Lifestyle Workshops by Gillian Stevens
All photographs by Gillian Stevens and Emilie Anne Szabo

All photographs by Gillian Stevens and Emilie Anne Szabo

Storytelling is an imperative aspect of what we do as photographers, stylists, art directors, makers, and creatives. There is a purpose behind everything that we create, and a meaning that goes beyond just what we see on the surface.

Early in my career I began to recognize that photographs on their own held nothing of value, if there wasn’t a story behind them. I realized that to be a photographer required learning about being a storyteller. The storytelling component is an underlying theme in all our sessions. We will be partnering with some of our favorite small businesses and learning how to style and photograph products in a way that captures the essence of a brand through your own artistic lens.

In our first conversations about the workshop, it was clear that Emilie and myself had the same vision of creating a truly wonderful experience for everyone who attends. In fact, we designed it specifically for our attendees, putting together as many things as we could think of to immerse us in the kind of lifestyle that we want to portray; A lifestyle that is centered around community, creative thought and expression, and slow-living. Rather than teach about how we ourselves work, we wanted to create an atmosphere where our attendees can experience it for themselves.

I knew D’une le would be the perfect place for us. Michel and Sofie are incredibly thoughtful with every detail in their guesthouse. The beautifully curated rooms full of antique furniture, local-focused meals with wine pairings from surrounding regions, and personal hospitality are just a few of the reasons we knew wanted to partner with them. The French culture plays a significant role in our vision for this Spring, and where better to experience the slow living lifestyle, than at a beautiful country cottage nestled in the hills of France.

Above all, this workshop is about the community that is created. Our sessions are accessible to many different facets within the creative world with the hope that it will bring people from many different stages in their lives and careers. Lifestyle Workshop is meant to be a shared experience, where we can connect, inspire, and encourage each other. Spend evenings around the table with beautiful food and conversation, slow down, the way Europeans do so well, taking in each moment and enjoying every bit of the process.

Lifestyle Workshops happening this May will be a magical experience as we create images of beautiful scenes in the countryside of France. Together we will tell stories through our cameras, stories of Parisian ceramics, handmade linens, and foraged picnics. We will learn the processes and elements that go into storytelling and styling as we capture the essence of a brand. You will get to hear perspectives from and work alongside 2 different lifestyle photographers, Emilie Anne Szabo and Gillian Stevens. Everyone will leave the workshop with a portfolio of beautifully curated images that you will capture through this experience. 

Our days will be full, yet relaxed as we take in the full French experience. Between styling and shooting, we will forage for wild greenery and florals, graze on charcuterie as we picnic in the countryside, enjoy french meals handmade with local ingredients, and taste a variety of French wines paired with our candle-lit dinners. We will be residing in light-filled rooms which have been carefully curated by Michel and Sophie, the owners and designers of D’uneIle. This country hotel is located a couple hours outside of Paris, surrounded by acres of forests and fields in the heart of Le Perche, a French national park. 

Whether you are exploring lifestyle photography for the first time, or have a successful business as a photographer, we invite you to come! Our hope is that everyone will leave strengthened in their knowledge and skills in both styling and shooting, as well as having created new friendships on this journey.  

Farmhouse Living: Authentic. Hardworking. Warm. Intentional.
All Photographs by Clary Pfeiffer

All Photographs by Clary Pfeiffer

As I alluded in my editor’s letter, the creation of this issue has taught me so much about grace in my personal life’s behind the scenes - namely, as my husband and I have been working on building our own little homestead with a little farmhouse on a little land. Our pursuit of a simpler life is something we both knew we wanted early in our relationship.

The dream was for an escape outside the city to raise our children in the kind of childhood where they must be rinsed with hose water before coming inside after a day of playing. We dreamed of a few small animals, a garden and a slower pace. What we wanted wasn’t more, but less.

Whenever I teach artists and creatives about creating authentic work, I always start by asking, “How do you want to feel?” We did the same for creating our home, being conscious of how we wanted to feel when we pull up from a long day of work, how we wanted to feel in each room, how we wanted our children to feel, how we wanted guests to feel.

Ironically enough, Clary Pfeiffer and her husband had a similar idea when creating their home (as you will see below). When searching for home inspiration based on how we wanted our home to feel, images of Clary’s home would recurrently appear. Once I realized it was her home, as we have featured Clary’s beautiful work on the Cottage Hill blog, I had to ask her about her process and share her beautiful home’s story with you!

