In October of last year I attended an amazing 3 day artists retreat in the breathtaking and remote Maui, Hawaii, hosted by renowned American artist Brooke Shaden. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. Little did I know that this opportunity of a lifetime would open up another, even more impressive opportunity of a lifetime.
Rita Hannus Edlein along with her daughter Sheila Hannus were among the 20 or so photographers and models from all over the world that I was blessed to have met and created with. I can only imagine that the Maui photography retreat left Rita inspired, determined, generous and hungry for more creativity as within three months of returning home, Rita had lavishly opened the doors to her 56 acre vacation estate in the mountains of Hillsville Virginia to her new found friends having only spent 3 days with us. More than just inviting us to come stay when we fancied, Rita decided she would run a 9 day photography retreat in June at her vacation estate where we could all stay and collaborate with eachother in a pristine and inspiring location.. COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE.
Of course despite America being in the opposite direction to our desired location (Africa), we had to go.
Rita’s invitation alone is unbelievable, and a beautiful example of human kindness and desire for connection with others. What is even more unbelievable is the extent to which Rita has organised the retreat. Posting photos, videos, and updates on the Facebook group she set up for us, Rita has organised 9 models from all over the states to come and model for us, one videographer to capture the retreat, shooting access to a number of fantastic locations including a famous murder house from the early 1900’s, a 1950’s train carriage diner still in operation, a historic courthouse and library, and of course her 56 acres of land. Rita’s also providing a large number of antique ‘props’ including a working 1930’s Model-T Ford, a 1950’s Chevvy, antique wheel chair, birdcage, red seatee, and around 40 vintage dresses just to name a few. Rita has organised groundskeepers to prepare for our arrival, a housemaid to prepare us breakfast every morning, a private cottage for Oscar and I to stay in, fully stocked kitchens in all 3 cottages, vehicles to use for day trips, an outdoor movie and bonfire evening, underwater camera housing, and an internet card in each of the cottages.
I feel like the universe is truly looking out for me when opportunities like this present themselves and all I can wish for is that I utilise and appreciate every moment of it, make lifelong friends along the way, and one day pay it forward.
Oscar and I will be in Hillsville, Virginia from June 20th-26th and I look forward to sharing my experiences and photography with you during this time.