Mighty Life List
Aug 16 2010

Have Family Portraits Taken? Check!

The Masons from maile wilson on Vimeo.

These are the amazing photos Maile Wilson took of our little family. I couldn’t love them more, Maile is crazy talented, and she was working in the face of some serious challenges. My hyperventilation, for example.

Months ago, Maile spotted “have a family portrait taken” on my Mighty Life List, and made an offer. Maile had her own life list (which she just posted), and she wanted to photograph a family in Chinatown. After a few emails back and forth, we set a date a couple months out.

Then I got overwhelmed and completely forgot about it. This is a thing I do. All the time. I honestly avoid making appointments because I have to set 15 different alarms on my various electronic devices, and then the photo padding in my bag muffles them all, and then I unzip my bag (invariably in a church or library) and it sounds like a four alarm fire response team, but actually I was just supposed to meet a neighbor for yoga.

The Sunday afternoon the shoot was scheduled, Hank had just gone down for a nap. I changed into sweatpants, pulled my dirty hair into a ponytail, and climbed into bed.

The plan was to read a little PostSecret, maybe some Kottke, but my email happened to be open. At the top was a note from Maile, whom I’d never met, sent three mintues earlier. She didn’t have my number, but she was in Chinatown. I was in a stained tank top.

While my heart made a few desperate attempts to leap out my mouth and flop around on the bedspread, I thought about what to do. Throw my laptop out the window? Throw myself out the window? We’re only on the second floor. Perhaps I could trump up the injuries to an excuse-worthy level.

Instead, I sent Maile my number and sat very still.

When Bryan and I got engaged, I had to purchase a $20 white dress on eBay because I’d had weeks of dreams about waking on our wedding day with nothing white to wear. These were sequels to my “nothing to wear” dreams for prom, graduation, job interviews, friends’ weddings, trips to the DMV. In these dreams, I’m never naked, just dressed totally inappropriately for the occasion — wearing a straw boater and knee socks to a funeral or whatnot. Having to prepare my entire family for a portrait in 20 minutes or so is literally my recurring nightmare.

Fortunately Maile was very calm in the face of my hysterical apologies. She called to say Chinatown wouldn’t work for a shoot, and asked about a new location. I asked her to take a cab across town, and told her we would meet her. I said all this through the paper bag into which I had been breathing.

Next, I called Bryan who was across town at a bar reading — he was pleased. He told me how much he loves me, and how endearing it is when I interrupt his five minutes of downtime with appointments I’ve made for the whole family without telling him. I nodded and pawed through my closet for a dress I could wear with tights to hide my unshaven legs, plugged in the rollers, and ironed Hank’s shirt while shoving a banana in his mouth. Bryan came home and put on a clean shirt before pausing to make out with me. In the photos, he is wearing two different shoes. I did my makeup in the car.

Here’s Maile’s take on the shoot. Note how she didn’t even mention that I forgot about her? That’s because she is a professional.

49 Responses to “Have Family Portraits Taken? Check!”

  • nelking Says:

    Maile’s going to get some business. Those are great photos and the music, is perfect.

  • Kate Says:

    HOW CUTE IS THAT KID!?!? I can’t even take it. You guys look amazing. What a great great shoot!

  • Dana Says:

    so insanely awesome. my favorites are of little hank upside down – the ones that show off his green boots and your yellow tights. brilliant.

  • Kayzie Says:

    Okay Maggie, where did you snag that darling little shift you’re wearing in these images? I want!

  • Jessica Says:

    Beautiful photos, Maggie.

  • elsie Says:

    Glorious! so much love and tenderness and sweet familiarity in each and every frame…

    and I love the Maggie “touch” tights!!

  • Nitza Says:

    What is the first song in the video? Also really great shots!

  • Ari Says:

    That is one lovely family you’ve got there, Maggie.

  • Tasha Says:

    I love that these pictures don’t reflect any of the craziness you described in forgetting about the shoot. I haven’t decided if you made that part up yet. (wink) These are gorgeous.

  • Funnelcloud Rachel Says:

    Wow! That’s what you look like after rolling out of bed?! I wouldn’t have looked that good if I planned my outfit a week ahead of time. Maybe you could come and dress me? Also, I love the yellow tights!

    Beautiful family, beautiful photos!

  • Leah Says:

    Absolutely stunning.

  • GirlsGoneChild Says:

    OH MY GOSH, Maggie. My jaw is on the floor. AMAZING. Love these so much I think I’ll go to sleep right now just to dream about them. You’re family? I just… I mean… Wow.

  • GirlsGoneChild Says:

    And by you’re I mean your.

  • alexis Says:

    beautiful pictures of your sweet family! glad you didn’t throw yourself out the window – that wouldn’t have been nearly as pretty!

  • Nothing But Bonfires Says:

    This is like that W magazine cover shoot Angelina and Brad did, except you guys are five thousand times more attractive. If I didn’t like you so much, I would hate you.

  • Stef Says:

    Amazing photos! Adorable fam!

  • Wheezer345 Says:

    Great photos!! What a cute family!

  • Luisa Says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Love how real the photos look, so effortlessly beautiful.

  • Mary Says:

    I haven’t even read the post but had to say how fabulous all the photos are. My favorites are the Hankwiches. There’s so much love pouring out of each shot.

  • Bob Says:

    Inspiring. That’s what you guys are. And thanks for the great music to accompany the shots.

  • Beth Says:

    Gorgeous! And I never noticed before how you and Hank have the same eyes! Very, very sweet.

