The Artists Voice Photography Retreat How It All Unfolds...


Ahhhh… and well might you ask. I think of it a bit like the hybrid baby of a photography workshop and a spiritual retreat.

In a photo workshop, you’re focus ONLY on photography. You’re given direction and ushered around quickly as a large or small group to see and photograph the sights of wherever you are, enforced marching style.

In any kind of retreat, you move much more slowly, mindfully, focusing upon your inner workings, while being guided through practices which relate to whatever discipline you're studying. That could be yoga, meditation, writing... or, in our case, photography!

Find YOUR Artistic Voice

The “Finding Your Artistic Voice” retreat weaves together elements which stem from both spiritual/health retreats and traditional photography workshops. This approach is unique: and was born from years of being asked how I do what I do and really having no one simple answer. There are so many layers to it!

So I decided to create a rich, unique experience born from the best and most defining tools I know from the many disciplines I've mastered in my lifetime. They include photography, for sure. But woven into that is a mighty dose of mindfulness, focus, and grounding that every artist seems to need more of. Especially in this crazy world! They are all woven into 5 days of growth, art, amazing food and incredible scenery.

For each retreat, an invitation was extended: come join me in France for 5 days on a unique photographic journey. The mission: to discover your artistic voice as a photographer. To deepen and stretch yourself into new visual possibilities. To immerse in the aromatic and visual pleasures that resonate in Cannes and the surrounding areas of The French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) Mediterranean coast of southeastern France.

A tall and difficult order, I know. ;)

The result: groups os fabulous participants have come and conquered. Together we have laughed, eaten fantastic foods, experienced the surprisingly powerful presence of grounded inspiration, strengthened both mind and body; built upon our strengths - and shifted possibilities into reality.

At the end of each day, a delightful space welcomed us home, In the first retreat, it was La Pitchoune.

Next, nestled in the heart of Cannes, it was La Vérriere...

La Verrière

La Verrière was our beautiful, light, loft-style sanctuary located in a quiet, central area of Cannes on the French Riviera. It seems every single person who spent time there has used the same set of words to describe the experience: nurturing, warm, relaxing, restorative.

Our experiences here have become the benchmark for all future retreats!

La Vérriere was once an old cork factory, tastefully transformed into a retreat centre. Our hostess, the incomparable Lieke Kay was completely responsible for creating this exquisite space. It was both serene and warmly welcoming. For over 40 years Lieke has helped people all over the world with her nutritional guidance and still offers the same insights for clients with her nutritional and healing programs in France. (I'm one of her testimonial successes!)

Next, since creating art from the inside-out takes incredible focus and energy, I thought it would be a natural fit to include the natural wonder that is Lieke Kay to our curriculum. Consequently, in addition to the grounding, focusing, breathing and mindfulness practice we do in every retreat … Lieke was there too, inspiring everyone with her boundless energy, joyfulness, home-cooked healthy meals, health consultations and her wizardy ability to know exactly what each person needed to be their absolute best.

Scenes from La Vérriere

The group's first photography exercise was to wander quietly throughout the calming, peaceful and rejuvenating space of La Verrière. Discover new ways of seeing details and stories within them.. Stretching one’s vision can be easeful and fun… but you have to listen carefully, undistracted by the world outside. This exercise sets the stage for everything that comes next... and is part of the curriculum to this day!

Here's the thing. I long for small groups of dedicated explorers to join me. Folks for whom photography is an important part of their expression. They don't have to be any particular ability level – they just had to be willing to dive in & experience a new way of looking at the world.

That’s exactly who has shown up for each retreat! Sharon, Debra, and Elle were there to take the virgin voyage with me at La Pitchoune, Barb, Lauri, Tanya, Mike, Wayne, Lisa, Lena, Marjorie, Jennifer and Robin have all joined me at La Verrière in Cannes! Each person has woven a special place in my heart... and in the souls of one another.

Sharon Willson, Elle Bruce and Deb Tufts in Antibes.
Tanya Wallis, Karen Hutton, Barb Cochran and Lauri Novak in Grasse.
Marjorie, Lisa, Jennifer, Karen, Lena, Wayne, Robin and Mike in Cannes.

