Category Archives: Photography

Bob Shell: Family of Photographers

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Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

 

Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #29

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Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018

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FAMILY OF PHOTOGRAPHERS

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Maybe photography is in the genes. My father was an avid photographer, and my sister and I both got the bug. One of my great uncles, Hank Jewell, was pretty famous as a photographer in southwest Virginia in the late 1800s and early 20th century. One of his cameras is on display in the historical museum in Christiansburg, Virginia. He took the famous photograph of Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler. The historical society has the “outtakes” from this session, all on glass plates about 4 x 5 inches. Unfortunately, when Hank died his family had no appreciation of the value of his work and hauled all his negatives to the dump. By the time historians heard, it was too late, since it had rained several times. Sad and stupid! Reminds me of how C. S. Lewis’s brother took all of C. S.’s papers out back of the house after his death and built a bonfire of them. Luckily, some people got there and put out the fire before all was consumed. Some Lewis stories now exist only in fragmentary form because of this act of amazing stupidity.

Paper, after all, is a fugitive medium for us to store our memories upon. For many years archeologists believed that the Phoenicians had no written language. Then it was discovered that they did, only they wrote on paper. Their climate didn’t preserve paper, unlike the arid climate in Egypt. No one knows what they wrote, but we’ve lost it all to a damp climate.

Personally, I’m one more of those who believe there was a highly advanced civilization on earth before the last ice age, which obliterated almost all traces. I think this is the real explanation for most of those mysteries discussed on TV shows like the mostly absurd “Ancient Aliens.” Ockham’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

Anyway, as usual I’ve gone off on a tangent. I was talking about Uncle Hank’s photography. I never knew him, but my father knew him well. As did Doug Lester, one of the photographers who influenced me as I was learning. Doug and his wife Ruth owned Lester’s Foto Shop on Main Street in Christiansburg for many years. Doug knew more about photography than any two other photographers I knew then. I used to hang around the shop and talk photography with him between customers. He was a diehard Rolleiflex partisan; used them for his photography and sold them in his shop. He influenced me to trade in my Bronica S2a outfit for a Rolleiflex SL66, probably the finest camera I ever owned in terms of build quality. And the Zeiss lenses for the system were simply awesome. The major drawback of this camera (besides high price) was the big focal plane shutter, which could only synchronize with electronic flash at 1/30 second or slower. In the studio that was no problem, but it got in the way of outdoor fill flash. Rollei offered three lenses, 50, 80, and 150 with built-in leaf shutters with synchronized shutter speeds up to 1/500 second to get around this, but they were very expensive. Eventually I tracked down a used 150 that I could afford and used it for several years. But, by then Rollei had abandoned the SL66 system in favor of the SLX and its successors, offering the same great lenses in updated multicoated versions with electronic leaf shutters that synchronized with flash at all shutter speeds. I started with an SL6006 that I bought broken and rebuilt, and later moved to the SL6008i system. In addition to the Zeiss lenses, Rollei offered some Schneider-Kreutznach lenses, like the 80mm f/2 that I loved. Unfortunately, Rollei never caught up to the digital revolution and I think they’re gone now. I sold my Rollei equipment around 2005, when it still had substantial value, to raise money to put into lawyers’ pockets. I guess I’m lucky in a way since I sold my film cameras when they still had value, even if I was forced to sell to pay legal bills. By 2004 I was essentially a digital photographer, using Canon EOS 10D and Nikon D100 cameras. Why both incompatible systems? Simply that Canon and Nikon both sent me cameras and lenses for editorial evaluation, and I liked both of them. While I was with Shutterbug I never had to buy cameras. After Shutterbug terminated my contract “due to the accusations” I broke down and bought an EOS 10D. I still have it, although it’s in storage. Very fine camera; I shot all of the photos for several books with it. For most editorial work you simply don’t need massive megapixels. The 10D is a six megapixel camera, and that’s plenty for any magazine or book page (most of the photos for my Erotic Bondage book were made with the EOS 10D). For most of my work, today’s cameras with 24 or more megapixels would simply be memory hogs.

