Bob Shell: Letters From Prison 2018 #4


Shutterbug Magazine


Letters From Prison: Part 4, 2018


Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018


Let me talk a bit about what happened to me, particularly because something similar could happen to almost anyone in today’s America. The year was 2003 and I was at the top of my game. In 2001 I had been “retired” from my long-time job as Editor of the photography magazine Shutterbug. Rather than force me out altogether, which would have looked bad to the photo industry, they made me Editor At Large, cut my pay to less than half, but on the bright side they freed me from my contractual obligation to write articles only for them. So I began writing regularly for Rangefinder (edited then by my old friend Bill Hurter), Professional Photographer, Photo Electronic Imaging, Photo Techniques, Digital Camera, Zoom, and several others domestically. I continued to do product reviews for (who also put together the Gadget Guru segments for NBC’s Today Show). Plus I was writing photo books for Lark Books, a division of Barnes & Noble, working as a consultant for National Geographic on their photo guides, and writing some product instructions for Kodak (if you have a Kodak Gray Card, those are my instructions). I also wrote a section of a book on how to use light meters for Sekonic.

I was happy, working on personal photo projects in my studio in Radford, Virginia. People used to ask why I lived in a small town, and I always answered that it was the lower cost of everything. I was able to have a large studio for peanuts, and since I very rarely did anything for local clients I did not have to scrounge for local business to support myself.

Everything was going great and I was working on photos for a book that was a departure for me, a book of photos of erotic bondage. The book was the idea of Marion Franklin, my girlfriend and chief model. She had the idea and I sold it to a publisher. (The book, Erotic Bondage: Art of Rope came out in 2004 under my pseudonym Edward Lee, a pseudonym I’d used since 1993 for my overseas work — Not really so much a pseudonym, since my full name is Robert Edward Lee Shell).

I’d never really done any bondage photography prior to the summer of 2002 when I did a shoot with bondage pro Maria Shadoes and a friend of hers who was also heavily into bondage, and we played at it a bit. Later I did some with Elkie Cooper, one of my favorite models that I’d photographed for years, ever since she turned 18. She’d gotten onto bondage and had worked for some very fine photographers, including Lee Higgs, whose book Generation Fetish was a favorite of mine.

On June 3, 2003 my world came crashing down. Marion and I had worked all day with Maria Shadoes and her boyfriend Lew Rubens, both bondage pros who spent the day teaching me ties and safety procedures. I’d never had a model injured during a photo shoot and wanted to make sure it never happened. Maria and Marion were our subjects and Lew did some elaborate ties and suspensions with them. I wanted a record of everything, so I took many still photos and also set a video camera up on a tripod to record everything. I’d developed a habit of setting up a video camera and recording all studio shoots.

After we finished for the day we were all bushed. Marion went to sleep on the studio bed, Maria and Lew left for the day, and I walked down the block to the Sonic to get some food, since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I was gone maybe half an hour and came back to the studio to set things up for a shoot planned for the next day. After a while when I walked by the bed I couldn’t hear Marion snoring (she always snored softly) and tried to wake her up. She would not respond, so I freaked out and ran to the phone and called 911. That’s when my nightmare began. To be continued…….


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


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