Everything begins with a desire. One of our most basic human desires: to be heard and seen. It’s fundamental. It’s also why “finding your voice” lights up for so many people. It’s like the elusive unicorn. Everyone wants to be one - and to be seen, felt and heard in all their unicorn-like glory. Not in an ego-y way. It's truly a soul thing.

After MANY years of coaching physical voice and using my own voice professionally, I know this for sure: our "normal" responses to pressure and stress kills optimal performance.

In order to produce good personal work - consistently - under any kind of pressure (whether exerted from the inside or out), you need two things:

1. A simple, portable, works-every-time method to become body-aware, focused & grounded quickly and

2. The ability to consistently tap into the powerful (and very unicorn-like) subtle body energies that align you with your own creative force - and voice.

Do those things & magic happens.

40+ years ago, I was blessed to learn an utterly practical method to accomplish all of the above. What's more, it has worked across all disciplines/professions in my life: dance, figure skating, acting, singing, equestrian sport and skiing.

It has literally saved my life more than once!

And it has worked for each of my clients in the same way.

Putting this method into practice clears the way for your deepest self to speak through whatever you’re creating, without the stress, anxiety and mind chatter that can throw the even staunchest person for a loop. It’s how I personally bring myself back to center if I get de-railed. And it happens to all of us at one point or another!


And so, after showing participants this mysterious method to align body awareness, grounding, focusing and breathing, I sent them out to explore our immediate space.

The goal: to sense from deep inside what, exactly, drew their attention; what kind of patterns, textures, colors, what subjects, feelings and stories caught their eye. The aim was to begin noticing what happens on the inside and physically when it’s right.

HINT: There’s usually a definite “Aha!” in the form of a body sensation, a catch of the breath, something identifiable. To become aware of it though, you have to start gently and pay close attention.

Here's how it unfolded...

The first day always started out mellow and lovely. It was topped off with a delicious, freshly prepared meal - which made for a wonderful first evening of food, conversation, wine and delight!

Welcome to France!

Then, each day of the retreat, I took the group to slightly more complex areas. Home base was a great start… lots to look at and photograph, without distractions or disruption.

It was my chance to begin seeing how each person SEES. It was their chance to pick up a camera with this new feeling leading - and see what happened.

And believe me, really cool things happened!

In the course of our retreats, we've visited Cannes, Grasse, Îsl Sainte-Marguerite, Valbonne, Antibes, Villefranche-Sur-Mer, Ventimiglia, Italy - with new locations on tap for future events!

Each day the approach was the same: photographer prepare thyself! Ground, focus, breathe, center first - then pick up the camera.

You can relax into photographing in a new place much sooner like this. You get out of your own way. And you can begin to trust that the most amazing things will happen, almost as if someone brought them purposely to you. When it clicks (pun intended), it's like a bit of magic!

PS: #Magic became something to look and account for every day. The more we did that, the more it happened!

Fort Royal on Îsl Sainte-Marguerite was home to the real "Man In The Iron Mask"for 10 of his 34 years imprisonment. Went there. Saw that.
My lens loves Grasse...
And so do my participants!
Grasse at night... and in the rain! Le sigh...
I love France

Grasse is known as "the perfume capital of the world". I was so excited to share this lovely town that has woven itself into my heart!

Each time we've visited, it's gone something like this: photograph, shop, pick up some gorgeous locally created perfumes and gifts, rest at a café and people watch – then photograph some more!

And, as happened every single day that we ventured out, something completely unexpected and magical occurred. It made us giggle with glee and realize that #Magic is close to us every day in our lives, just waiting to be noticed, welcomed and experienced.

All we have to do is go inside and ask for it to be revealed…

This is life-changing.

The change I see in each person's work from the beginning to end in the course of 5 short days has been, in a word, astounding. I have watched with awe as each person's images consistently shifted from general and generic to deeply personal and poignant; a revelation of the soul.

I could "hear" each of their unique voices singing through the photos they showed in their final presentations.

I could at last feel what they were feeling; and understand what their hearts and souls were trying to say. Their work became clear, specific and more beautiful.

I get goosebumps each time I watch these final slideshows, experiencing the differences from Day 1. It is truly jaw dropping and deeply moving.

Each time, I see it as only the beginning!

I'm always excited to do it again!

Watch the video below for a day spent in Grasse!

Find your voice... free your soul!
Created By
Karen Hutton


Photo by: Karen Hutton

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