Few individuals in our community need an introduction less than Amelia G. She and her partner-in-crime Forrest Black are the closest thing we have to a mother and father of altporn as we know it. Their writing, photography, publishing and marketing efforts established a model that has influenced nearly everyone working in the genre, and their dedication community building and support has allowed hundreds of creative individuals to connect with one another.
Amelia took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions about a variety of issues, including the state of the industry, the BlueBlood style, and advice for budding site ops.
Is altporn/subculture erotica financially lucrative?
My perspective on this is probably kind of unique because I started publishing Blue Blood in print just before the start of the zine explosion of the early nineties. I was doing a punk rock humor zine and graduating to creating something erotic and more glossy looked to be an exciting challenge. Zinesters created for love and not for money. Blue Blood grew out of the scene I was a part of and wanted to celebrate. I’ve always believed in putting resources back into my community. Some of the financial focus of web sites vs. print zines honestly sort of freaks me out. This is probably painfully punk rock of me, but it used to be that everyone involved worked day jobs and photographers had to spend mad cash on film and processing and models were real people who just wanted to share something of themselves and print publishing was a labor of love. And in some respects that felt more pure to me. Nonetheless, part of my original goal with Blue Blood was to be an activist for a different aesthetic and I feel good about having succeeded in paving the way for the alt acceptance of today.
I’ve always preferred the terms counterculture erotica or subcultural erotica. I’m not sure if this is just semantics or if there are fundamental differences in what Blue Blood does from what an altporn site does. The easy answer to this question is no, there is not a lot of money in this. Especially for new sites, I think it is really difficult for new sites to thrive when consumers are going to compare them to the two big players in the field. Blue Blood has more than a decade’s worth of on-topic content which predates the move to the web and the other major player appears to have substantial corporate backing. It is going to be tough for newcomers without either Blue Blood’s long history of credibility and unparalleled photo and story library or the deep pockets and mainstream media connections of the other player. Blue Blood tries to help out newcomers to the niche with traffic resources such as the longest-running banner exchange program for our scene. And, of course, we are known for publishing up-and-coming models, photographers, and writers, alongside more established big names.
Basically, it has never been about the paycheck for me. I would rather put my personal $ into making something really kickass and pure, than try to squeeze an extra dime out of the community I live in.
Payment system options for adult webmasters seem to have been reduced, as Paypal has stopped accepting adult business, and up-front costs for accepting credit cards have increased. This seems particularly problematic for altporn site owners, who typically don’t have a lot of capital to work with. What impact have these changes had on Blue Blood specifically, and what adjustments — if any — have you had to make?
Well, PayPal solicited my business personally for selling memberships to Blue Blood’s GothicSluts.com and Blue Blood’s BarelyEvil.com. I had my very own sales rep and everything. I lost a lot of dough when PayPal shut us down. PayPal recently shut down my personal account as well, even though they admitted that I had committed no violations.
Last summer, my main processor fled to St. Kitts with all of my dough from several months of membership sales. It was really rough, but we bounced back stronger and without doing any cyberpanhandling for donations. If someone believes in what I do and what Blue Blood stands for, I hope they will support what we do by getting memberships for themselves and for loved ones, but I want to give them value and not ask for charity.
If someone has a really high quality site, they can contact me about being included in the SpookyCash affiliate program. If accepted, SpookyCash would take care of setup and access to various promotional networks and resources.
What is your typical hosting platform (hardware and software)?
Uhm, I’ve got a number of servers and whenever the sites get so many more visitors that I need more equipment, I scrape together the dough for whatever I am advised to get.
One can almost always pick out a Blue Blood photo — the style is quite distinctive. For a relative novice like myself, can you explain what you do to give your photography that “look?”
Thanks! Forrest Black and I have a certain eye for composition and instinctive attention to detail that I don’t think can be taught. We also shoot who we find beautiful and we have a pretty solid sense of the aesthetics we want to promote. Forrest and I divide up the technical responsibilities for photography and we both shoot, so the male and female perspective both come into play. I don’t read instruction manuals, so we kind of do photography technically wrong, down to the way we do our own color darkroom work. But we love what it looks like. I probably won’t pursue the technical stuff more at any time, given that the end result is artistic and erotic photos with a distinctive style other people enjoy as much as we do.
How did you get interested in photography? Who influenced/influences your development?
I was editing Blue Blood magazine in print and Forrest Black was art directing. Every issue, we had wonderful writers, models, and artists and every issue some photog was a pain. Finally, we were like "how hard could this be," and picked up shooting medium format film. Turns out pretty hard and way more expensive than we could have imagined, but, by the time we knew this, we were hooked.
What concerns did you have in moving to the web from print?
I felt that the net was killing print publishing and I didn’t want to make the move. Forrest finally convinced me. I should have listened to him sooner.
In the transition, what was lost? What was gained?
