Category Archives: Fetish

Bob Shell: Does Photography Have a Future?

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

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Does Photography Have a Future?

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that question. The industry I devoted my life to studying and writing about is a ghost of what it once was. Every year for as long as I can remember the Photo Marketing Association was very important to the world of photography. Their annual trade show was one of the biggest, filling up two floors of the giant Las Vegas Convention Center. Now the PMA no longer holds a trade show at all, and they sold their office building in Jackson, Michigan, and operate with a skeleton crew out of rented offices. Why did this happen? The PMA membership was made up of independent camera stores, and how long has it been since you’ve seen one of those? People used to come to camera shops, like the ones I ran in the 70s and 80s not just to buy cameras, lenses, film, etc., but to talk photography. Many of my regular customers would just stop in to chat, even when they didn’t need anything. And I didn’t mind. That was how camera shops operated. But, already in the 70s we small independent dealers were under pressure from discounters. In those days K-Mart, J.C. Penny, Sears, Woolco, and others all had camera departments in their stores. And there were the mail order dealers that advertised very low prices in photo magazines. Often they were retailing cameras for less than my wholesale prices. How could they do that? Volume. While I might buy three or four cameras at a time, they would buy 144 or more. Of course a company that buys in volume like that has negotiating power to haggle the price down.

There was actually a lawsuit against the Pentax distributor over this, and the small dealers won to force the distributor to sell to all at the same price. Did this help the small dealer? Not really. The camera distributors got around it by offering the discount houses special camera models minus a feature or two (like having a top shutter speed of 1/500 second instead of 1/1000) at a lower price, special models that were only sold in large quantities. We small dealers had to offer services that the discounters didn’t offer, like knowing our stuff and taking time to chat with the customers. In my case, I also took the National Camera course and learned to repair cameras. I could offer in-house repairs, often on a while-you-wait basis. The discounters, if they offered repairs at all, had to ship cameras to repair services in big cities, which took weeks. I could repair things in a few hours or days unless I had to order parts. But I still faced the problem of maybe spending hours with someone showing them the features and functions of a camera, only to have them leave my shop and go straight to K-Mart and buy it. My time was worth nothing to people like that. I even had people buy the camera at a discounter and bring it to me when they had questions about its operation! What did I do? I patiently helped them, hoping that they would come back for film or accessories that the discounter didn’t keep in stock. It was a tough business to make a living in, but I loved it.

Today the few independent dealers that are left face new challenges. Offering in-house repair of digital cameras is not practical for the small dealer. The specialized equipment (often brand specific) is just too expensive. When I repaired cameras, I was a mechanic. I worked on gears, levers, and springs. The tools were small, but essentially no different from those of a car mechanic (I also did all my own car work, but with larger tools!) Today cameras have become “camputers,” as Bert Keppler called them. You need to be an electronics/computer technician, not a mechanic, to fix them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love digital cameras, and was an early and enthusiastic adopter of digital imaging. It has taken many burdens from the photographer’s shoulders, but it has hurt the small dealer, whose bread and butter was selling film and providing photo processing. That’s gone, leaving the dealer to survive on hardware sales, cameras, lenses, filters, flash units, tripods, etc. I would not try to make it today as an independent camera shop, and neither would most people, which is why the independent dealers have largely vanished.

Now, those few that remain face a whole new threat. My old friend Jack King, who used to own Camera World in Charlotte, N.C., got a patent years ago on the idea of putting a camera into a telephone. He tried in vain to get any company interested in the idea. “Nobody would want a camera in their telephone!” they all said. Well, they were all wrong! Nowadays everybody wants a camera in their telephone. Unfortunately for Jack, his patent expired years before the first camera was put into a cellphone. Otherwise he’d be fabulously wealthy today.

But now everyone’s a photographer, snapping away at anything and everything. And the quality of some of these tiny cameras is better with every generation. Last year Rolling Stone and Traveler ran covers taken with cellphone cameras.

But, do we need to photograph anything and everything? Much of what is photographed with cellphone would be better left undocumented, particularly when the person holding the phone is drunk or high. We face a glut of largely worthless images. Is this lowering the perceived value of serious photography? And will there even be a profession in the future known as “photographer?”. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but they deserve serious thought from anyone contemplating a career in photography.

