The lucky thirteen gremlins managed to nuke this blog and the forums on our 13th birthday. All is now restored thanks to tech support (actually they fixed it yesterday but Ariel and I were shooting and I didn’t get chance to update the blog afterwards).
Here’s the slightly rambling 13th birthday post I lovingly assembled in hand-coded HTML, old-style, just like I had to do at the start of the site:
Restrained Elegance opened its doors on 1st April 2001, which makes today our thirteenth birthday. Ariel and I were shooting this morning, and this afternoon I planned to come and post a little celebratory blog post, about how I’m not superstitious and how 13 is going to be our luckiest birthday yet.
But the server move gremlins seem to be more superstitious than I, and have decided to celebrate the occasion by removing all our news and blog posts. Sigh! We move RE to a new physical server machine every few years to keep up with the steadily increasing volume of material on the site and the increasing speeds of everyone’s broadband connections. Inevitably when we do so we hit the odd snag, but I must say the bugs are a trickier bunch than usual this time around!
To add the cherry to the cake of misfortune, when I logged in I saw that the “Top Ten List” script, which chooses the lists for the day largely at random, had decided to celebrate our 13th birthday with a “boots” list. Hardly representative of the hard work we put in to being the best barefoot bondage site on the web! So I reset the list.
The Gremlins will not get the better of us, our 13th birthday celebrations are going to carry on even more joyously as a result 🙂 That’s why we are featuring a few bonus updates today of sets which worked out a little too short for a regular update but which feature some of our favourite models from the last 13 years: Jasmine Sinclair, Temptress Kate, Sophia Smith and of course our very own Ariel Anderssen!
A lot has happened over the lifetime of the site both personally for me and in the wider world. Here’s a few thoughts, more rambling than I’d intended as I sit here trying to rescue the blog posts…
The site launched when I was on my first long location shoot to Los Angeles. I remember showing the site to Stacy Burke in the internet cafe of the motel I was staying in, and discovering that the site already had its first member- I hadn’t even known it had gone live for people to join! Sitting in the sun in the attic of the house I share with a six foot blonde bondage model (who is downstairs editing some of our videos) it doesn’t seem that long ago or that far away. It’s certainly been tremendous fun!
What surprises me now is how quickly everything moved back at the start of the site. I was really lucky to have hit the last wave of website launches where it was possible to find an empty niche, do relatively simple work and build a big following online. The web has actually got both fragmented and commercialised since then. Fragmented in the sense that there are lots of bits of the web which don’t really overlap; a Japanese Facebook user might never see a single page in common with an Icelandic Wikipedia reader.
Paradoxically, it has also become commercialised in the sense that now a few very big companies dominate. In 2001, Google had only just got the patent for its page ranking algorithms. Now, if you’re not on Google, you don’t exist. There may be multiple online encyclopedias, but only Wikipedia really counts. And there are many kinky websites, but only one Kink.com and only one Fetlife.
I guess this is the way of new media. It starts off as an exciting frontier town like the Wild West, full of possibility but lawless. In time it becomes mainstream, then safe, then strangled by regulations and bureaucracy until it is just the same as the old media. Many countries are now censoring the internet, using whatever weasel words they can about “protecting the innocent” or “so as not to cause offence”: sad but probably inevitable. Anyone can still launch their own website, but there’s less chance of being heard any more and you are more likely to face regulation by the back door from what Google will let you put on blogger or what Visa say you can publish or what Amazon will consider as an “Erotic” book (and therefore remove from regular search results).
What is lovely is that there’s still a place for cottage industry websites that haven’t had to become Kink.com to compete. Sure, we have hoops of regulations and red tape to jump through that we didn’t have 13 years ago, but at least it is still possible to be a one-and-a-half person publishing house and make a living from it. That’s remarkable- thank you internet, and thank you all the lovely members of RE!
I have the opportunity to tie up and photograph around two hundred of the most gorgeous girls anyone could hope to meet (and one or two who you might not actually want to meet again- there have been a couple of borderline mad-women show up for shoots).
I’ve got to realise some artistic ambitions I’ve had since I was young- like the shoots in the Alps, Norway and Sweden, series like Long Term Bondage and Bondage Driving Test, and the chance to shoot stories like movies in a way which was inconceivable on cottage-industry budget back in the days of film.
In that time Restrained Elegance has gone from the corner of my living room, through an industrial unit used as a film studio, and back to take over my house again. Industrial units in this part of the world are just too damned expensive! One of the best lessons I’ve learned running RE is the old mantra of “do what you love” isn’t the whole story. “Do what you love, but keep your overheads low” is probably the best advice I ever got.
We’re poised on the brink of another exciting move, to a new house with even more potential as a photo and film location. Our current house is lovely but you’d never believe it was anything other than a modern suburban house; if we do manage to get the new place it has more character which we think will be very fun for us to explore in bondage photos and videos.
Which is good because there’s a danger of stagnation if we stay in the same place shooting the same stuff for too long. Long Term Bondage and Bondage Driving Test are two of our most loved projects, but putting together a sequel in a slightly anonymous suburban house is not as exciting as planning it in a big old rambling house. We’re trying hard not to get too emotionally involved with the move, there’s still plenty that could go wrong, but if it does happen, we’re going to be so on fire to shoot all the ideas we’ve been putting off thinking about for the last few months!
The biggest and best thing to come out of running the site for us personally has been meeting and falling in love and getting married. That was totally unexpected, and delightful. There are a few pitfalls to working together as well as living together, we won’t deny that playing BDSM together can be a little tricky when it is also our day job! But it is totally worth it.
One of the things that has made us the happiest over the years is meeting members and finding out what a lovely intelligent, sensible, caring and thoughtful bunch most of you are. The stereotypical “sad man in a basement” downloading porn from the internet couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re constantly delighted to find out how many people view the site with their partners, or who genuinely care about the artistic and technical aspects of photography or film-making, or who participate in the forums and are willing to share their thoughts and fantasies to help us bring them to life.
There are even some members who we know have managed to use the site as a way to unlock conversations with partners about their BDSM desires, which is just AWESOME.
It wasn’t my specific intention to create a “non-threatning” BDSM website, I just thought it was important that it shouldn’t be some anonymous blindfolded slavegirl in a dungeon. The fantasies may be dark or dramatic sometimes, but it is very important to me that the language of the fantasy stops at the scene or photoset story. In the fantasy, he can be a cruel evil man and she can be a helpless victim, but in real life it is two people collaborating to make the pictures or make a hot scene, and one should never lose sight of that, however hot the action.
So here again let me pay tribute to the wonderful models and collaborating photographers: the site wouldn’t be here without you.
Well, that’s more than enough random burblings from me. I hope you have enjoyed our last 13 years, we could never have done it without you, and hopefully we will continue to produce hot stuff that you’ll enjoy with us for at least the next 13 years to come, too!
Warmest regards, Hywel