Lessons learned while living with my mother-in-law.

I lived with my mother-in-law for five years. She and I moved in with Megan (her daughter, my girlfriend at that point) at about the same time. Her move was prompted by a cancer diagnosis, and finalized when a hurricane took her home. 

There are so many things I could write about those five years. Hilarious things. Hard things. Beautiful things. 

When I moved in, there were three of us in a tiny cottage with at least two dogs and three cats. It was a wild journey, one that encompassed the next five years. Megan and I got married. We all moved across the country. We rebuilt a house. We fought cancer for so long. We added even more dogs along the way.

When I look back at our photos of those years I couldn’t care less about the posed ones where we are all looking at the camera. That wasn’t our life. Our life was messy, full of love and dog fur. I love the pictures that show our life in action. Of the three of us sorting out what a fulfilling and joyful life as an unexpected family of three looked like.

Those are the ones that send me back in time, that make me feel all of the feelings from that era of our lives. 

So when I take photos of your extended family, I am looking to tell the story of your relationships and what it really means for you to be together. The expression on your son’s face when Grandma whispers that inside joke in his ear. The way your daughter looks at Grandpa when he sings her favorite Christmas carol. The knowing look between you and your husband when your son goes to his uncle to get what you won’t give him. These are your story.

Do you wish you had more photos like this of your family? There is a name for someone who does exactly this – documentary family photographer. More like a fly on the wall than a traditional photographer, we spend more time observing than taking photos. Because it takes time to really see a family and to capture the little moments that tell the whole story.

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