Bob Shell: The Passing of a True Genius

Young man playing a Tuba in his underwear
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022


The Passing of a True Genius


I’ve just learned of the death at age 79 of Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, known as Vangelis. As Vangelis, he was my favorite modern composer. 

Most of us first heard Vangelis when Carl.Sagan used some of his powerful music in ‘Cosmos,’ that wonderful tour of the universe (the Tyson remake is but a pale shadow of the brilliant original) or in an Ernest and Julio Gallo Christmas wine commercial. .

Before going solo, Vangelis was the driving force behind the progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child, which he cofounded after leaving his native Greece to live in Paris after Greece’s 1967 military coup overthrew the elected government. Prior to that his Greek rock group Formynx had several hit records in Greece. 

He tired of the stresses of performing and moved to London to pursue his solo recording career. There, after a series of solo records, he was hired to score films, eventually scoring for more than a dozen. 

I became a fan after buying the soundtrack album for ‘Cosmos.’ His wonderful, unique music on there sent me scurrying to record stores (yes, we had them back then!) to buy all of his solo albums. 

But it was in 1982 that he secured a place in my heart and mind with his edgy and powerfully influential score for Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, ‘Blade Runner,’ my all time favorite movie. I have that score on my tablet today and listen to it often, along with the score for ‘Chariots of Fire,’ probably his best-known work. 

Vangelis, though I only knew you through your music, I will miss you.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. 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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell related to UFO’s, click here:

Behind The Scenes With Shanell Verandez

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022


Behind The Scenes With Shanell Verandez


On Sunday, July 31, 2022, two very talented creatives: KVaughn and Shanell Verandez booked an Uber from their homes in West Philly and took the 40 minute drive to my studio in Elkins Park for a much anticipated photo shoot.  Ms Verandez first appeared on my radar for a new subject to photograph for the new Vixen’s series. I was first introduced to her by KVaughn himself, the brilliant fashion designer and creative director for his exclusive collection of scarves that made him a star with a loyal customer base that he established over the past 25 years.  So when KV (as I like to call him), said look at this person, I took a hard look. He was right on serving as my creative director and talent scout.  Ms. Verandez was perfectly cast as the newest Vixen! She imbues a combination of raw beauty and musical talent bundled into a complex sophisticated human being.

Here is a reel from the shoot: Shanell Verandez sitting for the Vixens series

During the sitting, Shanell proved that she had previous experience in front of the camera, having modeled professionally for various designers and modeling agencies  in her past.  She made all of the crew on set comfortable and created an atmosphere of joviality.  After a series of garment changes crafted by the wizardry of KV we wrapped the shoot and invited some of the studios friends over for a luncheon to celebrate the success of our collaboration. Before the luncheon began, Ms. Verandez sang and aria written by Mozart, her favorite composer.  This was the first time she performed operatically since the pandemic began.  You can enjoy her beautiful voice here: Shanell Verandez performing an aria by Mozart

After the luncheon where guests dined on chicken cacciatore, braised salmon, peas with pasta in tomato sauce and nicoise salad, we sat out in the backyard and enjoyed a lively conversation to round out a very stimulating afternoon with new and old friends: Conversation in the yard

To access a gallery of photographs from the new Vixens series, including several of Shanell Verandez, click here:

Shanell Verandez: A Simple Lady With a Complex Soul

Text by Shanell Verandez, Copyright 2022


Photography by Tony Ward. Copyright 2022


Assistant to Photographer: Anthony Colagreco


Creative Director: KVaughn


A Simple Lady With a Complex Soul


“I am an Afro Cuban-Brazilian Opera Singer/Violist/Model straight outta of Philly, Pa. Born and raised a Musician with a degree in Music Performance from Temple University. I am a Lyric Soprano who has performed in various Opera companies and projects in the US and Europe, and am now seeking to form a band as well as  further indulge.

As a Violist, I have performed with a String Jazz Quartet lead  by Owen Brown. As a Model, I  have been a part of the fashion scene for 20+ years represented by Freeze Frame, Askins and Reinhard Agency in Philly. I have had the pleasure to grace the runway for various designers and fashion productions like Fashion Montage (Ron and Julie Wilch), Elements of Styles (Joe Lee), Bronner Bros Hair Show, James Nelson and also worked as a Fit Model for Versace in NYC  during Fashion Week. Art is Life and Life is Art in every Aspect of my Bohemian Being…Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love is Within My Core… I am a Simple Lady with a Complex Soul.”


Editor’s Note: This is Shanell Verandez first sitting with Tony Ward for the Vixen’s series. To see all of the work to date from the new series, click here

Keith Murray: In Honor of Black History Month

Rap star Keith Murray photographed for Vibe Magazine in 1994 by Tony Ward
Keith Murray. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Photography and Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2022


Keith Murray: In Honor of Black History Month


When I received the call from George Pitts, picture editor for Vibe magazine in the Fall of 1994, I didn’t know who Keith Murray was.  Most of the public didn’t know either until he released his first album, The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World. Pitts hired me to photograph the 20 year old rapper because I was known for making dramatic portraits of people from various walks of life.  The editor told me this young man was about to “blow up” because the rumors swirling at Jive Records the rappers label leaked that they had a mega hit on their hands.  That turned out to be true and the Vibe editor responded well when he received the pictures.