What’s next for photography? I recently saw some images in a science magazine made by tapping into a person’s brain waves. They were somewhat blurry, but you could tell what they were. Will we have direct capture from a person’s visual cortex? I suspect, like many things, this technology will be here sooner rather than later. People can then dispense with cameras altogether. Prepare for future shock!

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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.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/offense/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Documentary, Film, lifestyle, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Travel, women

Repost: Charles Gatewood Interview

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Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Charles Gatewood in person. I was familiar with his subcultural work from his books, magazine assignments, and exhibitions. I admired his anthropologic curiosity and his  significant contributions to the medium of photography and its history. We got to know each other on social media and began corresponding via email until his untimely death on April 29, 2016,  a result of a fall from his third floor apartment in San Francisco. He left several suicide notes.  This is a repost of an interview I conducted with Mr. Gatewood in 2011. His legend continues to live on.

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TW: What do you find most compelling about the medium of Photography?

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CG: I’m a card-carrying voyeur, and my exotic subjects excite me. My camera is a passport to adventure and creative fun. I am my own boss. I have never had a “job.” I travel the world, do whatever I please, photograph famous people, and have kinky sex with beautiful punkettes. ‘Nuff said!

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TW: You have covered a variety of  subject areas in your involvement in Photography.  Which of these subject areas to you find the most compelling and  worthy of further exploration?

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CG: I’ve been photographing almost fifty years, and I’ve covered lots of subjects. Most of my work is about people and behavior, and I’ve spent many years documenting alternative culture in all its ragged glory. My extended photo essays include 60s counterculture, rock and roll (I shot for Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy), the radical sex community, and tattooing, piercing and body art (I helped launch the “new tribalism” movement by sparking the RE/Search book Modern Primitives). I also did lots of traditional photojournalism in the 60s and 70s.

One of my favorite extended photo essays is Wall Street, shot between 1972-1976. This work is more formal, and more about social conditioning, societal control, corporate excess, and fascist architecture. Which subjects do I find most compelling today? Barely-legal girls, ha ha.

TW: How do you think the medium of photography has impacted popular culture at large?

Are you serious?

CG: What was it like to encounter William  S. Burroughs as a subject in your work?

In January, 1972, Rolling Stone sent me and writer Bob Palmer to London to do a feature article on William Burroughs. Talk about a dream assignment. We spent a week with Burroughs, smoked hash, stared into the Dream Machine, played with the E-meter, and dug all Burroughs’ best rants and stories. Rolling Stone liked the story so much they asked me to be their New York photographer.

I shot Burroughs again in NYC, 1975, for Crawdaddy. He and musician Jimmy Page met for tea and chat before a Led Zeppelin concert. I got great shots from that shoot too.

TW: Are you equally compelled to photograph men and women.  If not,  which gender do you prefer to photograph and why?

CG: For most of my career, I’ve photographed everyone. Today, I mostly photograph gorgeous women. Wouldn’t you?

TW: How has photography broadened or defined your view of today’s world?

Like totally!

TW: If you could turn back the hands of time, would you have chosen another profession?

No, no, no. I do enjoy creative writing, but at heart I’m a picture guy.

TW: Describe the feeling of taking a great picture?  What happens at that moment?

CG: Well, for me the creative act is a wonderful high, especially if the subject is exotic or sexy. I go into what I call “magic space.” Psychologists call it “flow.” Athletes call it “being in the zone.” It’s an exhilarating feeling. Time stands still, there is total communion with the subject, and the creative process (right framing, angle, moment) is like a beautiful zen dance. I work it, work it, work it—and suddenly there it is, my shot!

TW: How do you define Photography as Art?

CG: Andy Warhol said, “Art is anything you can get away with.” I agree!

Also posted in Art, Blog, Books, Documentary, Film, interview, lifestyle, Men, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, women

Bob Shell: Taking Offense

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Taking Offense

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I’m somewhat jaded about most current events. I just turned 73, and won’t live long enough to see the longterm outcome of such things as global warming, which may cause the collapse of our social order from the outside, and things like the #MeToo movement that may cause that collapse of that order from the inside. We are in a state of flux right now, redefining the relationships between men and women, in a radicalized culture that confuses both men and women.

