By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador
Camille Porthouse was last interviewed for WorkStory in 2014 at the beginning of her career as an Alternative Photographer. While she initially took photos for the music industry, a “Zombie Walk” ironically brought her passion to life. From there, Camille Porthouse Photography focused on the darker, more twisted things in life. It has since been rebranded as Fairy Goth Mother Studios in order to reflect Camille’s mission: “to help people be themselves and learn that you can find empowerment in letting your freak flag fly”.
Camille’s metamorphosis into “The Fairy Goth Mother” took a year to complete and she explained how something negative turned into something positive along the way: “I decided to re-brand in early 2016 after a year-long hiatus. I wasn’t in a great place emotionally in 2015, and I felt unable to channel it into my art so I took a break. When I started to find myself and live more, I felt my passion coming back, and sat down to evaluate what this company is to me. I came upon the name Fairy Goth Mother Studios when I thought about the models I worked with that loved the alternative industry but didn’t fit into it. I worked to transform them … and thus acted like a fairy god mother of sorts-- just darker, of course…. At this point, I finally feel like my art can help people embrace their bodies, their sexuality, their inner weirdo, and see media and pop culture as a usable platform and not just some ‘body shaming industry’”.
When asked about what remained the same as the company changed, Camille replied: “My pre-shoot nerves are always tried and true. I have this moment the day of a shoot where I think to myself, ‘Oh my gosh! What have I gotten myself into?’ It doesn’t matter how long I have been preparing, I always have a huge inner panic”.
Fairy Goth Mother Studios is actually located inside Camille’s home, which helps relieve some of the stress for her and the models. Before each session, Camille gets to know her client(s) and they plan their photoshoot together over a few drinks: “I like to really know the person modelling for me. It helps me pull out the emotion I am hoping to capture. I recently bought a townhouse and chose to convert the basement into a studio. This is why we can have casual beers and hang out. I have started to furnish my home with shooting in mind. I added a fireplace in my bedroom and a lovely canopy over my bed. I even [positioned] it so it would get the best natural light for Boudoir sessions. What can I say? I love this career.”
In November 2016, Camille displayed her work at RAW, a Kitchener-Waterloo based art show. In the days that followed, she was then approached to have her work on display in another Kitchener gallery. When she asked the curators what type of art they were looking for, they responded, “The weirder, the better!” and Camille is up for the challenge! In the past, Camille has described her work as “risqué” and originally didn’t see herself as an artist. Today she accepts her artistry and stresses that “it is so much more than a half-naked girl in a weird pose”.
“I started out not wanting to think of myself as an artist. I shot the things people wanted me to do and acted like photography was just a chill side-job…. I downplayed what I loved the most and in turn I doubted myself…. Over the last year I have really embraced what my art is. It’s a part of who I am [and] it’s how I view aspects of society… I always felt that everyone has a little hidden side to them, a side that they don’t show off to the rest of society because it isn’t appropriate or the social norm…. My work is risqué and provocative to some, but as I have grown as an artist I see the human body as something completely different than what some take at face value….”
Seeing the body differently may also be due to do with the fact that Camille works 6 days a week in the medical field as well! “I absolutely adore human anatomy, biomechanics, blood, gore, emergencies etc. so a career in the healthcare industry is a no-brainer! I am nerdy and logic-based and adore reading medical textbooks, but I also daydream about covering a model in cake and glitter.”
Before RAW, Camille had never been face-to-face with a critic, but she said overall the “response was amazing”. “I got to watch strangers look at my work for the first time. There were [some] that didn’t seem to enjoy my work, but … people wanted to know the inspiration behind my images! No one had ever asked me that before and I got to open up and discuss the different layers and how I integrated them into my work. I was told that my work was inspiring, that people could see how comfortable I am with myself from my work, that they hoped to push their personal boundaries with their work after seeing mine, and that I should absolutely refuse to ever censor [myself]! I could have cried! I never thought that anyone would feel that way about my work. It made me realize just what kind of impact I can have on people and that makes me want to do more and make people celebrate their oddities and just be free.” Camille Porthouse said that her goal as The Fairy Goth Mother in 2017 is to “push more boundaries, meet more people, and make them loosen up!” She will probably also cover models in cake and glitter.