By Alan Prendergast
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"It sucked, but I made the most of it," he says. "I worked in the library and learned all I could about photography and computers and the Internet -- all the nerd books." Though sentenced to sixteen years for bouncing about $16,000 worth of checks, Grady was paroled to a halfway house in late 1994. Soon he gravitated back to what he knew, finding work at a photo-developing lab.
But while Grady was in prison, the entire landscape of photography had been revolutionized by the Internet. Pictures of girls -- especially naked girls -- were a hot commodity. Revealing photos were in demand, and Grady had plenty of them.
"Everyone wanted content," Grady explains. "One site would have 50,000 images, so the next one had to boast of having 60,000. I had tens of thousands of slides, and I just started scanning them and licensing them out." He'd sell them for $2 to $3 each and send out thousands at a time, most of them soft-core shots.
During the day, he continued working at the photo lab. He soon noticed that the adult Web sites he was selling pictures to often took their own photos but then sent the rolls out to get developed -- thousands and thousands of rolls of film. Grady thought he could do it better and cheaper, and he jumped into the market.
Within a month, the small photo shop where he worked was getting more soft-core film than it could develop. "Our machine could handle about four rolls an hour, and we were receiving hundreds per week," Grady recalls.
By the fall of 1996, Grady had started shooting nudie pics again, out of homes and hotel rooms. It was a profitable enterprise. Eager Webmasters would pay Grady $1,500 for ten striptease scenes -- about sixty pictures each. Grady would pay the young women $50 an hour for their time for soft-core, $65 an hour if they spread their legs. He developed the rolls himself, and the rest was profit.
Unfortunately, owning his own business -- and having company credit cards -- was not permitted under Grady's conditions of parole; after all, he hadn't proven trustworthy with cash before. When his parole officer found out that Grady was back in business for himself, his parole was revoked. In the spring of 1997, he went back to jail.
Again, however, Grady proved an easy prisoner, and he was out of lockup within the year. He returned to developing the massive amount of adult film demanded by the exploding Internet market, renting space at local labs and charging a markup to the adult Web sites. And with the help of an accountant friend, over the new few months Grady set up a business properly.
"At this point, I'm forty years old," he explains. "By then you want to own something. I'd tried over the years, and everything else had fallen apart. I wanted to get it right this time."
By the spring of 1999, Grady had his own place, a sprawling 4,000-square-foot studio on South Federal Boulevard in Sheridan that he filled with his own equipment. Advertising in newspapers for "Cute College Girls," he was inundated with would-be models. "I got dozens of calls per week," he remembers. "Many more than I could photograph. Basically, it rocked."
He was forced to hire full-time help just to operate his photo scanner, which ran from 7 a.m. until late into the night. His office became a regular stop on the local Airborne Express route. Although he still had a lot of debt from purchasing the expensive photo-developing machines, he was taking in about $35,000 a month.
It was the best he'd ever done, and with thousands of adult Web sites each promising hundreds of thousands of images, with weekly updates, the market for his product seemed endless.
The models knew exactly what they were getting into. Grady's contract spelled everything out in black and white. The work paid $50 an hour for a striptease sequence showing genitals, $75 an hour if a woman touched herself during the shots, $100 if she used a personal toy, and $125 if the model actually had sex in front of the camera with another man or woman. And once again, he had more women wanting to take off their clothes than he could use. After stripteases, he remembers, "Girls would ask me, 'Can I come back and do more?'"
Sure, it was pornography, but it was legal -- and, in its own way, ethical. "I never wanted to be in a position where I was asking the girls" to do more hardcore shots, Grady explains, "because they photograph better if they're doing what they want to do."
In the summer of 2000, Grady thought it was time to take his business to the next level. The Web sites he supplied were making tons of money from subscribers -- so why didn't he set up his own Web site? After all, he already had the photography and scanning equipment, not to mention a never-ending supply of models.
He knew he was getting into the game late. By then, established sites were boasting more than a million photos each, and Grady couldn't compete with that.