Category Archives: Men

Bob Shell: The Evolution of Photography



Louise Daguerre



Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #30


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018




When and where was photography invented? The standard story you will find in books on photographic history is that a Frenchman named Daguerre first fixed an image on a silver plated metal surface. The negative/positive process that became the standard for so many years is credited to William Henry Fox Talbott, an eccentric Englishman. Those are the standard stories.

Long before photography artists were using the camera obscura (literally dark room), a device which projected an image onto a surface. Someone had observed that in a darkened room with a hole in the wall an upside down image of the world outside was projected onto the wall opposite the hole. Fitting a lens into the hole allowed focusing of the image and made the image sharper. Fixing that image became an obsession of many, but none succeeded. Artists at first just tacked a sheet of paper to the wall and drew the scene. Later, the lens was mounted on the front of a portable wooden box with the glass plate at the other end. The artist would put his paper against the glass and observe and draw the image seen through the paper. At some point it was discovered that a mirror could be mounted in the box at a 45 degree angle to the lens axis and the glass plate moved to the top of the box. This made the image upright, but left to right reversed. This worked great outdoors so long as the artist was in the shade or had an assistant holding an umbrella (literally little shadow). Some brilliant person invented a leather or wood hood that surrounded the glass and blocked off excess light. I’m not sure at what point it occurred to someone to mount the box on a tripod, but the whole apparatus was then nicely portable. Thus, by the time of Leonardo most of the elements of a photographic camera already existed. The camera obscura revolutionized perspective in art and we begin to see paintings like those of Jan Vermeer that look remarkably like photographs. Although there’s no proof, I’d put money on Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura. Before photography, the camera obscura also became a popular attraction. There is a beautifully preserved Victorian one at Hove/Brighton on the Sussex coast. It is a round building with a big lens on top that projects a wonderful panorama of the surrounding. landscape onto a big bowl-shaped screen that you walk around and look down into. If you’re in the area, it is well worth seeing.

Who solved the problem of capturing the projected image chemically rather than artistically? In Russia you will be told that photography is a Russian invention. In Brazil you will hear that it is a Brazilian invention. And in China … And so on. maybe a lot of folks got the idea. I’ve seen pictures of ancient Chinese plates that have images on them looking for all the world like photographs, so maybe photography is much older than we’re taught in class. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone found photographic images in an Egyptian tomb. There’s an old saying: There’s nothing new under the sun.


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, Cameras, Documentary, Early Work, Film, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture

Vote: November 6, 2016



Vote! November 6, 2018

Also posted in Blog, Documentary, Early Work, Fashion, Film, News, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Portraiture

Portrait of the Day: Halloween!



Happy Halloween!


Photograph by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018 


To see additional photographs from Tony Ward’s Wasteland portfolio, click here


Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Early Work, Fetish, Film, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture

News: Pennsylvania Convention Center Launches New Website



Photo: Tony Ward. Preacher. House of Prayer. Pennsylvania Convention Center. Copyright 2018



Pennsylvania Convention Center Launches New Website 
featuring its $1.5 million West Wing Art Collection hosts information about 69 artists and their works
PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 16) – The Pennsylvania Convention Center announced today the launch of a new website to serve as an online platform for the public and art lovers to discover and learn about 131 pieces of fine art installed throughout public spaces within the facility’s 2011 expansion, which increased the venue’s saleable space by more than 60 percent to 1 million square feet. 


