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Mother Cheetah and Cubs in Rietvlei Nature Reserve, South Africa. Photo by Barbara Dannenhauer

Artistic Collaboration Connects Oakhurst and South Africa

OAKHURST — It’s as unlikely a collaboration as you’d find, connecting Oakhurst, South Africa, Alaska, and Facebook, with a touch of Israel thrown in. The result is a feast for the eyes. And I’m proud to be smack in the middle of it. 

I am an avid dog mushing fan. I love the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest and all the smaller races in between. What’s that got to do with anything, you ask? Kind of everything. I would never have “met” Barbara Dannenhauer without it, and I certainly couldn’t have connected her with Oakhurst artist Sheila Boyd without it. The quotes are because Barbara and I have only met through Facebook, never in person — yet.

Barbara Dannenhauer, the “South African Connection”. Photo courtesy of Barbara Dannenhauer.

Barbara with Sled Dogs of Iditarod musher Christine Roalofs. Photo courtesy of Barbara Dannenhauer.

Dog mushing is a hard event to follow. It’s not on broadcast TV except maybe on CBS Sunday Morning snippets. You have to travel to extremely cold places to watch it in person. Or you can follow it on Facebook, and that’s how I connected with Barbara Dannenhauer, photographer extraordinaire who lives in Pretoria, South Africa, but travels the world. We share the dog sledding obsession, and we both belong to a Facebook armchair mushing group. We’ve known each other since 2012. In fact it’s been so long that Barbara thought she’d met me in person the year she traveled to Alaska to cover the Iditarod as part of the media crew. I missed her by a year at both Iditarod and Yukon Quest, I believe. However, we’ve spent many long winter days and nights on the computer, each from her own end of the world, along with 128 other group members, constantly pushing the refresh button to figure out who’s in lead, who’s scratched, who’s lost (and why) and who’s bedded down for a rest. It’s an amazing connection and certainly one that couldn’t exist without the internet.

Barbara was born and raised in Germany but moved to South Africa in 1997. She got her first camera in 2014 and hasn’t put it down since. South Africa serves as the perfect venue for practicing the art of photographing wildlife and everything that goes with it. She says, “As a hobby artist this was also a great way to inspire people through my art to have a closer, deeper look into society. If I look through my lens I got the feeling to get a deep connection with the spirit of nature and this is what I want to share through my pictures and art…. AND I SEE BEAUTY IN EVERYTHING.”

That she does. Her award-winning work encompasses people, places, flora and fauna. She captures the soul and spirit of whatever she sees through the camera’s eye.

Sheila Boyd, the “Oakhurst Connection.”

I’ve written about Oakhurst airbrush artist Sheila Boyd before, here and here. When she sent me a photo of her first airbrush rendering on quartzite, I was captivated. Like Barbara, Sheila sees inside the soul of animals, and they speak to her.

Unlike Barbara, Sheila (the Oakhurst aspect) and I have a direct connection. We get to interact frequently, in person, by phone and via the internet. Fortunately I get to see Sheila’s art in its varied forms in her gallery and at shows.

Mother and baby elephants on quartzite. Photo courtesy of Sheila Boyd

When I saw Sheila’s elephant piece, I thought of Barbara and messaged her to ask if I could share some of her photos with Sheila. She immediately agreed. They were equally impressed with each other’s talents.

Since then Barbara and Sheila have connected with each other and with another Facebook group we all belong to—based originally in Israel but with members all over the world—called One Beautiful Thing.

Photo by Barbara Dannenhauer. Used with permission.

Quartzite airbrush rendering by Sheila Boyd. Photo by Sheila, used with permission.

The first piece Sheila produced based on Barbara’s work is a lioness in full trot. The rendering onto quartzite is stunning.

Barbara paints with her camera, Sheila with her airbrush. But they both capture the magic of the world around them to share with the rest of us.

Say what you will about the evils of Facebook. If it weren’t for that platform, my world — and now yours — would be much smaller.

Sierra News Online

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