I arrived at Murray’s modest home in Central Islip, located on the South Shore of Long Island on a cold damp day. At first we took a few shots around the outside of his house but he was all bundled up wearing a black down coat with jeans and a skullcap. I couldn’t get the type of shot George Pitts was expecting of me by the way he was styled for shooting outdoors.  The expectation at the time was that I was creating provocative portraits.  There was nothing provocative in my mind about taking a picture of Keith Murray wearing a down coat, so he suggested we take a ride over to his recording studio instead.

Once we arrived there his enthusiasm for the shoot grew and he was comfortable enough with me that I suggested he remove the coat and his lumberjack shirt for more of a provocative effect.  Keith was quite eager to oblige revealing a fit physique.  After I took a few frames I knew I had the shot so I made sure to cover it in color and black and white.  This is the first time that the color version has ever been published. 


To access additional articles by Tony Ward, click here:

Bob Shell: The 60’s

Bob Dylan circa 1960’s. Photo: Charles Gatewood, Copyright 2020

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

The 60’s


In the summer of 1966 I moved to Washington, DC, to take a job I’d been offered at the Smithsonian Institution as a biological illustrator. I’d been making detailed paintings and pen and ink drawings of insects, birds, and animals since grade school. I was getting published regularly in wildlife magazines around the country, starting while I was still in high school.

In college at Virginia Tech I had a job making drawings of insects for scientific papers written by one of the entomologists there, and was becoming well known in the small population of professional biological illustrators, while studying biology.

I’d become sort of a pen pal with Andre Pizzini, one of the Smithsonian artists, who became my mentor, and helped me get the job there.

So that’s when and why I moved to DC. This was in the American social catharsis that was 1960s, when the civil rights movement was going full bore, the protests against the Vietnam war were accelerating, music was transitioning from Elvis to The Beatles to acid rock, and all of American society was in foment.

The despised Lyndon B. Johnson was president, followed by the even more hated Richard Nixon.

We were asking ourselves why, in idealistic America, we had a two tiered society, with blacks as second-class citizens. “White Only” signs were on restrooms, restaurants, and in other places. We were drafting our young men and shipping them off to southeast Asia to be slaughtered. Country Joe was singing the “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” — “And you can be the first ones on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”. Many of my high school friends were drafted and some did come home in boxes. All for a stupid war the US should never have gotten itself mired up in.

I got caught up in the protest fever. I joined protests, picketed the White House, was teargassed on the lawn of the Pentagon, holding and calming a hysterical friend. Saw soldiers lined up in front of that imposing building to guard it from us, unarmed kids. Saw those same soldiers. break down in tears when girls put flowers in the barrels of their rifles. They were no older than us, didn’t want to be there, caught up in an idiotic confrontation.

The Smithsonian Institution was created by a gift to the United States from James Smithson, an Englishman who never set foot in America. He left us a fortune in his will to create, “in Washington,DC, an institution for the increase and dissemination of knowledge among men.”

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian depends on Congress for funding, Smithson’s money having run out long ago. Projects I was working on often lost their funding, and I bounced from job to job, working for a while at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, just outside DC, drawing mosquitoes for the Southeast Asia Mosquito Research Project, that I learned was a CIA front when the Washington Post outed it. So I actually worked for the CIA for a while, although I was never a “spook.”

Please remember that America in the 1960s was like an alien planet compared to today. Many years of inflation hadn’t yet made the dollar practically worthless like it is today. Gasoline was less than 25 cents a gallon, an expensive car was under four thousand dollars and you could get a hamburger for fifteen cents and a bottle of Coke for a dime. I paid fifty bucks for my first serious camera, a used Nikon F with lens and a separate handheld light meter. That was a significant investment for me, since the museum projects paid me sixty bucks a week, which also happened to be the monthly rent on my big, two-bedroom apartment in central DC.

The sex, drugs, and rock and roll movement was in full flower, and I leaped in with both feet, going through a succession of live-in girlfriends, popping psychedelics, which were still legal, and going to rock concerts.

Some people I knew had bought an old movie theater, the Ambassador Theater near Georgetown, and tore out the seats, leaving a bare concrete floor. They brought in west coast bands like Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, and many more, plus local bands like The Andorene, and had an elaborate light show projected behind the bands on the old movie screen. Since I knew the people, I never paid admission, and was there just about every weekend.

For live music, there was also the Merryweather Post Pavilion just outside DC, founded by the Post cereal fortune heirs, which was an outdoor theater, with seating and overflow onto a big lawn. I listened to Ravi Shankar there, and folk groups like Peter, Paul and Mary.

I was making Beardsley-esque pen and ink drawings of nudes for the Washington Free Press, an underground newspaper of the day, doing art on commission for anyone who’d pay me, and living well, but not extravagantly. When I was between grants I’d head up to New York City and hang out with people I knew, taking in the East Village scene, going to concerts by groups like The Velvet Underground, The Grateful Dead, The Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine, Bob Dylan and many others. I was in my twenties and enjoying life to its fullest.

In 1968, for reasons I no longer remember, I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and lived in “the fan,” the area near Virginia Commonwealth University, where my cousin, the same age as me, was living. We’d grown up more like brothers than cousins, and many who knew us in school thought we were brothers. I lived with him and his wife until I found an apartment of my own and was happy in Richmond until early summer of 1969, when the apartment I shared with four others was raided by the Richmond police. One man, who was visiting from DC had one marijuana “joint” in his pocket, and they arrested all six of us for possession! Marijuana possession was a felony back then, and we could have been given up to thirty years, but we all got three years each, suspended. That meant being on probation for five years. That was my first brush with the American “justice system.”


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 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here:

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 . 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