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Archive for August 12th, 2010

In case you missed the Blanchardacus piece in the August issue of E’lite, click here.

Some background on this article  and –  more importantly – on its unusual concept for a photo shoot. Here’s how it happened.

About a year ago, some UK tech bloggers and other digitally-savvy professionals were contacted about a bold little photo project. The idea was to raise funds for Take Heart India, a charity focused on IT education projects for blind and disabled students in India. The method: A nude calendar. Kinduv. It was well done.

Check out the piece about it in The Guardian here.

Check out some of the images here.

Back in the US, some of us thought it was a fun idea. Not that I would drop trou for just any project – or ever – but hey, for a good cause, with the right talent behind the lens, and if enough of us did it, why not? Anyway, this was a topic of discussion among several of us, and it basically didn’t get very far. (As far as I know, such a calendar has yet to be produced.)

Somewhere along these discussions, someone asked me what kind of “setting” would suit me for such a shoot. (Surprisingly, no one thought to ask me what month I wanted to be, which to me seemed like a much better question.) I didn’t really know. I know this may come as a surprise, but I don’t really give nude tech calendar photoshoot themes a whole lot of thought. The scooter thing had already been done. So had the pensive couch pose. I was out of ideas. Me as Tarzan swinging from a vine made up of network cables? A little insane, especially since it would involve a chimp and a leopard loincloth, but okay, maybe. Another idea was – because I am an avid cyclist and triathlete – to shoot an homage to this Lance Armstrong photo shoot for Vanity Fair. That could be cool. The point being that once we started having fun with the notion, ideas proved to be anything but in short supply.

Fast forward to the spring of 2010. One of the people who had been involved with the calendar conversations was E’lite Magazine’s very own Cd Vann. She asked if I would be open to doing a quick little profile feature on me for the magazine, and I promptly accepted. All we needed to iron out next was the topic of the piece, and how to shoot some photos for it. Getting good photos wasn’t the issue. I wanted to do something a little different.

Now, at this point, it might be good for me to back-track a little bit and give you some context beyond our conversations about the calendar. Two things happened in early 2010 that led to the idea behind both the focus of the piece and the concept of the shoot – aside from our conversations about the US version of the aforementioned calendar.

The first was this: At the time, I seemed to have acquired a reputation for not shying away from a heated debate both on my blog and on the twitternets. Not that I was a brawler or anything nor a hothead, but the occasional blog post did chaff certain sensibilities when it came to… well, purveyors of Social Media snake oil.

Okay, fine. To borrow Scott Monty’s own words, I sometimes “poked” at people until I got a reaction. My piece on ISMA chaffed (especially at the since defunct ISMA). My criticism of horrendous R.O.I. calculators and other bogus equations didn’t exactly jive with the “live and let live” attitude many among the Social Media Elite seemed to favor. The truth is that I didn’t really care if I ruffled a handful of feathers, as long as the feathers were in need of ruffling. I felt an obligation not only to myself but to the public at large to not only cast a light on very bad practices, but also explain what was wrong with them. Not everyone likes that. Comments on the blog triggered some heated debates, which continued on Twitter.

No blood was shed and I did my best to always remain cordial, but people with thin skin and little ground to stand on left these discussions bruised, sometimes a little battered. “Don’t mess with @thebrandbuilder” showed up once or twice in my feed. I don’t think that makes me combative. That isn’t the right word. But okay, yes, I liked the open forum. I liked the public debate. I enjoyed the sport of it, and not just because of the moral ground angle. I won’t deny that.

Now, about the same time, Starz (yes, the premium movie channel) launched a new series based on Spartacus, the legendary Thracian slave who rose up against Rome in the first Century BC and nearly brought the Republic to its knees. Spartacus was of course made famous by Kirk Douglas in the golden age of Cinemascope (Thank you Stanley Kubrick). This version of Spartacus’ life (essentially a prequel to the movie) was much more of an overcharged special-effects cliché-fest with visuals ripped right out of Zach Snyder’s big screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 (which told the story of the Spartans’ heroic stand at Thermopylae). Anyway. I started watching the show more out of boredom than anything, then out of curiosity, then habit… and then it actually got good. I became a fan and made no secret of it.

Sometime in the spring, someone started calling me Blanchardacus. Ian G. Lang, one of my friends on Twitter, amused by the idea, even created some pretty fly graphics with photoshop and some of Starz’ own promo graphics. Aside from being funny, it gave life to the idea that something could be done around the silliness of “Blanchardacus.”

When Cd Vann and I started discussing the piece for E’lite Magazine, I jokingly told her we could take the Blanchardacus idea and run with it. Remembering our discussions about the calendar and having been a weekly participant in my online conversations, she didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t a joke after all. We could actually do this, so… we did. The shoot was produced in South Carolina while E’lite’s editors combined three separate interviews into one, much of it Scott Stratten‘s handiwork. (You may know him on Twitter as @unmarketing – his superhero name.)

These are some of the shots E’lite Magazine played with for the piece. Some of them made it, others not:

Note the strange tattoo on my sword arm in the above image.

This is not a real tattoo. It’s just… a little hello to my friend Tyler at the Paper Street Soap Company.

You can pick up the trail here, if you dare.

Oh yeah. We shot this in full costume, fifty meters from a main road. Tourists were taking pictures of us.

What I learned from this photo shoot:

1. I’m no Andy Whitfield (who plays Spartacus in the series and looks a hell of a lot tougher, dirtier and cooler than I do):

2. Spray-on abs: Next time, they’re happening.

3. It was a lot of fun.

Check out the August issue of E’lite Magazine and the Blanchardacus piece here.

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