When I first got really serious about making a living from writing about photography, my old friend Lief Erickson said, “Well, buddy boy, you must realise that in this business you can either have fame OR fortune.”. Despite his nom de guerre, Lief was 100% English, which is why I wrote realise and not realize, and I’d first met him in the 70s when he was writing for a great old magazine called Camera 35. I’d written him a letter about one of his articles, and he had responded with a long and philosophical letter. We began a correspondence that lasted several years until I met him in NYC at one of the Photo + Expo trade shows at the Javits Center. We talked there and I invited him to start writing for me at Shutterbug. We developed a great working relationship. I’d call him with a ghost of an idea and he’d take it and run with it and invariably deliver a fine, polished article. Probably never what I would have done with that same ghost of an idea, but always excellent. I hardly ever had to edit his work, and when I did it was always for length, to make the article fit the available space. Writing for magazines is very different from writing. for books. because books usually don’t have strict space limits. When I told one of my writers that I needed 2,000 words, I expected exactly 2,000 words. When I had to shorten an article from Lief, or anyone else, it was because a last-minute ad sale had eaten into the allotted editorial space. That happens often in the magazine business.

Lief actually died on assignment for me. He had a heart attack on the New Jersey Turnpike on the way to a press conference I’d asked him to attend in my stead because I couldn’t come up to NYC right then. He’d had heart trouble for years, but I never thought I’d lose him like that. Lief was a mystic/philosopher as well as photographer, and I loved talking to him more than almost anyone else I’ve met in the business often about things having nothing to do with photography.

Anyway, fame or fortune? I ended up with fame, within the photo industry at least. I sure didn’t wind up with fortune. But it was nice within the insular photo industry to be well known. Sometimes I wanted to be anonymous at trade shows, so I’d order two name badges, one in my name and one in the name Fritz Klages. People would walk up, look at my face. then see the name badge and do a double take. “Bob Shell? For some reason people keep telling me we look alike!”

One time at Photo + I was walking around on the trade show floor when several young men approached me. One had a copy of my Mamiya book and asked me to autograph it for him. I did, and handed it back to him. He looked at what I’d written and said, “Wow, man, thanks! Wow, you’re famous, man! Wow!”. I guess my head swelled several sizes, and I probably couldn’t have gotten my hat on just then.

I considered the photo trade shows great fun, particularly the mother of all trade shows, photokina. (Yes, it’s spelled with a lower case “p.”. I don’t know why, but the people who run it insist that it be spelled that way.). This show is enormous, filling multiple buildings of the big Messe complex in Cologne, Germany. Everyone who is anyone in the world of photography comes. I always took advantage of the opportunity to meet people, and become friends with many. And there are some really fine people in the business; for example Lino Manfrotto, whose name you’ve probably seen on tripods and other photo accessories. Lino was a commercial photographer in Italy and was unhappy with the quality of the available light stands, so he designed and built his own

Other photographers saw them in his studio and wanted their own, so Lino started making and selling them. In a few years this business had grown far beyond his photography business, and he’d branched out into tripods and a line of studio accessories you will find today in most studios worldwide. Lino died not long ago, but his son Abramo keeps the family business going. Today the company also makes a line of display fixtures used by department stores. I will always cherish my memories of visiting Lino’s factory complex with him as tour guide and a trip to Venice with Abramo.

At photokina you also run into the real “characters” of the business. One of them is Ken (Sir Kenneth) Corfield, originator of the Periflex, a camera styled somewhat like an older, pre-M series Leica, but unique in that you focused through a small periscope atop the camera, which was retracted before taking the picture. Strange, but it worked. The Periflex was also almost unique in being manufactured in Ireland. Can you name the other camera made in Ireland, made by Timex?

Well, Ken Cornfield also fathered the Corfield 66, an inexpensive medium format SLR. Last time I saw Ken, he was laughing at the silly prices collectors were paying for those. Not that it was a bad camera, just an inexpensive one originally.

The photo magazine business today sure isn’t what it was. Most of the great old magazines are long gone; Modern Photography, PhotoGRAPHIC, Camera, Studio Photography, Camera 35, and many more whose names I’ve forgotten. And I just learned today that Shutterbug has been sold yet again, and the new owners let three of our best people go and have cut back to six issues a year! And to think we once published every two weeks! But these are signs of the times, I guess. As George Harrison sang, All Things Must Pass…

Maybe printed magazines have seen their day, and will go their way into history. But for me the day the last printed magazine rolls off the presses will be a sad day, indeed.

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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 herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-optics-photography/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, Documentary, Early Work, Erotica, Fetish, Glamour, Models, Nudes, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women

Katie Kerl: Backlash

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Photography and Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2018

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BACKLASH, 34 What’s Normal?

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In today’s society the motto is “do what makes you happy”, until what makes you happy makes others uncomfortable. Growing up catholic in the suburbs it was ingrained that you cover up, go to college, get married, and you have kids. Pushing us all to be the same in that regard, and expecting a lot of someone by the time they are of a “certain age”. 

