Gayla Partridge is the creative maven behind 666 Photography. Her stunning imagery, innovation and impeccable vintage/retro style tantalize and ignite the imagination and warm the soul. Along with her team she creates old school theatre style sets to help bring her clients’ dreams to life—their props are handmade and backdrops hand-painted. 666 pride themselves in declaring “There is no concept that you can throw at 666 that we can’t create.”
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am 37 years old. I’ve lived in Austin, Texas for 19 years. I live with four cats and an amazing man.
I’ve read in a previous interview that you originally went to university planning to become a lawyer but switched your major to art in your sophomore year, what inspired that change?
Really my decision was a sign of my age and lack of discipline. I should have become a lawyer, but art came so easy for me and I was young, hence the decision to change my major.
Do you think having formal training is important to what you do?
It actually has been a benefit. In college, most of the classes I took were in traditional figurative painting. Having a solid understanding of the human form and how best to display it comes in handy in almost every shoot. When I see work that is technically good, but seems to lack the understanding of the best way to display the human form, I am grateful for my formal training.
I understand that after study you got a job in the corporate world, how did that experience help you when starting your 666?
Straight out of college I got a job in the corporate world for a large telecommunications company. I still work there as a financial analyst. It allows me complete freedom in my work with 666, and while it would be great to do 666 as my only job, I don’t struggle like many other artists and don’t take jobs I don’t enjoy. There is a benefit to that, in that I will never burn out from taking photos.
Is 666 Photography a fulltime gig for you now?
No. I work my day job full time, and 666 fulltime. It is hard, but very worth it.
Where does your love of retro/vintage photographs and aesthetics come from? Is it something you’ve always had an interest in?
My parents were antique collectors when I was growing up so I was always at auctions and galleries. It has always been a part of my life. My first purchase in my life was a 1920’s armoire that I still own. I was 13 when i bought it with babysitting money.
What is your favourite part of the process in regards to the images/art that you create?
Building the sets and sewing the costumes is my favourite part. Strangely, the photo taking is my least favourite.
Do you listen to music while you work? What could I find in your CD player/on your iPod?
I have a schizophrenic iPod collection. Although mostly I listen to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. I have an embarrassing love of bad pop music and 80s classics.
I know that you hand make most of the props used for your shoots – from Giant Marie Antoinette hairpieces (pictured above) to tropical backdrops and more – which is your favourite thing you have created so far?
It’s hard to choose a favourite. The 6 foot mushroom was fun. Making wigs is also a favourite—the bigger the better!
What has been the most challenging concept for a shoot that’s been thrown at 666?
We just shot a turn of the century butcher shop concept that required us to purchase and wrangle six real pig heads and a 150 pound pig carcass. That was challenging, and a little gross.
You get everyone from burlesque stars to moms through your doors at 666 Photography, can you tell me about one of the most interesting people that have walked through your doors?
All of our clients have something really awesome about them. That’s a large part of why we still take private clients. We make great friends and meet women from all walks of life.
In an interview you were commenting on your photography beginnings and you mentioned that “I took a lot of photography, but it didn’t speak to me on its own” – I wanted to ask if your feelings about that have changed now after doing it for so long? Does it speak to you on its own now days?
It does, but the creating of the sets and costumes and concepts on a whole still speak to me more than the photography. I think it will always be that way. Photography is really just the act of documenting all the other stuff we have done (sets, painting, sewing designing, etc). It allows me to capture what we have created in my own way, but is not the major motivation for me.
Your book 666 Photography: Of Virgin Queens and High Camp Divas was released a little over a year ago, how do you feel about it? What does it mean to you?
It is still thrilling. Walking into a bookstore randomly and seeing it face out makes me smile. Getting photos from fans across the world with iPhone pics of our book in a bookshop somewhere is still so amazing!
What projects are you currently working on?
We have booked 51 girls to shoot the remainder of the year, so we are super busy shooting private clients.
And lastly, I’ve read that you have a ‘studio cat’…I’m a huge animal lover myself, can you tell me a little bit about them.
Our studio cat disappeared when we were renovating the studio. We had had Luke for about 6 years, but he was definitely feral. It was sad, but typical on the east side of Austin. I have 4 cats at home though who make me laugh daily.
Believe in magic!