New Year, New Direction

Happy New Year to all, and I hope that 2007 will bring everyone more prosperity, happiness, and beauty in their lives.

As you may have recently noticed, we have stopped selling Collectors’ Edition Photosets and Flashback Galleries on the BeautifulYouth Project site. Many have asked why- hopefully this blog post will answer those questions.

Actually, two reasons combined toward the decision to stop selling Collectors’ Edition Photosets and Flashbacks on the site. First of all, I have to say that this is something that I have been turning over in my mind for some time now. The BeautifulYouth Project was designed differently from the start than other, “similar” sites on the web. It was a response to other sites that I saw that exploited young models, pandering suggestive photos in return for huge profits. My original inspiration came from the site “Lil’ Amber”, which was really the flagship site for the WebeWeb Corp. (see news article here and here) I was struck by the way that photos were deliberately posed in a suggestive manner (much has been made about whether or not the site[s] are a portal for online pedophiles, but the first amendment is far too large a topic to tackle within this post). Read this previous blog post for a primer on what I think of these sites.

Having seen the Lil’ Amber site, I was frustrated, both as a photographer, and as an admirer of the beauty of youth, that such a site could succeed. After running across a few more similar sites, I decided to start the BeautifulYouth Project- the main goal of the BeautifulYouth Project was to exhibit interesting and artistic photo artworks featuring the beauty of youth, without blatant pandering to the overtly (and prematurely) sexual and/or titilating.

So, the BeautifulYouth Project was born in late 1999 with that idea in mind… to create these photographic artworks, while giving young models a chance to practice and show their talents. The idea behind the site was to treat it much like an art gallery- with rotating themed displays of the artwork.

In early 2002, we began selling Collectors’ Edition Photosets as a way to create revenue to pay for things like hosting costs, etc. We also instituted our Patronage Program also to create revenue for the Project. We deliberately called this a Patronage (not a membership), because the galleries and photos displayed for our Patrons were (and are) really nothing more than a preview of the newest work, which would later be displayed in our main galleries.

From the start, I struggled in my mind about the CE Photosets. I felt that it was turning our passion, the beauty of youth, into a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded. Also questions arose about the intentions of some of the purchasers of the CE Photosets. While they have brought in needed revenue to pay for the Project’s necessities, I have always been uneasy with selling these sets. One of the main driving philosophies of the BeautifulYouth Project was to create artwork that did not require viewers to pay to see.

The second reason came down recently, as an entertainment advocacy group overstepped their boundaries and started trying to shut down sites that feature youth. They threatened and harrassed at least one site owner I know, threatening to send news crews, not just to his house, but also to the workplace of an acquaintance (she is a school teacher). Using these despicable bullying techniques, they forced him to shut down his website. It is my duty to see that this does not happen to the BeautifulYouth Project.

Ironically, as I was thinking of unilaterally ending the CE Photoset issues, this “advocacy” group posted on their website that one of their main complaints was the sales of such materials. Their main target was a website that had taken photos of the actor Dylan Patton and had been selling them on EBay, against the wishes of Dylan’s parents and manager.

So, ending the CE Photosets made sense, from two points of view.

The upside is that all the shoots we do in the future for the BeautifulYouth Project will now be available in the galleries, with no extra money to pay for a CE Photoshoot.

The downside is that this move will cut revenues for the site, and we will be depending more heavily on the favor of our Patrons to keep up with costs.

But we trust that those who truly believe in what we our doing- those that agree with our core philosophy of the love of the beauty of youth (and distaste for exploitation) will step up and support the BeautifulYouth Project as we head into 2007, our eighth year.

Thank you to all for your support!

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