Men and women, two sexes, right? I’d like to open your minds to the concept that there are more than just two sexes of humans. In her groundbreaking book, Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling proposed that there are at least five sexes, men, women, herms, merms, and ferms, and perhaps many more. (I don’t like those names, but I like her ideas.) The famous Greek statue of Hermaphrodite in the Louvre, displayed with its rear to museum visitors, is just one example of a being with both male and female genitals, a classic hermaphrodite like the one photographed by Nadar in Paris in the 19th century. Saying that there are only two sexes is like saying there are only two political parties and ignoring everyone else. And that’s not such a bad comparison. since sexuality has become politicized.

I’ve alienated some people by comparing the #MeToo movement to McCarthyism. The parallels are strong. Senator Joe McCarthy ruined the lives of many people by accusing them of being communists. He and his cronies made the accusations with little or no proof, but in the terror of communism that pervaded American society in the 1950s and 60s, an accusation was enough. People, men and women, lost their jobs, their careers, their homes, their families, over accusations of being “pinkos” or “red.’. It didn’t matter if they’d lived exemplary lives and accomplished much, the accusation of being a communist, or commie sympathizer was enough. The program didn’t end until McCarthy was confronted in public. “Senator McCarthy, have you no shame?” was the final question that disgraced McCarthy and showed him and his followers up for the monsters they were.

Today a person, almost always a man, can lose everything over an accusation of sexual impropriety, no proof required. Now, I’m not defending those who actually mistreated women (or men). I know there are real sexual predators out there, just as there were real communists in McCarthy’s day, some even plotting the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, but they were in the minority, just as I suspect real sexual predators are today.

But, I think we have to draw some lines.

Back in the 1990s I was in NYC with the Shutterbug magazine crew. One night several of us were sitting in the hotel lounge after hours just sipping drinks and chatting, tired from a day at the convention. A young woman who worked for us came over to the sofa where I was sitting, climbed on behind me, and began to massage my shoulders, neck, and back. Was I the victim of an inappropriate sexual advance? I didn’t think so, and enjoyed her attentions. But, what if I hadn’t? Would I have reported her for sexual harassment? Or, if our positions were reversed and I’d started massaging her, would she have taken it as an unwanted sexual advance? This was long before #MeToo, and I just don’t think people were as touchy as they are today.

I wonder if, when I’m eventually released from prison, will I even fit into this radicalized society we’ve created.

I was a victim of #MeToo long before it existed. In 2003 I was accused of sex crimes based on absolutely no evidence. The Commonwealth of Virginia has admitted now, after I’ve spent more than twelve years in prison, that those charges were baseless. They were totally false accusations, yet I lost my job, had my business and life destroyed, and only now is the truth coming out. And I’m still in prison, because I have to fight through the courts to gain my freedom. Once the system gets hold of you, it doesn’t turn loose easily. A conviction becomes a thing unto itself, and the state does not like to admit it screwed up and convicted an innocent person. But, in the last few years, more than 1,500 people have been set free when their convictions were shown to be false, most after serving years in prison. The average time to overturn a false conviction in Virginia is twelve years! That is a travesty. Overturning false convictions ought to be easy, but the prosecutors will fight tooth and nail to keep a person in prison, even when they know a conviction was false.

The job of a prosecutor is to convict the guilty, but not to convict the innocent. So few of them conduct themselves that way. Prosecutors like Mike Nifong, who prosecuted the Duke University soccer team on ridiculous ‘evidence’ seem to be the norm.

One problem is that prosecutors are generally immune from lawsuits, so they are very rarely held accountable for their false prosecutions. They have no incentive to perform properly. I see signs of that changing, and it can’t change fast enough to suit me. Prosecutors who prosecute false cases should be stripped of their immunity and held accountable for their misdeeds.

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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.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-whats-in-a-name/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Art, Blog, Documentary, Erotica, Film, lifestyle, Men, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, women

Studio News: Recent Vintage Print Sales

Recent Sales: Tony Ward Archives

STUDIO NEWS:

A pair of limited edition vintage prints from the archives of Tony Ward have been purchased for $5500.00 by a wine connoisseur based in Geneva, Switzerland. Caress. New York, 1997, a vintage gelatin silver print in the size of 16 x 20 recently sold for $3000.00.  Surrogate. New York, 1997, was sold for $2500.00.

