‘no one’s ever made me feel so much like me.’

The Whitneys from maile wilson on Vimeo.

Maile (pronounced Miley), from Relish Photography, contacted me a few months ago, wondering if I would want to be a “model” for her camera bags, in a new ad campaign. (Sounds so fancy.)(I put “model” in “quotes” because no matter what anyone else says, I will always feel like I am making a weird face in front of  a camera.) Loving her bags and her photography the way I do, I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled to have been asked.

For my shoot, she wanted a California beach kind of vibe, and told me she was renting a red VW bus to use. She was speaking my language. I was excited. Beyond.

And THEN, she told me she wanted to photograph my family, as a thank you. Um, excuse me? What did you just say? My family? On the beach? With a red VW bus? Am I dreaming?

I think I was dreaming. I think I still am.

We had pretty recently had our photos taken by my dear friend Bonnie, yet it was a surprise to see how we have changed since May. My kids grow like weeds in the summer! It makes me feel like once a year is not enough for family photos. I think we need to do them quarterly. Hear that, Jeff?

…I am so glad I have those images that Bonnie took in May. I am so glad I have these, too. These, with Drew’s new favorite hat, Nate’s new favorite glasses, Anna’s new favorite boots. All accessories that we rarely see them without lately. I love that Nathan never took his glasses off. I love that she never asked him to. These, with Jeff in “casual office attire” since he raced straight from work to make it before sunset, and by the way, she got these family shots in a measly 15 minutes. And that he did it for me, when leaving work and driving in traffic and doing a photo shoot is his least favorite thing in the entire world. That he did it means a lot to me. These, with that glorious summer light. With Nate’s hand on Drew’s head. Drew’s arm around Ken. Me laughing while photographing them. With Mckenna and her impish face. Jeff’s one toenail that he allowed Anna to paint. Me with my face in his neck, my favorite place. Our hair flying around. These, with that glorious perfect little VW. The kind that I will own someday, or else. These, with so many little interactions that maybe no one else will pick up on, but that I see, and I treasure that they are caught for me to stare at whenever I want, forever.

I had never met Maile before, but one night together and I already want to be her friend for a very long time. After our shoot, we shared some meaty conversation over fishbowl margaritas and carnitas tacos. That’s how I like to woo the ladies. I dropped her off at her hotel and felt like I was saying goodnight to a long lost bosom buddy. Now, I feel that way even more so. Seeing how she saw us the way I see us. I think I might have photographed us just like this, had I been able to clone myself and do it that night.

She asked me for two of my favorite songs to make this slideshow, and since that is an impossible question for me to answer, I gave her two songs I just happened to fall in love with today.
Go Together by Jillian Edwards
Pea by Rabbit

Go, download now, listen, and be happy.

I will sit here and be happy too.

Thank you will never be enough, girl.



Join the Conversation


  1. Ok. So I don’t even know you or your family but I am totally crying right now at how obvious it is that you love each other. What a priceless treasure to have that day, that afternoon, that happy little sliver of time preserved.

  2. I can not begin to tell you how much I love your family and this video. We don’t know each other and the love your family has and your heart as a mom…as a photographer…as a real genuine person..amazing. LOVE IT.

  3. your family exudes happiness. Thanks for the smile I needed! I can see why you are so thrilled with these. As photographers we take photos because we see the value in preserving memories- it’s so nice when we get a chance to hold onto our own.

  4. Many great shots, but my favorite by far is the one where you are nestled in Mr Whitneys’ neck… love as it should be. For every crummy marriage I see it only takes one like yours to make me believe. Thank you.

  5. I don’t normally do or say things this transparent with complete strangers. I mean…never. Prepare yourself. But as I sit here sobbing at my laptop, I feel compelled. Your family is beautiful and you are beautiful in all your perfection and imperfection. I’ve been married for 9 years and we are trying to decide whether we should have children or not. But then I see you and your husband so clearly, like mirrors, in your children and I see your family connection and I read your posts about the happiness and pain that knit your family together…I cry….because I want that….but it terrifies me. Thank you for being so honest, for risking yourself in such a public forum. For being yourself–beauty and honesty and pain and messiness. It encourages the same thing in perfect strangers. So, from the other side of the country—thank you. You make me believe that I could have a family too.

  6. Oh you have such a beautiful family! WE too are on the look out for a VW van but its for my daughter. She has her learner permit now and soon will be driving…Unfortunately the ones we have seen require so much work so instead we put a down payment on a vintage VW bug. Hoping she’ll like it!

  7. I believe that the love I see among you guys is real. I believe it because my children, though much younger, also embrace and love one another as much too. I pray every day that when they are older, THIS is what I will see in my lens. Love.

  8. …so I went back and watched this again after being there. And I am indeed a “hot mess”. Tears spilling over and a lump in my throat. She captured what I was lucky enough to soak up and I love it all.the.more. …just wanted you to know. Loves. xo

  9. These are so, so amazing. Love the VW, love the natural beauty of you and your family, love the effortless of it all and yet the absolute ‘perfectness’ of all of it. And the songs….super love! They are downloaded and new favs!!! Thanks for sharing the amazing Whitney family with us. :)

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