowly by both of her hands
Maurice knew he needn’t make any demands
Madison’s mouth proceeded upon him in a silent dialogue of skill and tenderness
Maurice was never a man to be selfish in the sphere of satisfaction
He enjoyed Madison’s delectable attractions
“Feels nice, feels good”, He motioned hands from behind his head and against her swerving shoulders
Madison gazed up at him with eyes of electric ecstasy
Maurice smiled, “To have you is my wish”
Her hands moved from his root and up to his mouth slowly, “Wish fulfilled”
Maurice’s lips lightly tapped against those painted nails, as he would return the favor and taste her flavor
Madison switched places with him upon the bed
She laid back and revealed her precious gem
Maurice polished her to a state of shimmering ascent
Madison’s moans filled the bedroom, as she kept eyes on him
His mouth took her there
There to that place where her core existed
As Madison squealed, Maurice knew he had her
Not just in an exquisite feast of fantasy’s flourishing
But, an excavation and expectation of spiritual symmetry
Madison’s fingers ran through his wavy, brown hair
Maurice’s head moved with precision in the realm of precious pleasure
Connection of root and rose came in moments next, as Maurice and Madison melted in movement
Like a balmy wave in summer, they glided together on that bed with tempered ease
Crashing minutely, yet cresting in a simultaneous tide
This was their comfort as the dew of dedication seamlessly swirled in a scintillating culmination between them
As they locked eyes in that familiar way, each were draped in devotion’s view
She was unlocked and absorbed in his rousing reverie
Maurice was Madison’s key
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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 A. H. Scott, go here: http://tonywarderotica.com/4827-2/
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Editor’s Note: To see more pictures of Maurice and Madison as well as other pictures and films from Tony Ward’s erotica collection, click herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/category/membership-account/

Also posted in Art, Blog, Books, Cameras, Diary, Documentary, Early Work, Erotica, Fetish, Men, Models, Photography, Popular Culture, women

Portrait of the Day: Alexandra

Tony_Ward_Studio_glamour_portrait_ParisAlexandra

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

Editor’s Note: To see more pictures of Alexandra as well additional pictures and films from Tony Ward’s erotica collection, click herehttp://tonywarderotica.com/category/membership-account/

 

Also posted in Art, Books, Cameras, Diary, Documentary, Early Work, Erotica, Fashion, Fetish, Glamour, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, women

Bob Shell: Pacifism, Guns, Religion, Revolution, etc.

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Pacifism, Guns, Religion, Revolution, etc.

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I’m a committed pacifist (what used to be called a peacenik). No apology.. I hate war and everything associated with it. I believe that human disagreements are best settled by peaceful means. This is not something I came to later in life, I’ve never read Gandhi or Martin Luther King, it’s just always been my philosophy. In the 1960s I was part of the anti-war movement. While living in Washington, DC, I picketed the Whitehouse and was teargassed on the Pentagon lawn. Later, in Richmond, I was associated with SSOC (Southern Student Organizing Committee, pronounced like “sock.”). We were the southern equivalent of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) which was more of a northern group. I toyed with communism, even had my own “Little Red Book,” The Sayings of Chairman Mao, for a while., but outgrew that phase pretty quickly. Politically, I’m a social ultra-liberal and fiscal ultra-conservative.. I believe in what Woodrow Wilson once said, “I don’t want a government that takes care of me, I want a government that keeps other men’s hands off of me so that I can take care of myself.”

I believed then, and still believe today, that war is one of the few things in the universe that is truly evil.

When Dwight David Eisenhower ended his term as President of the USA in 1961, he gave a speech in which he warned of the dangers of what he called “the military industrial complex.”. As a military man himself, he’d seen the growth of war as a business, and a damned big one. The world today is full of manufacturers of the machinery of war. Almost all developed countries have companies that make and profit from war machinery. What happens to these companies if there’s no war anywhere on the planet? They go broke. And they and their stockholders simply can’t allow that, so they stir up regional and tribal conflicts to create and sustain a customer base. Can’t sell more guns, bullets, grenades, tanks, attack aircraft, missiles, etc., if no one is killing anyone else.

