Kyle Meets… Richard Cameron in his alluring and body positive “BearHotel”

In recent years, it seems that one cannot scroll through the internet without seeing the words “body positivity”. It’s a movement sparked by the unrealistic standards placed on bodies in the media, and the undeniable fact that larger bodies are rarely – if ever – celebrated as beautiful and deserving of the same attention that smaller bodies get. It’s a movement that attempts to teach us to love the skin we’re in, no matter how fat, skinny, tall, short or hairy we may be. Out of these types of  movements inevitably comes the desire for artists to create projects that comment on these themes, further pushing the envelope and challenging standards that seem reductive and outdated. 

Two years ago, I met London-based photographer, blogger, and “Face Of Britain” Richard Cameron, whose photo project BearHotel caught my eye. It caught my eye because, unlike many of the photo projects I’ve seen that attempted to tackle the subject of body positivity, BearHotel seemed completely unpretentious and contrived, allowing men’s bodies to be showcased in a way that comments on the particular social issue at hand, but still allows them to be presented as desirable, sexy beings. It so impeccably straddles this line between art and curiosa, inviting the viewer to be both art consumer and voyeur. I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. 

I recently got in touch with Rich again to talk more about BearHotel and to discuss his reasons for creating the project. 

KJ: Hi Rich! How are you?

RC: Hi Kyle, I’m doing alright. How about you?

KJ: I’m great! You know, we’ve met previously and spoken to each other quite a bit, but I still don’t really know a lot about where you’re from. Where are you from originally? How long have you been living and working in London?

RC: I always say I was born in the middle of nowhere in the North Yorkshire countryside but I was forged in London when I moved here in 1994.  It was like my life rebooted when I got here. I’ve just celebrated my 25th anniversary, champagne was drunk!

KJ: You have such an amazing eye. How did you get started in photography? Did you study it?

RC: I’m mainly self taught, I’ve done a couple of basic weekend courses, read lots of books, and go to as many photographic exhibitions as I can. I don’t think technically my photos are that perfect but I do have a good eye for a great shot which goes a long way.

I took up photography as a hobby as I’d been working really hard on my career – at the expense of other hobbies – and I wanted a creative outlet. I eBayed my entire childhood Star Wars toys collection to buy my first SLR. Well , everyone except Chewbacca, he was always my favourite!

KJ: I was very delighted to be a part of your amazing project BearHotel. Can you explain what BearHotel is for anyone who may not know, and how you came up with the concept?

RC: BearHotel is a photographic project celebrating the beauty of regular, interesting guys. The concept is that it’s this big mythical hotel with a handsome man in every room relaxing in his underwear – or less! There’s bears, cubs, chasers, musclebulls, otters, chubs, twinks, daddies, etc. There really is someone for everyone, I think! When a guy checks-in he’s assigned a room number and competes a little hotel-based questionnaire that’s supposed to be fun but that some people take deadly seriously!

I really like the fact that the project is a collaboration between myself and the model, I give them some of the creative control and let them choose the final images we use as I want them to feel really happy with the results.  The project has just had it’s second birthday, the amazing artist Randomagus ( remixed some of my images as a celebration.  I hope to do more collaborations with artists in the future.

I started taking photos of my friends years ago but they were all shy guys who didn’t want their nudes on the internet – I decided if I wanted to get my photos out there into the world I’d have to find some more confident guys!  My friends are all different types so the only similarity was they were mostly taken in hotel rooms – and that was what inspired me.

Rather trying to make a hotel room look like a photographic studio I could celebrate the environment for what it is. Hotels have always excited me – they are the scene of romantic affairs, illicit encounters, anonymous hook-ups and I wanted to capture some of that sexual energy!   

KJ: In the age of body positivity, a project like Bear Hotel, which showcases beautiful men of all different types, sizes, ages, and races is absolutely necessary and empowering. Has anyone ever come to you to tell you what a positive impact this project has had on them?

