Evolution of a Subculture: spcOnline

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I really meant to write a long, wordy treatise on the legacy of the SPC website during what would have been it’s 20th anniversary; but as always I’m getting to it a little late. Time has erased when our original launch date was but if my admittedly flawed memory is correct I think it was somewhere in September of 1995 that I first started sharing my archives via the members.aol.com space that came free with my AOL account. The original photos that went online were aggregates from several sources; photos I had taken, photos I had inherited from my mentor Jack Yount and images I had traded with other members of the offline body modification community who didn’t have access to a scanner or outlet to post them so I put them under a blanket name to simplify things- from Shawn Porter’s Collection. It seemed the best way to tie everything up in the days before promotion and branding were necessary- in 1995 there was BME and tattoos.com so if you were looking for body modification content it was easy enough to find. Worried that it would seem too much like a monument to ego, I shortened it to SPC Online (which went through different iterations; spc, spcOnline, spcO) and kept the name until we finally went offline in 2005.

Despite the boundary pushing nature of our content, AOL never had a problem with what I published and I kept things on their server until a photo adult performer Nina Hartley and I on my person blog (we didn’t call them blogs then) got me shut down. 20 years later I still appreciate the irony that America Online had no problem with voluntary amputation but female toplessness was a no-go. When we went dark due to the  terms of service violation BME’s Shannon Larratt offered unlimited storage space and bandwidth with no content restrictions; the spcO remained on BME’s servers for the next ten years. Like Sacred Debris, our primary focus was history but we also branched out into more recent modification culture with convention coverage, chat rooms and personals and profiles of contemporary piercers and tattooists. Never the biggest (the BME juggernaut was impossible to compete with) we managed to stay true to the mission of documenting body modification culture from ritual, sexual, aesthetic and extreme with content that often wasn’t available elsewhere. Our archives were responsible for seeding the original incarnation of BME/Extreme, which opened the floodgates of what was then a very closed community of surgical body modification devotees. encouraging them to send in photos of their own modifications and ultimately influencing Shannon and I to create the ModCon events.

I am reminded of how very, very, VERY different my life (and by extension, BME, and by extension of that, a lot of other people’s lives as well) would be if I hadn’t met Shawn at exactly the right moment … If I’d met him earlier or later it wouldn’t have been even remotely the same — it had to be that moment for all the pieces to fit. I am proud to have been a catalyst for change and growth in a lot of people’s lives, but in this case, it was Shawn that was the catalyst in my life. On one hand it’s amazing how life-changing sequences birth from chance and coincidence, and on the other hand, duh, what else would genesis be? ~ Shannon Larratt September 1st 2012

 

In 2005, a decade after the initial launch of the site, BME’s server suffered a major crash and the majority of the spcO directory was lost; my backups were sloppy and incomplete and, partially motivated by the work I was putting into the SCARWARS events/blog I decided to not recover the site, ending it’s run with gratitude for everyone who had viewed the site and participated in it’s ten year tenure.

In late 2013 I discovered a cd-rom of old spcO images and began posting them on my personal facebook page. The flood of nostalgia encouraged me to reconnect with some old friends, rescan old images (spcO’s average image size was 640×40 at a 72dpi resolution) and start talking to trusted confidants about maybe resurrecting SPC as a blog. Ultimately I decided to go further back than spc, back to my old print/glue/staple body modification zine Sacred Debris, but without spc and it’s legacy I doubt any of this would have happened.

So happy 20th anniversary to the Shawn Porter Collection (online). It was a lot of fun and certainly helped shaped my 20s.

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Shawn Porter has spent the majority of his life in the modification world. As a body modification archivist and documentarian, he has one of the most extensive collections of documents relating to the early American body modification community in existence. He edited the SPC website from 1995 to 2005, co-founded ModCon, was the host of ModCons 3.5 and 4, and created and hosted The Scarwars Project from 2004-2007. In 2011 Shawn launched Occult Vibrations, a blog devoted to traditional American tattoos with a focus on the occult and esoteric. He currently resides in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and their creepy pets Mr. Bailey Papers and L. RonBenet Ramsey.

6 comments

    1. It was such a major part of my life for a decade; especially considering the name it was kind of hard to separate myself from the site when it was all over. But I’d rather be just one voice in the choir instead of the lead; my dream is to be a contributor to SD and not the editor and only writer- that’s what happened with SPC and the burnout is pretty intense.

  1. Spc was one of my first memories of body modification online and no doubt one that helped foster and grow my interest into what it is today. Thanks so much for everything you’ve done!

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