Making money from human misery and death is simply wrong, wrong no matter what religion or philosophy you profess. It is ironic that most religions preach peace, but more people have died in religious wars than for any other reason. Christians killing Muslims, Muslims killing “infidels,” even Buddhists, who should be the world’s most peaceful people, killing innocent Muslims in Myanmar. Most of this is caused by an “us and them”mentality. If you’re not one of “us”, you must be one of “them,” and we hate “them.”. Why? Because they’re not “us,” they’re different, and being different is bad, and they probably kill babies or do something else really bad. I think most of “us” and “them” just want to get by and be left alone.

“Thou shalt not kill,” is good advice, but very few heed it. I’ve read that a more accurate translation of that biblical commandment is “Thou shall not murder,” which has a subtle but important difference in meaning. Murder is unprovoked killing, and is rightly prohibited.

Is killing ever justified? I’d have to say “yes,” under certain circumstances. If an enraged man is pointing a gun at me with every indication that he intends to kill me, I’d have no reservations against shooting him first if there was no alternative, but I’d probably try to disable rather than kill. Yes, I’m a pacifist who doesn’t hate guns. I have no problem with guns used properly. Before my arrest, I had two guns, a Remington single-shot bolt action .22 rifle and a 9mm Beretta pistol. I had fun target shooting with them, but never fired either one at anything living, and never would. Both were gifts from my father who thought every young man should learn to handle a gun safely. He gave me the rifle when I was in my teens, and the pistol many years later.

Am I in favor of gun control? Yes. No individual has a realistic need for a machine gun, or semiautomatic rifle of any sort. Remember, when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, and for years after, the state of the art in firearms was the muzzle-loading rifle and single shot pistol. Multiple shot guns of any sort just didn’t exist. And those simple black powder guns were what the authors of the Second Amendment knew and had in mind; guns for hunting, defending the homestead, and for the fun and challenge of hitting targets at a distance. Oh, and for that vanished “gentleman’s sport” of dueling. They didn’t envision personals arsenals like many have accumulated today.

I’ve spent a lot of time in England and Germany, countries with tight regulation of firearms. I could live happily in either country without missing guns. I’m in favor of rational gun control in the USA.

I was just listening to the old Jefferson Airplane song Volunteers, which was one of the late Paul Kantner’s anthems calling for a new American revolution. When that song came out in the early 70s we all thought the revolution was coming in a few years. We envisioned America of the future as a sort of “electric Tibet,” to quote Tim Leary. Well, it didn’t happen. Today it finally seems to be happening, but slowly and against powerful opposition. The legalization of marijuana in all of Canada, the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal, and loosening of draconian drug laws in many US states are all steps in the right direction, but we still have governments that are far too repressive on people. My body belongs to me, not some government. “There shall be no property in human flesh.” I firmly believe that I have the right to do anything I want so long as it harms no one else. I’m not a Wiccan, but I admire the Wiccan philosophy, “An it harm none else, do what you will.”. That was written for Gerald Gardner, founder of Wicca, by Aleister Crowley, whose own motto was ” Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”. Crowley toned it down for Gardner, although to the knowledgeable it means exactly the same thing.

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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-the-digital-era/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Early Work, Photography, Popular Culture, women

Bob Shell: Musical Instruments

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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I’ve made a sort of study of musical instruments from around the world, each with its own unique sound. From India there is the sitar, best known, but also the sarod, sort of an Indian lute, and another stringed instrument called the veena. All get their unique sounds from having brass strings. (You can hear sitar on recordings by Ravi Shankar or his daughter Anoushka. Sarod by Ali Akbar Khan. Veena by S.I. Balachander.). In Japan there is the koto, a sort of horizontal harp with silk strings, which can be heard in recordings by Kimio Ito. The Chinese have a plethora of instruments with names I never learned. You can hear many in The Chieftains in China. The Chinese also use the pentatonic scale, with only five notes in an “octave,” which is why their music sounds weird to us. The pentatonic scale was developed in ancient Greece, at least so say the historians. Maybe the Greeks got it from Egypt, or even older cultures. Frustratingly we have no idea what ancient Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, etc., music sounded like since they had no musical notation. We can only guess.

