Dave Kai Piper considers the pros and cons of an online presence for creatives, and talks to Russ Freeman of PurplePort about managing a digital community.


‘I Believe I Can Fly’ by Sleepyrobot Photography. Model: Kseniya

The technical side of photography is not the only thing affected by the rapid movement of the digital age, as where and how we source our models has changed too. Increasingly, we are spending more time online to communicate, network and share our work. Over the years I have been active on many image-based websites, all with the aim to network, source models and grow my business.

Many people are aware of Flickr, 500px, Behance and DeviantArt. Using the internet to showcase and network is a fundamental part of photography, and sites like Model Mayhem and Purestorm have become a vital part of many photographers’ daily routines. Now we have PurplePort, an online platform that allows photographers and models to connect and collaborate. Just as people check their Twitter and Facebook feeds, photographers and models are checking PurplePort messages.

As new social media sites appear, I tend to join them. They are either free or very low cost with the options of upgrading, and you never know where the next big social push is going to be. I enjoyed my free account at PurplePort, but never got into the deeper use of the platform – such as involvement in the forums or community sides of the site. I was basically a light user who dipped in now and then to say ‘Hi’ and contact a model I couldn’t find on Facebook when casting outside of agents.


Image by Dave Kai Piper. Model: Peliroja

Online communities

I am sure that I am not alone when I say I have been somewhat wary of joining online communities, especially photography-related ones. ‘Trolling’ is a nasty buzzword these days, and it only takes a second to see the damage that can occur online. Why do I want my images online where people can comment and mock me? After a while, I deleted my account. I didn’t want to be judged or start judging others.

As a professional photographer, my main concern was the happiness of my clients. I didn’t want to read that someone online thought my photo was wrongly cropped. There is something in the back of my head that just does not sit well in this era of the keyboard warrior and the lack of transparency that online communities breed.


Below: ‘Play Me a Tune’ by John Snapaway. Model: Peter Maverick

Models and photographers set up accounts in fake names and enjoy as much anonymity as they like, for both good and bad. After all, this is the internet, and you can be anything you want online. I think it would be safe to say that overall, online modelling and photography sites don’t have the friendliest reputation for newbie photographers as a safe haven to mature and grow.

Personally, I have had both good and bad moments dealing with the online communities. My account was just sitting there unloved and my images getting zero attention. It seemed like the forums were full of people moaning and fighting. A community of young girls and photographers is always going to be fraught with problems – the mix of hairspray and egos can quickly create a toxic environment if left unattended and unchecked.


‘Stun in the Sun’ by Alan Williams. Model: Suzie Da

Recently I came back to Purple Port. I decided to take a proper look into the community and invest some time into understanding and trying to see if I was missing anything. The site was growing and growing. It all came to a head when a model asked me for my ‘PP’ account; she was shocked when I said I didn’t have one and she questioned if I was a photographer or not. I simply suggested she look at my website. I still did not get a premium account (which gives you more access to statistics and lets you upload more images).

Over a few days I had someone guide me through the do’s and don’ts of PurplePort: how to get the best out of it and how I could benefit from it. As a result, I quickly came to the conclusion that since my first time on the site, I had been doing it all wrong. The first thing I had to understand is that PurplePort is not a place to make money, unless you are a model. On PurplePort money flows one way: photographer to model. If you’re a photographer looking for work you are in the wrong place, and if you are a photographer looking to feed your ego you’re going to have a hard time on the site. However, PurplePort works where other networking sites fail; when you lower your guard and participate in the forums, you can get much more out of the site.


‘Lost Thoughts’ by Paul Reidy. Model: Lulu Lockhart

It seems many of my first conclusions about PurplePort were pre-judgmental views and in some cases wrong. Overall, the community is a vibrant one where you can ask open questions, and get constructive advice – as well as give it.

For the models this is very useful and can be vital in terms of safety, while checks are in place to keep the intended tone and nature of the site. Overall, my view is this: with social networking and particularly on PurplePort, you will get out exactly what you put in.


Over the page, Dave talks to Purpleport’s founder Russ Freeman…

  1. 1. Online communities
  2. 2. Behind the site: Interview with founder Russ Freeman
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  • Craig Bradshaw

    Have been banned from this site twice (never in my life from the other 30 plus forums I dip in and out of) as others have said, if you go against the grain the your out, there is a group who will atack you like pack animals, at the end of the day this is a place for blokes to pay models to get their kit off in the name of art.

    It’s a place for part time hobby photographers, and models, if your a professional photographer your in the wrong place, and will be told so pretty quickly.

  • markinsheen

    I am on PP, and no doubt PP will be wondering if they can link this comment to my membership. As a marketplace it works fine, and like most marketplaces is really just a shell which works because of its participants. The concept is simple and works but isn’t exactly a Nobel Prize Winning design. Even the name is born of a time when fruits and colours were trendy.

    The forums are another matter. They are moderated a la The Guardian or the National Union of Students. Forget that members are paying customers or even adults, the slightest deviation from a somewhat arbitary defintion of acceptability results in suspension. Ask what rule has been transgressed and it is met with silence or irritation. The mantra seems to be ‘follow the rules, but don’t ask for a copy of them’. The urge to make everything ‘nice’ has resulted in a tyranny.

    You realise that to ‘artistes’ critique really means saying something positive, not just constructive or even, heaven forbid, negative, lest you offend someone’s delicate sensibilities.

    I wouldn’t recommend them, and already have a presence on other portals.

    The message to PP is not to start believing yourself morally superior or
    beyond challenge, as Facebook and Twitter have. Remember you have
    paying customers who have a choice and as with many organisations simply
    walk away.