As a photographer, I knew Bob Shell by reputation. He wrote technical articles for Shutterbug magazine. Then whispers began circulating within the photographic community that the highly-respected expert had moved into the netherworld of “glamour photography.”
Glamour photography rides the border between art and pornography, between erotic and graphic, between glamour and exploitation. Too often it crosses the line and preys on young women whose ambition leads them to do things they shouldn’t in front of a camera.
I took my first nude photo while still a student at Floyd County High School in 1963 – a relatively innocent shot of a classmate walking in a stream just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since that time I have shot a number of nudes but have stayed away from the glamour end of the business. There’s too much chance for trouble and the lines between what is or is not acceptable become blurred.
Shell crossed the line and faces trial in Radford on charges stemming from the drug overdose death of a 19-year-old model he exploited both photographically and sexually. He moved from glamour to self-described “deviant photography,” featuring bondage themes. The married photographer was 37 years older than Marion Franklin, the nude model he photographed, slept with and share drugs with.
Sunday’s Roanoke Times began a series about the downfall of Art Shell. It should be required reading for any young woman who thinks glamour modeling is a way to fame and fortune. It also should be read by photographers who might be thinking of entering that netherworld of the profession. It is a warning to both to avoid falling into the trap.