Joe, in the letter below, brings up a good point: The message and the spirit of a web site or a magazine is created in no small part by the editor. Without an editor you get just a mish-mash of the whole world, like flickr.com. (Which is great, but does not have a overall style or direction.)
Apart from customer service, the part which takes the most time and care from me is the editing of picture sets for members. I make, many decisions for each set, based on many criteria I've developed over the years.
One of my photographers, who contribute to many different pay sites, told me recently that DOMAI is the only site he knows about which has any editing at all. Apparently other sites just upload all the sets exactly as they come from the photographer's camera, wheat and chaff.
I was a bit shocked at that. My members shouldn't have to shoulder the burden of sorting out the many near-duplicates, blurry photos, failed experiments, and unattractive poses which inevitably come with a complete photo shoot.
An equally important to me personally is that the sets need to support my philosophy for the site. It's what I believe.
I've written several letters to DOMAI, and I've enjoyed reading many newsletters by other people. It seems the majority of the letters you've published fall in two categories: the "DOMAI story," and the commentary on the content and character of your website. (Most of my own previous letters fall in the latter category.)
I've noticed that many of the commentary-type letters have something in common. The writers of these letters seem to believe they have some intuitive knowledge of what the models of DOMAI are thinking and feeling, just by their appearances. The writers expound on the "nonsexual" nature of DOMAI, and then go on to say how your models are "innocent" and don't want to be portrayed in a sexual light. My problem with this point of view is that it is pure fantasy. DOMAI is a collection of nudes, thus every model has literally bared her body for the whole world to see; and if a naked woman is in not at all sexual, then what is?
For the sake of clarity, I'll quote a few lines from some of the letters I'm referring to. (I won't name the authors, as I do respect their point of view.)
One writer described DOMAI models as "amazing, knowing and generous women" simply from the looks of their faces, which he contrasted with what he called the "manufactured look, calculated and marketably manipulating" look of porn stars. While the whole of his letter was inspirational, I was left pondering his logic. How could he tell the character of a woman just by the look on her face in a photograph? DOMAI has some fame throughout the worldwide web for its "happy nude girls;" but, as nice and refreshing as their facial expressions are, they, too, are poses. I don't presume to know anything about the models of DOMAI by their photos, other than what they look like naked.
A statement from a different letter embodies this fantasy: "Domai girls are different. They have opened themselves up to the world and trusted everyone. They want their beauty to shine forth and be admired and nothing in their attitudes and disposition indicates they desire to be used masturbation material." When I read this, I actually said to myself out loud, "What?" While I agree it is doubtful most women want their pictures to be used in such a way, how can anyone speak to the desires, attitudes, intentions, and dispositions of women he doesn't know?
Another one of your letter writers made a wise observation: It is dangerous to cross the line from indulging in fantasy to replacing reality with it. That is why I'm writing this letter. The truth is that the models of DOMAI are just that models. Most of them are probably professional or semiprofessional nude models. Most likely, they're college students, waitresses, hopeful fashion models or actresses trying to break into their fields. In other words, they're women. Surely, posing nude is simply a source of income for them.
Allowing this realization, that the models are in fact real women, and not fantasy women, is counterproductive in porn no fantasy, no money. But to DOMAI, I believe this realization is fundamental. DOMAI has set itself apart from pornography, a key part of which is creating the fantasy that the viewer knows the model intimately. What makes DOMAI unique is that you present your nudes with no frills, no videos to "enhance" their sensuality, no fictional biographies or descriptions of the models, no claim or inference of any kind that the models want to be objectified or exploited. The style and character of DOMAI as a whole is the product of the editor.
Of course, the models deserve credit for posing in the ways they have, showing that they have the ability to be comfortable in their skin without pouring on their own sexuality. Not to mention the photographers, who provide the images that prove the DOMAI theory by putting that theory into practice. But, it is you, Eolake, who has clearly taken great care to select and present the photos that further your theory of the female nude: that it need not be heavily stylized to be artistic; it need not be black and white, blurred, and partly obscured to be non-pornographic; that the nude woman, while intrinsically sexy, should not be treated as a mere sex object; above all, that the beauty of women should be depicted and celebrated as simply beautiful.
When I stopped reading my own feelings and ideas into the images I viewed on DOMAI, and accepted that the models are simply pretty women posing nude, whatever their personal reasons for doing so, my experience of DOMAI was not shattered along with my fantasy; instead, it was enhanced. This is a unique collection of extraordinary photographs, artworks that can be appreciated realistically, without erotic or even non-erotic fantasy. DOMAI is beautiful, simple nudes. This is the truth of your art. One of the most famous verses in history is Keats' " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty
-Joe in Kansas
Update: just after publication, I got this email:
You talked about editing in your newsletter. As a former DOMAI client (six months), then gone, now come back (six months), I can tell you I returned because of your editing. I thought you might appreciate knowing that your time and skill and love of beauty make a difference with your viewers[...]
Of course, you have the best photographers in the world, too.
And one more:
I wanted to echo the sentiments of your letter writer who was giving you credit for making Domai the great site it is. I have been a member here for over a year now and have to say that yours is a site like no other I have found. I have gone to several other sites and like you mentioned the viewer gets to pay for the privilege of doing the editor's job.
I have, in the past, joined sites that offered much, but to have to wade through all of the content posted was like working in the world's busiest photomat. I have seen many sets that had 3 or 4 pictures that were really good, and the rest filler, but the rest numbered in excess of 100 pictures that had to be sorted through. While that might be enjoyable if given the time and freedom, it becomes far too much work on a continual basis.
Thank you for the work you do in editing and selecting, that is why I keep coming back, and why I plan on being a member for a long time to come. The photographers also do a great job, but they are only as good as the editor's eye who is able to objectively cull those pictures that, for whatever reason, just don't make the grade.
"... I finally signed up as a member (the first site I have ever become a member) and have been pleasantly surprised... my expectations have been met and surpassed! Your passion shows in your work. DOMAI is a breathe of fresh air." - Glenn <burghowitz[=at=]earthlink.net>
[e-mail address used with permission]
Much more in the members' area.