We know the Greeks, Egyptians, and other ancient cultures had stringed and wind instruments because both are depicted in their art, but we don’t know what they sounded like. Of course, all cultures had drums and percussion instruments.

The tabla drums of India are made of brass with hide drumheads that can be tuned so that different parts of the drumhead produce different sounds. They are. normally played in sets of two, a smaller one with higher pitch and a larger one with lower pitch. They are played with the fingers, palms, and even elbows. To hear a modern use of tabla drums, listen to Centa Terbaik by Tasya Rosmala. All Indian instruments, so far as I know, are played sitting on the floor, usually with half-lotus or even full-lotus positioning of the legs.

The Arabs have a large drum called a dumbeg and a smaller durbeki, played with the hands or short drumsticks. The Irish drum, played with both ends of a short drumstick is the bodhran. I’m sure the Turkish drums have names, but I don’t recall them. In Japan once I was treated to a performance of traditional big Japanese drums that are mounted with the drumheads vertical, and the players go at them with sticks the size of ax handles, attacking the drums as if trying to destroy them. Very, very loud! Almost .more of an athletic event than a musical performance. The performers wear loin cloths and are very muscular. The whole thing has a very savage feel.

Of course Africa and the Caribbean are where drums, a great variety of types and sizes, are the main instruments. To hear African drums at their best listen to the Missa Luba, a native Congolese mass performed with voices and drums. I’ve heard great drum music in the Caribbean, and, of course, there are the steel drums. There is a good recording of the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Drum Band available. Surprisingly, they hail from Rochester, NY! I don’t know how they tune those steel drums, but the sound can be beautiful.

Today the Mediterranean peoples have a variety of stringed instruments played like guitars. The Arab people have their oud, a fretless gut-stringed lute/guitar. To hear an oud played well, listen to Hala Laya by The Devil’s Anvil, from the album Hard Rock From The Middle East (where you’ll also hear dumbeg and durbeki drums). The Greeks have their bouzouki, also similar to a guitar. It is my understanding that the guitar itself was developed from the lute in Spain during the Moorish period. The Irish and Scot people, who originated in the eastern Mediterranean, took the Persian/Greek bagpipe north with them, along with the pentatonic scale. I’m not sure who carried musical instruments to Russia, perhaps the Rus brought them back from their viking raids on other cultures, but once Eastern Orthodox Christianity took hold, the balalaika, with its three strings and three-sided sound box (symbolizing the Trinity) was no surprise.

But a surprise did await the Spanish conquistadores in South America. In Bolivia at lake Titicaca they found Egyptian-looking reed boats and all over northern South America they found musicians playing in the pentatonic scale. In the Andes the local musicians played pentatonic panpipes and flutes. The stringed instrument was the charango, a sort of guitar/mandolin with a sound box made from the shell of an armadillo. Along with the panpipes there was a low pitched very long flute called senka tenkana (growing nose) that made the player stretch his arms. (To hear what Inca music sounded like, listen to “El Condor Pasa” by Los Incas, who also recorded as Urubamba.) Was the pentatonic scale carried to South America by ancient Egyptian sailors, or carried the other way? Apparently there was commerce between the regions because both tobacco and cocaine have been found in Egyptian mummies, and both originate in the Americas. There was apparently cross-cultural exchange in ancient times.

I find it odd that the Native peoples of North America were so musically undeveloped. Drums and flutes seem to be about it for their instruments, and often just the drums, accompanied by chanting. The music never made it up through Central America, apparently. Of course, depending on the date, much of today’s Central America was under water and migration largely impossible.

Humans like to make noise, and in many cultures unique musical traditions were developed. Will people of the distant future still listen to today’s music?

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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-a-stitch-in-relative-time/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Music, Photography, Popular Culture