RC: I think lots of guys have found the whole experience empowering and feel quite liberated by it – and on the whole they love the photos. I really do my best to make them look amazing. 

A few models had reached a significant birthday and decided it was now or never for them to do something wild and crazy! I also know a few of the guys have gone on to do more modelling work on the back of it too. I really try to make it a nice fun experience, we’re collaborating together to create something sexy and beautiful.

KJ: It was definitely a liberating experience for me. How has the project impacted you? Have you noticed any significant growth or change in the way you view people, your work, society, etc.?

RC: Well I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my work. I had to revisit some of the early shoots when I had to move from the project’s original home on Tumblr to my own site when tumblr banned nudity, and I was a bit embarrassed about some of the older shots! I think what I’ve learnt the most is that everyone has something attractive about them, it’s just a case of finding it.

KJ: I notice that you are currently on Room 172, which is amazing and extremely impressive. How far do you plan to take the project? Is there a predetermined cut off number, or do you plan to take it as far as it can go?

RC: Well I have now realised if it was a real hotel it’s got very large floors of 99 rooms! It’s a mega hotel! I did consider pulling the plug at one hundred but I got a sudden influx of interest and got to 104… my OCD wouldn’t allow me to stop there. I’ll call it a day when it stops being enjoyable or I’ve finally shot everyone who’s interested in doing it! Maybe less intensively than I’ve been doing it but it’s too much fun to stop. It’s the perfect hobby – handsome men come to my room and take their clothes off!

KJ: As I mentioned before, we are in the age of body and sex positivity. Do you believe your work appropriately relates to the current sociopolitical landscape? Do you feel that, because of your work, you are considered a sociopolitical activist?

RC: Well, I’m really not Greta Thunberg! I think it’s somewhat grandiose to call oneself an activist – all I’m really just doing a fun thing in the most ethical way I can do it. I do think body positivity and diversity are really important so I’m doing my bit to push those concepts.

I think it’s really sad that all the guys in porn and even some other male nudity projects look the same. Why shouldn’t a handsome guy in a wheelchair get naked? Why is there one token black guy for every twenty white guys? Why do you have to be under 40 to be considered hot? Where the hell are the Asian guys? I don’t understand any of these things! 

KJ: Along with being a photographer, you’re also a model yourself. You were recently featured as the face of the Portrait of Britain 2018. How did this come about? Can you tell us a little bit more about the project?

RC: The Portrait of Britain is an amazing concept – it was created as an antidote to Brexit. Trying to show that we’re not just some small-minded xenophobic island but a collection of brilliant peculiar beautiful diverse peoples.  A great up-and-coming photographer called Gavin Li – he’s going to be huge I think, check him out on – he asked if he could take my portrait. When I agreed to him entering it into the Portrait of Britain competition I had no way of predicting they’d use it on the cover of the accompanying book, and on the front of the magazine that sponsors the competition, or on their press releases to the media! 

There’s a new edition coming out later this Summer so my rule as “The Face of Britain” – my own entirely made-up title – is coming to an end. I’m not sure I’d say I was much of a model- just an exhibitionist with access to a tripod. It’s a dangerous combination!

Image by Gavin Li
KJ: What other projects have you done or do you have planned?

RC: I’m formulating something new at the moment, but I’m having trouble finding the killer hook to make it different to what’s out there already. I’d like it to be a bit more free-form than BearHotel, less conceptual. I’m thinking it may even contain elements of collage! Watch this space.

KJ: Where can people see more of your work? Social media, websites, etc.

RC: I’m all over the internet (smile). The project’s home is on, with selections on and extra material on

On Twitter I’m @RichAtBearHotel and my personal Instagram is @bellylad_insta. Feel free to follow me – and I’m always looking for interesting guys to volunteer to have their portraits taken so please get in touch if you folks are intrigued or want to know more!  You don’t even have to have a beard, although it does really help!

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Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.