We all know how to return home. No matter how long it’s been, we find our way.
— -Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves

This is the song of my soul. These are the stories I was born to tell the way only I can tell them.

River story sessions™

The rivers are my peace. They are where I find my communion with my deepest truths and hear the whispers of forgiveness, strength and divine feminine grace. In the water I don't need to apologize for anything.

As spinner of stories and translator of truths, I devoted two years living in an Airstream camper with my family, documenting the unquestionable magic of our rivers, and the relationship between womanly power and primal grace. That's how it all began. And while the first book has been published, I am only just beginning.  

It is no secret that I am madly in love with the primal nature of things. It sometimes feels like my life is a constant evolution and devolution happening at the same time. The more success I achieve, the more time I need living in a trailer in the backwoods. The more civilized I feel, the more nights I have to spend covered in clay hunched over my pottery wheel. I get a new house, but I throw handmade granny afghans all over the place. I need a new truck, but I buy the used one that’s already dented. I’ll make art, but only if it doesn’t feel trendy.

I have an undeniable need to feel tethered to the past in a way that feels tangible and visceral, while still feeling like I am growing.

This forward/backward simultaneous momentum relates directly to how I have found (am still finding) my way in the world of photography. I love plucking people from their busy, plugged-in lives, and plunking them down in the middle of a rushing river. Who are we when we stripped of the modern day? What is left when nothing is left? Some say my images are haunting and I get that because when I put my ear to the ground I can hear secrets and these pictures are my way of telling the truth. 

While there have been hundreds of people copying my images, River Story is, and will always be, born from the fibers of my being. In my biological grandfather's obituary, my name is missing. When I trace the list of grandchildren with my finger, it always feels like a cliff at the end, after the last name and then the period. I always touch my face to make sure I exist even though of course I do. Of course I do. Of course he was my grandfather and of course I have his eyes and of course I cannot separate his story from the way I get allergic to the air in the early Fall just like he did. But when you steal my images, or when you use my artwork as a template for you to copy, it gives me that same feeling. It feels like you've taken my story but erased me from it all. I wrote a book once, and that's how these images all began. It was a Kickstarter and it was cutting myself open with a scalpel made of secrets and letting the stories spill out in pixels and prose. Pages and pages of my truth. Every once in awhile, you'll see me remind the world that River Story is mine. Not because I'm threatened by the copy cats, not because I'm an angry woman looking for a fight. But because I refuse to be erased from my own story again. When I see you share my images, with unfamiliar names, I touch my face and I touch my photographs and I touch the pages of my book and I remind myself that I exist. Of course I do. Of course I do. 

River Story Sessions™ are 90 minute sessions held in the mystical and magical waters of Austin, TX and sometimes, Colchester, CT. Women, draped in beautiful white dresses, crowned in wildflowers, are photographed while glowing in the light of a day just about to close her eyes. 

The women then carry their images as evidence of their strength, courage and fierce warrior hearts. These sessions will also be shared in an online gallery as part of a collective art installation reaching all corners of the globe. (And you never know when a second book will unfold!)

To book a session, click here


River Story™ and River Story Sessions™ are trademarks of Michelle Gardella. All images are registered and protected by Federal Copyright law and can not be recreated or replicated under any circumstances. Copyright © 2005–2015, Michelle Gardella and Michelle Gardella Photography. All rights reserved. The trademarks, logos and service marks (“Marks”) displayed on the website or in connection with the services are the property of Michelle Gardella . You are not permitted to use these Marks or replicate these registered photographs without the prior written consent of Michelle Gardella.