STORY | PHOTOS by KEN BECK
A couple a miles off of Highway 70 between Lebanon and Mt. Juliet, a stony road meanders seven-tenths of a mile through woods, over creeks and past pastureland to the 200-year-old Rieff Land Farm.
Here awaits a portrait photographer’s paradise that visionaries Gena (Haney) Sloan, Yvonne (Jennings) Kittrell and Jessica (Berryman) Sloan have dubbed Gravel Road Traditions.
The photogenic farm offers natural and manmade settings wonderfully suitable for picture taking, especially for family portraits or photographs of children ideal for Christmas cards or the photo album.
Besides trees, fields and creeks, the landscape features presents barns, a restored wheat house, log corncrib, rock garden, a one-lane bridge, a long white fence, hay bales and a cemetery bordered by a limestone rock wall. The trio also has a room stashed with props aplenty.
The second-oldest farm in Wilson County, Rieff Land has been a century farm since 1976 and features a two-storied, two-winged 5,000-square-foot structure that has been the home place to Gena’s ancestors, the Burton family, going back almost 200 years.
Gena and Yvonne, best friends since their freshman year at Mt. Juliet High School in the early 1970s, and Gena’s daughter-in-law Jessica, opened the farm to photographers in October.
As for the name of their business, Gena said, “My family’s big on traditions and family. We’re hoping this will become the tradition for families to take their portraits here, and we live at the end of a very long gravel road.”
As for their inspiration, Yvonne said, “We knew we wanted to do something with family, and we both collected antiques. So we were in the car one day and came up with this idea.”
“We have had a few people come to take pictures here in the past, and we’ve had lots of family weddings,” Gena said. “Since I’m retired and my mom needs somebody here all the time, we just decided to take our interests in antiques, family and the farm and put it all together.
“We offer a serene family environment for family portraits, baby’s first birthday, bridal pictures, anything you want to capture memories for your family.”
“Gravel Road is a place where a family can bring their professional photographer with them or for a single mom, who can bring her children out here,” Jessica noted. “It’s a place close to town but it seems like a long way out.
“What is unique is we offer props here: antiques, old suitcases, a toy tractor, mantel, a horse-drawn wagon, an old church-window frame. So photographers don’t have to drag things with them.”
Thus far, cameras are clicking as the trio plays host to approximately a dozen photographers every weekend. The fee for use of the farm and the props is $30 an hour.
“Everybody says this is a photographer’s dream because we have the props,” Yvonne said. “Photographers will ask us for certain things, and we’ll go out and find it or create it.” Indeed, professional portrait photographers are finding this historic property to their liking.
“Any photographer will jump at the opportunity to be welcomed into a background atmosphere that is full of endless possibilities,” said Lebanon’s Jana Pastors, who owns Kindred Moments in Photography & Design.
“My first day of shooting at Gravel Road Traditions was incredible. With a shed full of usable props for every season and photo sites decorated to add that extra background accent, this was a photographer’s dream.