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In-Hāus Dialogue with Rhianna May
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In-Hāus Dialogue with Rhianna May

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Composed by Adeline Chandra / Images courtesy of Rhianna May

Meet Rhianna May, an amazingly talented photographer we’re glad to call our dear friend. What began as a simple conversation has become a beautiful exchange of life stories. Having similar views of conscious living and making ethical choices have led us to endless lively conversations and that is how our friendship began to flourish.

Being in the opposite side of the worlds, with us at home in Australia and Rhianna in her second home Italy, opened up a lot of awesome collaboration opportunities and this is exactly what we did recently (not even the COVID no-travel bans can stop us! :p. Equipped with RŪPA pieces in tow, Rhianna and a team of amazing ladies – shout out to Athena (@ah_thee_nah), Ashley (@theehappysunflower), and Luna (@itslunasjungle) – travelled to the picturesque Cinque Terre.

Originally a homegirl, the super creative copywriter / photographer forged her adventure to Italy about 4 years ago. Now living in the hustle bustle of Milan, Rhianna found her passion in connecting lovers and families through her view finder. We thought we’d share a little bit about her along while showcasing her amazing photos!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what makes you interesting?

Well, I’m from Perth, Australia, but for the last 4 years I’ve been living in Milan, Italy. I’m still not sure what it is about this city that has captured my heart – I’m a total beach bum who loves nothing more than walking around barefoot, and I dream of having a big veggie garden and a cow one day – but Milan’s grey streets and tiny apartments are home.

Once upon a time (aka pre-COVID), I was a full-time wedding & family photographer working mostly with travellers and at destination weddings. I’ve since started a content creation business with the mission of helping sustainable brands & businesses build community.

What you do and what is the most favourite part of your work?

I’m a photographer and a writer, and I actually have two businesses! One is my wedding & family photography business, Rhianna May Photography. My new business, With Rhianna May, is all about community building through content creation.

Basically, sustainable businesses come to me to help clarify their mission and connect with their ideal clients through words and imagery. It’s really exciting meeting with new clients and seeing just how passionate they are about what they do, and that passion drives me in turn to do my best work for them, from creating website copy to social media strategies, planning photoshoots and more!

I really believe that we all have the power to have a positive impact on the world, and witnessing this growing network of incredible businesses has been endlessly inspiring for me. I’m constantly in awe of the people I work with.

What does photography mean to you and what motivated or inspired you to do the work that you do?

I’ve always been a storyteller and I’ve always wanted to share my experiences with the people around me. As a kid, I devoured books and novels and it didn’t take long before I was writing short snippets of my own. Photography was a natural extension of that – a way to tell stories and share experiences.

Storytelling in any format can be such a powerful way to connect people. Just like books and poetry, photography allows us to see the world from another person’s perspective – what captures their attention, what details they think are worth capturing – which is so cool! It always bummed me out as a kid that I couldn’t have multiple lives – I wanted to experience everything!!! Of course, I know that’s impossible, but photography can allow us a small window into a world outside of our own. I hope that my photography offers that same window to others, a chance to experience a life they can’t live, to visit parts of the world where they might never travel, and to understand the world outside of their own, just like other photographers’ work does for me.

Why Italy out of all the places in the world?

The unfortunate (and embarrassing) answer is that my love affair with Italy began because of its proximity to Greece*. The romantic (and still truthful!) version is that I moved to Italy four years ago after falling head over heels for this country and all of its often-infuriating quirks. Italy is endlessly beautiful – it’s got every kind of landscape you could imagine and all within easy reach. Italy is also the home of everything slow – slow living, slow food. They’re a passionate people with an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures, and that feels very precious in today’s fast-paced world.

*If you’re curious, I recently wrote out the story of ‘why Italy’ for the very first time on a new platform my brother is developing. You can check it out at thedailyparagraph.com/@rhiannamay/an-embarrassing-turn-of-events.

You connected with us because you’re interested in ethical and sustainable aspects of living. What makes you interested in these two topics in the first place?

When I was 17, I was shopping with my Mum when I found a scarf I adored. It was on sale for $60, but full price was over $150. I saw ‘Made in India’ on the label and I began to wonder how much the makers in India actually received. I didn’t have high hopes – especially given the sale price. It sparked my curiosity and a few years, a lot of research and a trip to India to visit some cottage industries later, I decided to only buy ethically & sustainably made clothing.

Of course, once you start on that path it starts to enter other aspects of life as well. It wasn’t long before I was considering how each of my actions could have a positive impact – not just on the vast network of people making and creating the things I consume daily, but for the environment as well.

What is tradition and culture to you?

Heh, it’s a big old beautiful, messy complication, honestly! When I was in grade 8, my teacher asked me – in front of everyone – where I was from. I said Australia. She then asked if I was Aboriginal, and when I said no, she got angry at me because she said that means I’m not Australian. Both sides of my family have been in Australia for at least four generations and I had never travelled outside of WA. I didn’t know anything else!

I longed to have strong cultural ties as a kid – to a tradition or a history that I could connect to. So-called Captain Cook and Aussie larrikinism never cut it for me. I still feel guilty and frustrated that, despite growing up in Perth on Whadjuk Noongar land, I know so little about Noongar culture – that the most we were taught as kids were vague dreamtime stories and how to make damper. A lot of change needs to happen on that front, out of respect for Australia’s first nations people and for their land

Growing up feeling that disconnect has made me appreciate the importance of culture and tradition – and of respecting those things without ever imposing our own outside ideas of what is right or wrong.

What attracts you most from what we do here at RŪPAHAUS?

Everything you do, truly!! I really appreciate that you’ve created a brand that has a deep respect for culture and tradition, as well as the people who make RŪPAHAUS clothes and the impact that has on the environment.

Of course, RŪPA’s clothes are the cherry on top. They’re dreamy and soft – they conjure images of perfect lazy summer mornings spent dipping toes in salt water or rainy Sundays sipping hot tea cuddled up at home. They feel feminine but sturdy, and like they don’t take themselves too seriously. But more than that, I love knowing I can feel good about where they came from and the mission that I’m supporting.

Early mornings or late nights?

I wish I could be an early morning person, but asides from photo shoots or surfing sessions, I’m all about late nights! I love nothing more than making a big old meal and inviting friends over to drink and eat until we all fall asleep in a huddle on the couch. Actually, what I really love is following that kind of night with early morning strolls and then a nap in the afternoon so you can do it all again!

What’s your rhythm of life?

Right now, utter chaos! It’s been a year of on and off lockdowns in Italy, and as seems to happen here at least once a year, the government has just collapsed so we’re all a bit unsure what’s next. Pandemic aside, 2020 was also a hard year personally, so I’m rebuilding right now.

I’m really relishing the chance to re-examine the life I’m building for myself though and getting lost in all the possibilities. Mostly, I can’t wait to see where With Rhianna May takes me!

Last but not least, do you have a daily mantra or ritual?

My daily ritual: a walk up to my favourite coffee shop in Milan, Orsonero, for a cappuccino.

My daily mantra: one foot ahead of the other is all it takes to change the world.