The Pennsylvania Convention Center invested $1.5 million in the acquisition and installation of the artworks, produced by 69 Pennsylvania artists, which are now placed throughout the facility’s West Wing Expansion. The Center hosted a formal public unveiling of the art earlier this year, as well as public tours of the art in connection with Wawa’s Welcome America’s summer festival.  The venue’s West Wing art collection features 42 paintings, 31 works on paper, 26 photographs, 10 sculptures, eight cased objects, eight textile installations, five tile mosaics, and one video artwork by Pennsylvania’s most inspiring artists. 
The site,, provides a detailed map of the facility that identifies the location of each piece of art, images of the artwork itself, as well as biographical information and additional facts on each artist. The website also features video interviews with 38 artists and allows users to search works by title, artist, and location within the Convention Center.  A two-minute introductory video can be viewed on YouTube.  Previously, the collection was available only for viewing during conferences, meetings, or private events hosted at the Convention Center.
The website also contains a downloadable brochure that people attending events at the Convention Center can print or reference for self-guided tours. Website visitors can sign up for mailings and notices of future art-related activities at the Center.
 “This artwork was selected with the goal of utilizing our facility to showcase some of the incredible talent of Pennsylvania’s many gifted artists,” said Gregory J. Fox, Esq., Chairman of the PCCA Board of Directors. “Our facility hosts more than 1 million visitors each year who have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate this art in person, but we wanted to provide even greater access to the public.  This new website makes these works accessible to art lovers anywhere in the world while also showcasing our facility as the cornerstone of the region’s hospitality industry.”
The website was launched to coincide with the year-long 25th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Half of the artists featured in the collection attended the Center’s free, public Community Festival on June 30 to discuss their works with attendees.  The new art website can be reached through the Center’s website at
“I am delighted that the Convention Center is making its art collection available online to a wider audience with significant detail on the artists and their individual backgrounds,” said Astrid Bowlby, whose 100 foot-long, commissioned work, “That Music Always Round Me,” is featured at the Center. “The website also provides convention and meeting attendees with a resource to learn more about specific pieces of art, as well as seek out additional works during their visit.  The site is not just an archive of the collection, it greatly enhances individuals’ experience and their ability to appreciate both the art and the artists who created these works.” 
The Convention Center joined with Pennsylvania arts organizations to select and curate the works in the collection.  The Center received significant administrative assistance from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) in Harrisburg under the direction, guidance, and counsel of now-retired Executive Director Philip Horn.  The new website lists the names, titles, and organizations of both the Art Purchasing Committee and the Pennsylvania art professionals who served on the Blind Jury who were all instrumental in the art selection process for the pieces in the Center’s West Wing Art Collection. 

“Our incredible collection of outstanding works of museum-quality art, which can be found in public spaces throughout our facility, really differentiates the Pennsylvania Convention Center from other meeting venues,” said John J. McNichol, President & CEO of PCCA. “This new website showcases Pennsylvania’s talented artists and the diverse creative culture of our region.  It also allows the Center to highlight our unique collection for prospective customers as an added benefit that their event attendees can enjoy.” 

About Pennsylvania Convention Center
The Pennsylvania Convention Center is celebrating its 25th year in the center of Philadelphia’s cultural offerings and world-class dining and entertainment scene. The Convention Center is managed by SMG, the nation’s leader in public facility management. It is the 14th largest such facility in the nation and features the largest exhibit space and ballroom in the Northeast. It has won numerous awards and recognition, including a designation as the Best Government/Public Building of 2011 by the Engineering News Record of New York. For more information, visit
Media Contacts:
Deirdre C. Hopkins, Tel. 215-680-1526. Email:
Pete Peterson, Tel.  215-893-4297, Email:
Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Early Work, Exhibits, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture

Bob Shell: What’s Wrong With The American “Justice” System


Artwork by Thomcat23 for Tony Ward Studio, Copyright 2018.

Artwork by Thomcat23 for Tony Ward Studio, Copyright 2018.



 Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #26


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018




Everyone who reads this can hope fervently that they never get caught up in the American “justice” system. It’s badly broken, and has been for quite some time.

I’ll illustrate from my personal experiences, starting in 1969. At that time I was living in Richmond, Virginia, sharing an apartment in the “fan district” with some friends. One morning the Richmond Vice Squad showed up in our apartment. That’s right, IN our apartment. I was in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal when this man just walked in and put a gun in my face. No one identified himself as police, so I had no idea what was going on. They’re supposed to knock on the door and identify themselves, but not this bunch. They got in by climbing onto a balcony and coming in through the balcony door, which was unlocked because it was a third floor balcony and not easily reached. One must have climbed up and let the others in the front door. Oh, they did have a search warrant which they eventually produced — a warrant for a different address! They proceeded to search the apartment, and us, and found one marijuana “joint” in one man’s pocket, a man who was just visiting and didn’t live there. But that didn’t matter to them, they arrested us all for possession of marijuana, a felony in those days with possible 30 year sentences. Our lawyers pointed out the wrong address on the warrant and that only one person actually had any marijuana. None of that mattered, we were all convicted and given three year sentences.