  I never wanted that conformed life.  I have always leaped head first into things regardless of what I am “supposed” to be doing. When Tony asked me to write a piece for his blog and take photos of course I said “YES”! That also led to a slew of negative remarks from my more cooperate friends who must keep up “appearances”. My more creative/fit friends thought it was an amazing opportunity for me to express myself on so many levels.

A few of the women that criticized me fight their own insecurities and the inability to communicate feelings through tight dresses & plastic surgery. Just to gain social acceptance.  I do not judge them either because at the end of the day, it is your life. The only regrets you will have are the chances you did not take.

Being comfortable in my own skin and communicating raw feeling through blogging seems to be worlds away from that zone of heavy judgment. Your job title does not make you a good person, the amount of money you make, or the level of education you have received. None of that has to do with your personality, or comfort in passing judgments on people you barely know.

My own mother thought she did something wrong in raising me because I chose to do something so far outside of her comfort zone that was the only explanation she had. Instead of her realizing she raised an opinionated self confident woman. 

At almost 35, I like to think I make good decisions in my own time. I have made enough wrong choices early on to know what I’m getting myself into, what I like, don’t ,  and will more than likely be vocalizing that regardless of what other people think. I’m always in disbelief when older women cast a look of horror on me when I tell them how old I am, I’m not married, and childless. I would love to see the look on some of their faces at the photos from these blog posts.

Moving to Philadelphia was the best choice I could have made. I have learned so much about myself here. Philly is such a melting pot of cultures, history, art, sexual acceptance, random nights, and fast paced life. You can go from black tie gala to save a playground, to an underground house music party that goes till 7am all in one night. Not to mention all the amazing food this city has to offer.

The people I met over the last 8 years that have stuck around for all of my head first antics completely blow my mind. Being accepted for who you are is an amazing feeling. That is why I keep my circle of friends small and grateful for every one of them.  I will continue to find that level of acceptance from people who I let into my life. One of my favorite quotes: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Einstein

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Katie Kerl

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About The Author

Katie Kerl. Born 1984. Raised in Drexel Hill,  Pennsylvania. 
Attended Drexel University for Behavioral  Psychology .
Occupation : commercial/ residential  design 
Philadelphia resident since 2011 . 
Hobbies include  : Foodie, whiskey drinker,  fitness , cooking  , tattoos , & house music lover . 
Instagram:  @beatz_eatz_n_freaks 
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To access additional articles by Katie Kerl, click here:http://tonyward.com/katie-kerl-epidemic/
 
Also posted in Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Glamour, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women

Vote: November 6, 2016

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Vote! November 6, 2018

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

Night Fever: 1977 – 1979

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Night Fever: 1977 to 1979

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It was the end of the 1970’s. I was a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology,  when  I discovered an electric atmosphere at a Rochester, New York discotheque called Club 747.  The fun and excitement of this unique night club drew me back frequently to make photographs. Inside the energy and unusual décor, inspired by the interior design of a 747 jumbo jet, typified the Zeitgeist in nightclubs of the Disco era.  New York’s Studio 54, where the famous and not so famous partied until dawn epitomized this same period in time.  In 1977, the famous American actor, John Travolta introduced his Fred Astaire-like moves on the big screen in the smash hit, Saturday Night Fever.  Travolta’s ode to a neighborhood Brooklyn nightclub was represented with the same enthusiasm by the Saturday night fever of Club 747 in Rochester, New York.

The characters at Club 747 enhanced the mood. There was the African American man whose face and hands were marked by the scars of severe burns. He looked upscale in his three piece suit dancing to the rhythms of Donna Summer, The Bee Gees and the Village People. A young determined white college student with her hand in a sling was deterred from receiving her drink. She simply waited for her shot from an anonymous donor with her functional left hand outstretched, as if the drink was already received. The crowd was from all walks of life, the young and the old, the upper class and the less fortunate.  They all seemed oblivious to their differences in age, gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, political persuasion or sexual preference. As a body they were universally seduced, united and enlightened by the music and dance of this uniquely American period in time: the 1970’s.
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Click here to view next Galleryhttp://tonyward.com/early-work/composites-1980s/

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

Portrait of the Day: Halloween!

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Happy Halloween!

 

Photograph by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018 

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To see additional photographs from Tony Ward’s Wasteland portfolio, click herehttp://tonyward.com/early-work/wasteland/

 

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