CH: What made you and your family decide to build your home?

CP: My husband and I both have demanding careers with travel and long hours. We knew finding a way to introduce peace and simplicity was important in our home. Farmhouses are simple in themselves, but a huge desire of ours is to drive out of the city, which we love, to wide open spaces and tree-lined roads, instantly transporting us into a slower life.

Building a home is so stressful, but knowing there is a really good ending is helpful. All of the fruits of your labor really do come together at the end.

The story of how we decided on a farmhouse is long, so I will attempt to keep it short. We drove past this 150-year-old farmhouse for years growing up. Travis and I are high school sweethearts. We always loved the symmetry and simplicity of the white house with a gray roof. It looked perfectly in place between farm fields and hundred-year-old trees. This dream house ended up going on the market which made us start to think it could become a reality. But that is exactly what it was, a dream, since the price was so outrageous and it needed so much love and care. Two years went by, and the house finally dropped enough in price that we could purchase and spend money bringing it back to its glory.

It took six weeks to reach an agreement since the house was so old and it was sold through an estate. In the meantime, we put our house up for sale and sold it that weekend to an amazing family. We went to bed that night feeling like everything was working out. On Monday, our realtor contacted the seller to let them know a contract needed to be finalized. It was then we received the news that someone had come in that weekend with an offer the seller couldn’t refuse. We were heartbroken.

Our attachment to the old house we lost to another seller and the idea of retreating to such a peaceful place got us thinking we should build something similar on our own land.

CH: You mentioned to me before that you home came together rather untraditionally. What did you mean?

CP: Ha! It was definitely untraditional but in a really good way. When putting a home together, you come up with your style and purchase items, select paint, and design around that idea. Travis would say he’s a mix of industrial and traditional style while I love modern, French country, raw materials, linen, and neutrals. What we hoped looked eclectic when these two came together ended up looking like a mess.

Around this same time of losing the farmhouse I attended a studio session with Emily Newman and Joy Thigpen. They have this really beautiful advice of how to put together your style. This goes for everything from what you wear, eat, and the best, your home! What you do is write a list of all your favorite people and the characteristics you love about them. Then take a few minutes to circle the top connection you have to those characteristics. We both did this and together came up with a list - authentic, hardworking, warm, and intentional.

Pfeiffer Home - CH 08.jpg

Authentic. We wanted the house to have real materials - wood window and doors, marble countertops, and handmade items throughout. Our favorite element in the house is the artisan zellige tiles in our kitchen.

Hardworking. The finishes needed to be easy to clean; spaces need to be functional. We wanted what was utilitarian over what was trending. This helped when we decided about a powder room. Builders and house plans typically have a powder room, but this important quality we wanted in our house made us question the need. So, we took it out.

We wanted what was utilitarian over what was trending.

Warm. The house needed to be comfortable, open, and inviting. To offset the white and gray, we made sure to have warm elements of wood and a huge fireplace.

Intentional. Everything must have a place and purpose. When designing the kitchen, we created two rooms on each side for dish storage and pantry. It didn’t make sense to us to have the fridge separate from the rest of the pantry and having to open and close tons of cabinets for dishes.

CH: What was your greatest inspiration for your home?

CP: Our greatest inspiration is the land we built on. There is a breathtaking view of the sunrise and sunset, so we made sure to position the house with huge windows which turned into three French doors and two front doors, to make the most of this light.

CH: How do you want people to feel in your home?

CP: We want people to feel like it’s a place where nothing is too precious and you can always find somewhere to get comfortable.  The kitchen is the place with all the action of putting a meal together or getting a drink. You can sit in front of the fireplace to relax or go back to the covered porch and enjoy the shade trees.

Pfeiffer Home - CH 50.jpg

CH: What was it like to move in finally, and what has been your favorite memory created thus far?

CP: Truly, it was amazing and fulfilling to walk inside our home once it was completed. We labored over this farmhouse for three years starting with heartbreak and ending with a beautiful piece of property.

Everyday life of getting to watch the sunset through the windows is the best. We call it our sky real-estate because nothing obstructs the view. It’s like watching the sunset without the ocean.

