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IN MY ELEMENT: INTERVIEW WITH CAMILLE SANTIAGO

With spring in full bloom we’re delighted and completely content to spend our morning soaking up the sun while sipping on our daily dose of fuel, otherwise known as coffee. Thoughts rustle through our mind as we try to find some clarity within what’s nearly the end of another year. There’s nothing that inspires a heavy dose of motivation quite like surrounding yourself with passionate and talented creatives. Here at Element Eden we encourage the desire to create and inspire, and we’re so lucky to be involved with some very creative women who are living out their dream, simply by pursuing what they love doing.

This brings the introduction to one very cute human, 23 year old shutterbug Camille Santiago. This talented photographer & videographer has the world at her feet, directing a whole lot of love for photography through a camera lens.

Her heart full with a life worth living, this passionate beauty may be tiny… but her little body holds a huge heart. Over the last year Camille has been training hard to prepare herself for WWF’s Trek For Orangutans in Borneo. Before heading off on her big adventure she curated an art exhibition ‘Jungle Heart’ to raise money for this amazing organisation. We spent a lovely afternoon chatting and getting to know her a little more while simultaneously being in complete adoration of her ever growing plant collection, it could turn anyone a brighter shade of green.

Be sure to check out more from this cute little lady at blog.camillenathania.com

Words & photographs by Mia Parcell

Getting to know Camille a little more...

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start?

I am a (soon-to-be-24-year-old) photographer, videographer and graphic designer. I was born in The Philippines, moved to New Zealand at the age of 6, then moved to Australia at the age of 10. I am passionate, driven and extremely empathetic, so I’m always trying to help someone or something. I am introverted—not in the sense that I am shy or socially awkward, but in the sense that I do a lot of inward thinking, and I think that clearly has an influence on my artistic style. By day, I am a designer at Brisbane creative agency Flip, but by night and on weekends I am a freelance photographer & videographer.

Like a lot of kids, I had a deep interest in art, always playing with paints, drawing, making dioramas. I thought I wanted to have a career in traditional fine art, but I quickly realised my heart just wasn’t into painting to make a living. Then one day when I was almost 13, I picked up a camera and I’ve never put it down since.

2. Recently you curated an exhibition called Jungle Heart, raising funds for WWF before heading off to Borneo to Trek for Orangutans. Can you tell us about that and your experience?

Yes! Over the last year, I trained and fundraised for WWF’s Trek For Orangutans. Our tour group raised a minimum of $3,000AUD each before going to Borneo, the home of endangered species such as the orang-utan, for 10 days.

I had the idea for Jungle Heart the moment I signed up for the trip: doing something meaningful with my creativity is really important to me, and it just made sense to organise a fundraising exhibition with some of the most talented artists I know. Curating an exhibition all by myself was chaotic, but so much fun—I’m definitely doing it again.

My experience in Borneo was, in a word, amazing. Most of the places we visited are so remote they aren’t even marked on a map, and some of these had never previously been seen by any other foreigners. It was grand, to truly get back to nature and be in this ancient place approximately 140 million years old. I’ve written a collection of blog posts about it for anyone who is interested in seeing the photos and reading more.

3. What sparked your interest in photography?

I’m not sure what exactly pulled me in that direction, but I guess when I got tired of drawing and painting I wanted to try my hand at other forms of art. I started playing around with a very simple point-and-shoot in my spare time, taking photos of everything: plants, roads, people, whatever I felt like, and soon became obsessed.

My mother was into photography long before me, always taking our photos on her Nikon (and of course back then it was all film). She was the one who explained all the technical aspects of photography and cameras to me (so perhaps she’s to blame for all this!), but she insists the creative aspect of my shooting has always been mine.

I was also really active over on deviantART then, and all the other artists in that community inspired me and showed me that I really could make something out of being a creative person.

4. Can you tell us about your simple life pleasures and how you spend your ‘me time’?

Everything I do as a creative person is so deeply intertwined with the rest of who I am that most of what I do in my “me time” is technically also what I’m doing for “work” (not that it ever feels like a job!).

Apart from having my camera pressed to my face, I enjoy a lot of yoga; time in the garden; small trips to Maleny or Byron Bay; spending time with my partner Martin and my family. I love mornings where I have time to make myself a coffee, catch up on my favourite creatives’ blogs and read inspiring, thought-provoking magazines.

I also love going to exhibitions and small local events on a regular basis: it’s great to see our city thriving and growing creatively but still maintaining this sense of “intimacy”. I always know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

5. If you could leave at the drop of a hat to travel anywhere, where would it be?

My next big destinations are Canada and Europe—I’ve had a fascination with snow-capped mountains and alpine landscapes for as long as I can remember.

6. Where do you regularly turn to for creative inspiration?

I don’t ever really feel as if the tap stops dripping, but when it comes to being a graphic designer I have to be a little more methodical so I will often head to websites like Behance or look at the websites of agencies and creatives I know of to get a better feel for something I’m working on.

Regular visits to exhibitions, creative conferences and art galleries are really good for you, not to mention reading design/art magazines and books. Having a good network of creative friends is also extremely important for creative growth: I am always inspired and motivated by what other creatives out there are doing. The amount of talent in Australia is crazy, and I’m really proud to be one very tiny part of that.

7. When do you feel ‘In Your Element’?

Whenever I’m at home, amongst my family of foliage with the windows open wide, taking time to savour a coffee, notebook and pen in hand, writing down all my ideas. Being outside is also a necessity for me; I always feel recharged spending a few active hours outside, be it walking through markets or small suburban boutiques, running by the bay or hiking Mt. Coot-Tha.

8. What are you looking forward to and what’s your next big project?

I’m really excited to use the momentum from what’s been a packed, yet exhilarating 2014 and move ahead with things I’ve been putting on the back-burner! I won’t have any new projects ’til 2015, but the next big thing will be photographing the Typism Creative Conference for the second time in a row, and definitely doing more collaborations and shoots with creatives I admire. I’m also hoping to run photography workshops next year!

9. What type of environment do you need to create your work and get in the right mind frame?

I always, always need an uncluttered working space to do anything productive. When the space I’m in isn’t tidy, my mind isn’t focused and goes elsewhere. Usually if my desk is untidy it’s a direct reflection of my state of mind, so the act of tidying it helps me get in the zone—it’s as if I’ve tidied up my mental space.

Lots of plants, a little bit of music and a lot of natural light are must-haves: I’m really lucky to have a home and office space that has plenty of light from tall windows, and we definitely aren’t short on plants, so I never feel frustrated with my environment!

10. What is your ideal way to spend time over a 24-hour period?

I wake up at 5:30am, go to yoga or go for a walk by the bay (both of which are a three minute drive from my house: I’m extremely lucky). I come home and make time for coffee in the sun right by my window; I’ll edit photos, write blog posts about life, unpublished projects or things to come, then take a few hours off in the afternoon to spend time in the garden, with my guitar or with my partner and my family.

I’ll daydream about projects I want to take on one day and all the things I can do right now to make them happen; I’m constantly dreaming and planning and doing. Maybe I’ll watch a movie on the couch or get lost within the pages of a fantasy book before doing a few more hours of work and ending the night with pistachio gelato for dessert (my favourite).

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I hope to have added a few more countries to my “been to” list; curated a couple more exhibitions (and participated in plenty of others); produced plenty more videos in collaboration with other creatives and photographed plenty more portraiture to boot; and finally, I hope to have spent at least half a year living and working abroad.

12. What’s your guilty pleasure?

All I can say is, keep me away from garden stores.