  • Renee Says:

    I love the yellow tights and green boots

  • NicoleT Says:

    I love the high contrast colors – it works so well with the black and white, and then the same picture in color looks even better.

  • Andrea Says:

    Oh my gosh, just lovely. Your yellow tights with Hank’s green boots were perfect. You have a gorgeous, happy, and fun family. Congrats!

  • Spring Says:

    I love them all, but I think that the one at 3:17 is my favorite. It’s perfect.

  • Krystyn Says:

    This makes me dead with the giggles: “(Bryan) told me how much he loves me, and how endearing it is when I interrupt his five minutes of downtime with appointments I’ve made for the whole family without telling him.”


    When I was a teenager, I had a reoccurring nightmare about showing up places with no shoes on.

    Sure enough, one day I actually showed up to school with no shoes.

    I often finished getting dressed in my friend’s car on the way to school, and that morning I forgot to grab shoes on the mad dash out the door. Luckily my friend wore the same size and had a spare pair of shoes in her trunk!

  • Pamela Says:

    Okay you made me cry….these photos are so lovely and even though I don’t know you personally….capture your love for each other and Hank perfectly! And I now have a new blog to read and maybe just maybe I might make my own life list…finally….

  • Kate Says:

    These are amazing!

  • Maggeh Says:

    Thanks for the sweet notes, you guys. Maile made the day so fun. She was amazing with Hank and, frankly, with us. Maile, I kiss you!

  • Anna Says:

    Beautiful pictures, family, and tights!

  • teensleuth Says:

    I love you, Maggie! These are awesome.

  • Megan Says:

    Oh! I love this! The post is so endearing and funny–the part about Bryan making out with you is a nice touch. And hey, you clean up well in a New York minute!

    The pictures are nothing but beauty and joy. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  • maile Says:

    I’m still stunned that you pulled this look together in 20 minutes. Not to mention how relaxed you guys were in front of the camera. That’s just showing off. :)

    Thanks for everything. It was the best day!

  • Bether Says:

    These pictures are just lovely. I really like how Hank is at that age where he’s still got some baby in his looks, but you can see the kid he’s becoming. Gorgeous family.

  • Sarah Says:

    Maggie, these are such inspiring photos. Thanks for being a bright spot in my day, being so sweet and beautiful, and sharing the photos. Maile did a wonderful job! You’re my role model. Cheesey, so cheesy, but true.

  • Amelia Shams Says:

    found your blog today while procrastinating on an overdue project … after reading this the procrastination feels more like prologue to an online “crazy, mixed-up meet-cute” from a’90s Nora Ephron film. You know, the ones where it’s all so wrong it’s right. Your family photos – inspiring, true, amusing. And persuasive. It doesn’t need to be perfect or planned to be good, maybe it even benefits from the lack thereof. Reading this — well, another sign that it’s high time I chuck my dark, narcissistic fear that I alone am afflicted with the becoming-overwhelmed-then-forgetting-whatever-inspired -said-overwhelmedness-in-order-to-cope malady — the malady that I fear makes me unsuitable to be a wife, a mother, an adult. Fie on that! In the words of John Cage, I pledge today to “Begin Anywhere”. Thank You Maggie Mason!

  • Kat Says:

    So beautiful!

    And so good that people are getting their photo things done! I just finished a goal of 100 portraits last week, and I think I’m going to add “take 100 more portraits” to my list! :)

  • Liz Says:

    Amazing photos! The story behind them makes it even more interesting.

  • EduFunToys Says:

    Glad you were able to pull it together with so little time. The photos turned out great!

    That was also nice of Maile not to say anything.

  • AbraCat Says:

    Love the photos. If that’s how you all put it together in 20 minutes, then the rest of us mere mortals don’t stand a chance.

  • Sommar Says:


  • Jan Says:

    Great video! Cool use of color and b/w, plus really good editing with the music, and oh yeah, fantastic subject matter, the three of you!!

    Bryan shouldn’t feel bad about the mismatched shoes. Years ago I delivered a presentation trying to get us a federal grant, and didn’t realize till I was walking back into my office that I had on one brown shoe and one black — same shoes which I liked so much I’d bought in both colors. Fortunately, everything below the waist had been behind a skirted podium. And we got the grant, so maybe mis-matched shoes is a good thing — sure didn’t hurt your photo shoot!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Yolanda Says:

    It’s unbelievable that your family looks that Ralph Lauren fabulous with only minutes—not months—of planning. Seriously. Huge applause to you for being such an amazing stylist. But I am absolutely slayed by Maile’s ability to capture you guys looking so relaxed and in love with each other, and not frazzled or annoyed. These images make me wish I could be a part of your family, and that’s a sign of a photographer who has done her work well. (Not to mention the girl makes an absolutely SICK camera bag; I’m so in love with them.)

  • Karen Says:

    Lovely portraits. I recognize the tugboat in the Marina! That Hank… adorable.

  • kym b Says:

    i ne’er have seen a more photogenic family. those shots are lovely family treasures.

  • Marissa Says:

    Thems some good lookin boys thar Mason. Spec’lly the lil’ one.

  • auntie Says:

    Your family is beautiful and those photos are amazing! If I were you, I’d print them all out and wallpaper the house with them. I don’t know what your decorating scheme is, but I’m pretty sure Happiness goes with everything!!

  • Sarah Says:

    Oh my! How will you choose?! These are fantastic.

  • Laura Mayes Says:

    Beautiful. And the story makes it even better, really. Love times 10.