My absolute best memory was from this past winter when the power went out from a snow storm. We built a huge fire to stay warm and made all of our meals over the open flame. It turned into a day of doing nothing but playing games and roasting marshmallows.

CH: What advice do you have for others who want to build a home, especially on land?

CP: Honor the land. Find out the way the sun rises and sets which help decide where windows go and where to position the house. Also, find an amazing builder. You have to spend a lot of time and invest in trusting this person with your dream. When we met our builder, Brian, and told him our four qualities that make up our style he didn’t think it was ridiculous. He was excited throughout the entire process and was wonderful at problem solving.

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Full Story Credits: Photography by Clary Pfeiffer Home of Clary, Travis, Hughes and Jettie Pfeiffer Home Builder, Brian Gebhardt


Read More Now in The Grace Issue!


Meet Colorado-based Photographer Danielle DeFiore

Why photography? What led you to pursue photography? 

When I was young, I used to spend summers at my grandmother's house and she would let me look through all of her old family albums. The photos were a keepsake of our family; a glimpse into their lives back then and I felt like I was there. Now thinking back on it and where I started — I can proudly say those summers with was how I fell in love with photography.

The first wedding I ever photographed was in 2001 — I shot it all on my Hasselblad 500cm and developed all the rolls myself in my laundry room! I’ve left the laundry room as a photo processing option behind, but it’s fun to reflect on where I came from to where I am now.

How would you describe your style?  

It’s really hard to describe because I don’t quite fit into one “style.” I like capturing timeless images for my clients that won't be dated with passing trends. I consider myself to be a hopeless romantic, so I’m inspired by images that tell a story, embody the spirit of the day, joy between two people, the happy things that make the world go around showing just how beautiful a moment and person can be.

What is something you wish more brides knew? 

Hiring an event planner will save your sanity and also help to make your engagement more fun. Let the planner take care of all your details so you can focus on being present with your family and husband or bride to be!  I believe it’s important to remember that although you’re planning your wedding day, that you’re also planning the rest of your life, so take that time with your fiance and remember to focus on what’s important. 

What is your best advice for couples looking for their photographer? 

Ask for a full portfolio and really dive into a photographer’s body of work to look for consistency. There is a difference between real weddings and styled shoots, and you need to make sure your photographer knows how to approach a real event. Wedding days are fast-paced, and you need someone that can keep up while documenting the day in its entirety.

Where do you draw your inspiration? 

I have a handful of favorite artists that I love, including Henri Cartier Bresson, Ellen Von Unwerth and William Eggleston. They all are pretty different in the way they photograph, but I’m really drawn to their styles.  Beyond artists, I’m inspired by my daily life! We own a few acres north of Denver and when I’m not shooting photographs, I’m out on our property tending to the bees or playing with my children. Patiently watching the little things unfold (like my daughter picking up a ladybug and admiring it) inspires me deeply.    

How do you help your couples feel comfortable in front of the camera? 

I really like to invest in getting to know my clients. I ask lots of questions and always seem to find a connection with them - be it how they met, what they like to do, what their hobbies are etc. Having a shared passion and listening to their stories helps me connect and build from there. If you can understand the importance of what they love in life and who they are, it helps immensely in making anyone feel more comfortable in front of a camera.

Tell us about living and working in Colorado. 

Colorado definitely has my heart and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing the community is here. I feel constantly inspired.

If I were to pick a few key reasons, I love Colorado because the landscape is so diverse and scenic. From the rocky mountain peaks, rolling foothills, to the deserts and green pastures, they are all within driving distance. If you ever happen to get tired of scenic vistas, it’s easy to mix things up by going to Denver to check out new restaurants and the nightlife. 

What would be your advice to an aspiring photographer? 

I have a few thoughts for aspiring photographers. I would encourage them to find their style. Attending workshops and walking away with beautiful images doesn’t mean that you have honed in on your aesthetic. 

I would also remind them it takes time to build your style. The only way to work at it is to keep shooting! Another great way to grow creatively is to challenge yourself each season by trying new equipment or different technique. Push yourself to create something new!

The most important thing I’ve done for my business is to find a mentor—someone I look up to and can help me curate my work. We all have emotional connections to our photography and creative expressions, so having a fresh set of eyes look at my portfolio has been one of the best ways to improve on and grow my business. I would highly recommend it! 

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