Thankfully, the judge suspended the sentences and put us on three years of probation. That was a complete joke. The first time I went to see the probation officer, he saw what I was convicted of, went around his desk and locked his office door and pulled out a joint, lit it, and we shared it. Needless to say, I never had any trouble with him. But, with my father’s help, I petitioned the Governor and was pardoned, so the conviction wasn’t on my record and all of my rights were restored. I lost three months of my life, the time spent in jail prior to my trial, plus $ 300 to the lawyer, which was a hell of a lot of money in 1969.

Fast forward to 2003. On June 3, I returned to my photo studio from eating a quick dinner at Sonic in the next block, and found my girlfriend/model/studio assistant Marion Franklin passed out and unresponsive. I did what any concerned person is told to do and called 911 and performed CPR until the EMTs arrived. I won’t go into detail here about it all, but was told several hours later by a detective that Marion had died at the hospital. My life collapsed. Those interested can read the details on my website, On June 7, just after returning from Marion’s memorial service and wake in North Carolina, I was arrested.

The next four years were a nightmmare. The medical examiner told the police that Marion was dead, and had been dead for some time, in the last photos I took of her that day. I ended up charged with second degree murder plus three sex charges based on the theory that Marion was dead the last time I had sex with her and I just didn’t know it! I was also charged with having my mother’s medications. My mother had died and I had lots of her things and hadn’t gone through it all and gotten rid of the meds. The charges were flatly absurd, but I soon found out that nonsense accusations can be the hardest to defend yourself against. I’ve had proof since 2009 that the medical examiner’s testimony that Marion was dead is hogwash, but once you’re convicted the conviction becomes an entity unto itself, and the system will do anything not to let go of it.

Between my arrest and my trial, which began August 20, 2007, more than four years passed. For the first year I was on house arrest, permitted to leave my property only to go see my lawyer or a doctor. After that I was restricted to the City of Radford for a year, and Virginia the rest of the time. When Marion’s best friend got married and wanted me to come to her wedding, the judge would not allow me to go because it was in North Carolina. When I wanted to attend the Photo Marketing Association trade show in Las Vegas in March of 2004, the Commonwealth’s Attorney (Virginia’s equivalent of a District Attorney) told my attorney and me he had no objection, then after I’d bought a nonrefundable air ticket, made hotel reservations, and replied to several RSVP party and dinner invitations, he showed up in court and denied he ever said that! I was out the cost of the airfare and had to back out of invitations, some from Japanese who look upon that as loss of face. It caused me many problems.

My friends and associates in the photo industry never took the charges against me seriously, and I continued to write for several magazines and wrote four books during this time. But, since I couldn’t leave Virginia, there were many good assignments I couldn’t do. That was very frustrating and hard on my cash flow.

The trial, when it finally came, was a farce. The medical examiner once again testified that Marion was dead in those last photos. The state’s digital imaging “expert” took the stand and spouted sheer nonsense. I could not have independent tests done on the autopsy samples even though I had hired a topnotch lab to do so and the judge had ordered the samples sent to them, because the medical examiner had destroyed the samples without telling anyone or considering that the case was ongoing. There’s much more, but most is on my website, particularly on the NEWS UPDATES page.

So I am still in prison. I’ve been locked up 11 years as of September 1, 2018, for something that never happened. I did not kill Marion, I would never have harmed her in any way. I was in love with her, and she with me. When we produced a stack of emails from Marion to me as evidence, the prosecutor alleged that they were fake.

Those emails, some with explicit sexual references, were genuine, as was a note Marion wrote to me saying how much she appreciated and loved me. The prosecutor couldn’t claim that was fake because it was in her distinctive handwriting. The prosecution insisted, in spite of all evidence, including testimony from our friends who knew about our relationship, that Marion and I never had a romantic relationship, that our relationship was pure business. That was just insane, since I was living part time with her and was paying the rent and utilities on our apartment, as well as sharing the same hotel room and bed in our travels. I’d even begun making arrangements for us to go to Europe together later that year to show her some of my favorite places. The prosecutor just couldn’t wrap his head around a much younger woman having a relationship with a man my age. Does he not know about Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, and others (actually he probably doesn’t!).