For information regarding print sales contact: tony@tonyward.com

Also posted in Art, Blog, Books, Cameras, Early Work, Erotica, Fashion, Film, Glamour, lifestyle, Models, News, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, women

Bob Shell: No Nudes is Good News

Topless. Photo by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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No Nudes is Good News

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As far as the Virginia Dept. of Corrections is concerned, that is. They came out with a new OP (Operating Procedure) a couple years ago, banning all nudity in publications, with no exceptions. The OP bans any depiction (photo, drawing, painting, sculpture, even cartoon) of a female human breast unless it has a “fully opaque covering” of the nipple and areola. Huh? Yep, you read that right. Isn’t it illegal to discriminate based on sex? But bare male breasts, like Vladimir Putin’s, are OK. And what about the breasts of a hermaphrodite, or a transgender person, born with male genitals, but through hormones or surgery has fully developed breasts? What about men with gynacomasty, who just develop large breasts for no known reason? Like most things they do, the DOC issued this OP without thinking it through. I’m particularly affected by this policy because it prohibits me from having copies of most of my own photographs and most of the books I wrote. A friend tried to send me a copy of my Pro Guide: Mamiya Medium Format Camera Systems and it was disallowed due to one small bare breasted photo in which the breasts in question were tiny. Must have gone through the book with a magnifying glass looking for nipples or areolae! How silly! I saw the actual breasts when I took the picture and it’s now going to harm me in some way to see the photo years later???

And, when they find a single offending picture, they don’t black it out or cut it out, they disapprove the entire publication. This in spite of the Supreme Court saying that books and other publications must be considered as a whole, and not disapprove for a single image.

Thankfully, the Virginia ACLU has gotten involved on behalf of the American Humanist Association because an issue of the American Humanist magazine was prohibited for containing a famous painting of Adam and Eve by Peter Paul Rubens, one of the great old masters of art. The lawsuit over this is currently in federal court.

For any Virginia agency to prohibit showing of bare breasts is particularly silly because the official Great Seal of Virginia has depicted the Amazon warrior goddess Virtus, whose tunic bares her left breast, since 1776! This seal appears on all Virginia Governmental stationery, including the DOC’s, as well as on the state flag, calendars, signs, guard badges, and. in numerous other places. Am I supposed to avert my eyes from all these things lest I be harmed in some unstated way? Must the state stop using its official seal on anything that might find it’s way into a DOC facility?

Has exposure to this bare breast driven all Virginia politicians mad? The whole thing is just stupid and silly!

When I first came into the DOC system eleven years ago, you could subscribe to Playboy, Penthouse, etc., and they showed us “adult” movies on the TVs. Since then they’ve grown more and more prudish and puritanical. But those are religious proscriptions based on perverted misogynist versions of Christianity to which I do not subscribe. My personal religion contains no such proscriptions. Does the DOC have the right to shove their religion down my throat?

If you think I sound angry about this, you’re right. I’m sick and tired of having my magazines disapproved because someone thinks they can see a tit! Just this week I had the latest Rolling Stone disapproved for nudity. I subscribe to Rolling Stone to keep up on music and politics, not for the chance to glimpse Lady Gaga’s nipples. That’s why one issue was disapproved. She was covered, but the blouse wasn’t “fully opaque,” and with a lot of imagination you might have just made out a nipple. I know this because disapproved magazines go to the DOC’s Publication Review Committee and in that case I got the magazine after they approved it — months later! Not much good for a news magazine! Most magazines disapproved at the institutional level are eventually given to me, but the process is slow. I did eventually get three issues of Rangefinder,, but not until a year later. So much for new product news.

Apparently the people who wrote this policy have an unhealthy breast fixation. Were they all bottle fed as babies? There’s something very wrong with a person who cannot look at a bare breast without being consumed by deviant thoughts, and assumes that everyone else is just as perverted. Human breasts are natural, normal, and beautiful. These people should visit European beaches, as I have, where bare breasts are proudly displayed, or just public parks and walking trails where encountering nude hikers, male and female, doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Even in stodgy old England there are public nude beaches dating back to Victorian times. I know because I’ve been there. What’s the big deal about nudity, anyway? Were these folks born fully clothed in opaque fabric? Equating all nudity with sexual titillation is just plain sick!

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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.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-political-correctness/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Art, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Documentary, Erotica, Film, Glamour, lifestyle, Men, Models, Nudes, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, women