My favorite thing about the web is that we can reach so many people without having some clueless distributor who doesn’t understand Blue Blood standing between us and the people who care about us and what we do.
BB sites seem to follow a model more like traditional porn sites than many other altporn sites (aesthetic, pricing, promotional methods, etc). Why does BB take this approach?
We have been around longer and know what works. Forrest Black’s innovative site design was recently featured in one of the top design magazines in the US. I think the only significant way we are much like more “traditional” membership sites is that we have our affiliate program SpookyCash. I’m not greedy. If someone sends members to my sites, I have no problem giving them a significant share of the revenue.
Have you seen an increase in traffic as sites like SG and Fatal Beauty have gotten “mainstream” press?
Of course, the mainstream press which has been most useful to us is coverage Blue Blood projects have received directly. Over the years, Forrest Black and I have been interviewed by MTV, FOX, HBO, Playboy, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many more major press outlets.
That said, Fatal Beauty getting written up in Rolling Stone brought traffic into the community. I had purchased advertising from them during that time period for BlueBlood.net. This meant that community-minded members of the Blue Blood banner exchange program such as BA also got more traffic. When people who are part of the community get coverage, the traffic trickles out to everyone in it.
I don’t want to get too into SG, but Blue Blood gave them free advertising when they were first starting out. Forrest Black and I believed SG’s story about their origins and actually gave them a lot of help. As soon as SG started soliciting mainstream press, they removed all links to our sites and anyone else they were supposedly trading with. Then they proceeded to slag us in the press. Real nice thank you. Now SG refuses to accept even paid advertising from BlueBlood.net. When pressed for a reason, they claimed that they’d seen Forrest Black say negative things about them. Turns out Forrest had told a new ratings site to stop spamming SpookyHotties.com and this was the problem, although there was no way Forrest could have known SG’s affiliation with that site. SG refused our nonadult community ads because Forrest told an adult membership rating site to stop spamming us. So we changed our policy on discussing SG. I used to be pretty much like no comment. Now I believe that it is important to educate people about questions like yours, as press for SG does no one in the community any good because SG does not share anything. Mainstream and other press for Blue Blood helps everyone who is community-minded.
Barely Evil vs Gothic Sluts: the content seems pretty similar. Why two different sites?
Forrest Black is the most talented person I have ever known and I am fortunate to be able to work so closely with him on so many projects. But sometimes we have different thoughts on how to do things. So, while we both shoot for both sites, he edits BarelyEvil.com and I edit GothicSluts.com. Although we work with models who have quite varied tastes in what they would like to do on camera, GothicSluts.com is more likely to run more pin-up style photos and is more likely to feature busty spooky girls in unique corsets. BarelyEvil.com tends to publish some of the naughtiest punk rock cuties and is more likely to feature slender mohawked devil girls wearing pentagrams. Blue Blood’s RubberDollies.com features many of the same Blue Blood models but with an editorial view more suited to a European fetish fashion audience. Those are real generalizations, though, because we work with each model in our original shoots to create true intimate erotic portraits of who she really is and that creative process is going to lead to variety. Forrest Black and I both think of our work as erotic portraiture. Either GothicSluts.com or BarelyEvil.com on its own features more on-topic photos than just about anything in the genre. Using internet professional ranking tools, BarelyEvil.com is the #2 most popular altporn site and GothicSluts.com is the #3 most popular. For online Gothic publications, BlueBlood.net is #1.
Will BB be pushing more single-model sites like SinIsHer? What’s different about operating a single-model site?
By the time AltPorn.net readers see this interview, Szandora.com will most likely be officially launched. Ask me about the differences again in six months and I’ll be able to answer better.
What do you wish you could tell the enthusiastic altporn fan who desperately wants to run his or her own site?
If someone wants to participate in the culture more than he or she wants the responsibility of running a site, I would recommend figuring out which existing sites appeal to him or her most and offering them appropriate talents i.e. photography, coding, design, drawing, modeling, etc. I think the best advice I could give to someone who does want the responsibility of running a site is to have a unique and personal vision and do something different. There wasn’t a site like AltPorn.net, so you made one. Perfect example of a site worth creating. I think doing something original is the most worthwhile because it is the most satisfying.
What’s your policy on model applications and 3rd-party photographers?
To apply to model for Forrest Black and me, interested chicks and gents should email a jpeg showing what they look like to email@example.com with information on what they are interested in doing on camera and any special information about who they are i.e. special abilities like fire-breathing, special credits like magazines they have been in, hobbies, etc. We do a lot to promote Blue Bloods and we love people who are complex and have lots of interests. To submit a photo set, a photographer can just send a jpeg from a shoot to firstname.lastname@example.org with info on the photog, the model, how many images are in the shoot and what happens in it and, if interested, I’ll make an offer. We are extremely selective, but Blue Blood has always been committed to giving like-minded creative people exposure.