The only evidence we’d had sex that day was my own testimony. I’d volunteered that information when asked, seeing no reason to conceal it. The swabs the medical examiner took during the autopsy showed seminal fluid, but strangely, found none of my DNA, only Marion’s own, for which I have no explanation. The medical examiner said he saw no evidence of penetration. Did I imagine having sex with Marion that afternoon? I don’t think so.

The last photos and videos I made with Marion were very personal, and never intended to be seen by anyone but us. I had to endure seeing these very private images being projected to giant size on the courtroom wall, even though they had absolutely nothing to do with the case. To use a legal phrase, they were “prejudicial but not probative,” which means they prejudiced the jury against me but didn’t prove a damned thing. Since Marion was nude in most of the images, the jury of small town small minds would have convicted me of anything.

In Virginia prosecutors are elected, not appointed, and all aspire to become judges. Thus most of our judges are former prosecutors, so you know whose side they are on. And at election time the prosecutors running for reelection crow about their conviction rates. They lose sight of the fact that their job has two sides; to convict the guilty, but to not convict the innocent. They Marshall all their resources toward conviction. The citizen finds himself/herself up against all of the resources of the state. Under these circumstances only the wealthy who can afford the very best lawyers, investigators, expert witnesses, etc., can prevail. When I was first charged I called the best lawyer I knew of in the area. He told me that unless I could raise several million dollars I could not afford him. That’s the reality in America today.

If I’d been wealthy, I wouldn’t be sitting here in this prison cell tapping out this post on my little mini-tablet. Poor people stand little chance in a rigged system like this.

Now I wasn’t living in poverty, but I was not rich and it was hard for me to come up with the bail money. My bond was $ 75,000, which meant I had to come up with $ 7,500 in cash for the bondsman plus signing my car and property over as collateral. But you get it back if you don’t skip out on your bail, right? Wrong! The bondsman keeps the $ 7,500. That’s his fee. So, even if you win at trial, you’re out that money. I did get my car title and property deed back, though. Small comfort. The only reason I had the $ 7,500 was that when my mother died at the end of April, barely a month before Marion, and had left me some money. Otherwise I’d have had to stay in jail until trial. “Innocent until proven guilty,” yeah right!

Those interested in learning about how the legal system really works should read Prison Legal News magazine ( a monthly journal full of accurate stories. You can tell how good they are by how badly prisons and jails hate them and try to censor them. Every time a prison or jail tries to censor them, they file suit and win. The same people also publish Criminal Legal News, a magazine that deals more with the details of the law. Both are excellent and worthy of support.

After you’re convicted you automatically get to appeal. Most appeals are rubber stamp denied. Then you move on to Habeas Corpus, which can overturn your conviction. There is an absurdly short one year deadline on filing this. Since you have to hire your own lawyer for this, or, if like me you have no money to hire one, you must do it yourself. The process is complex, and no one can learn the details in less than a year. I got books on how to do it and wrote my own. My first submission was rejected for being too long, so I shortened it to meet the court’s requirements. Then it was turned down for omitting the stuff I had to take out to shorten it!! A no win situation!

So I’ve spent the years since then putting in every possible hour in our law libraries learning as much law as possible to find ways to overturn my ridiculous convictions. No luck yet.

Aren’t there innocence projects, the ACLU, etc., to help people like me? In theory, yes. In practice, no, because they’re all strapped for money and can only take a very few cases out of the hundreds who come to them for help. I’ve wasted uncounted hours, postage, copying costs, etc., trying to get help from these people. Most don’t even answer letters. As one federal judge said, there’s an epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct in this country today, and it his overloaded the system. But any politician who tries to do something to fix the system faces being labeled “soft on crime” by his/her opponent and losing elections.

Studies have shown that our current mass incarceration program has had no effect on crime rates. Countries that don’t have this practice generally have lower crime rates. Isn’t it time for the U.S.A. to stop being the “Incarceration Nation?”


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, News, Popular Culture