Roadside Families is a project that John Michael Cooper of Altf stared in 2008 after being inspired by Master Photographer David A. Williams. The goal was to photograph other photographers and their families and give them a print to hang on the wall. Family is relative in this case, it can be your kids and dog or yourself and your goldfish. The only hard and fast rule was that as a subject you had to, in turn photograph another family and provide them with a ready to hang print. A true ‘pay-it-forward’ project.
That inspiration came to fruition in 2008 when John and Dalisa drove around the US and photographed 37 families while doing workshops. The now famous inflatable couch is long past and John decided it was time to do another Roadside Families installment. This time he drove 4798 miles, hit 28 cities and towns and photographed 56 families, all in a few weeks and with only a few days between coasts. To say this is a labor of love is an understatement of the highest magnitude. Two trips around the nation and 93 families photographed – it boggles the mind. The 2011 Roadside Families project was done on his own, so this was a month away from home, staying with other people, living on the road away from his lovely wife Dalisa, family, dogs and his own mountain of work. He captured an extremely unique slice of Americana, one that can’t be replicated because of it’s nature and intensity.
So, what does this have to do with us? We were very, very humbled when they asked us if we wanted to be family #55. We had already decided to jump on the Roadside Families project before they asked us so on the few days when John was going from East to West and we were going from Seattle to Delaware we met up in-between at the icon of everything Nevada, the Las Vegas sign.
I’ve been attached to this project from the day I heard first about it because I don’t have one photo with my entire family in it from my childhood. Growing up in the instamatic generation we didn’t have tripods so someone had to hold the camera. I keep searching aunts and uncles photo collection, hoping to find that elusive photo but in the meantime we’re giving other photographers a ready to hang print of their family and it’s something we’ll continue to do.
Like the few days we happened to be back in Vegas when John was here, we were lucky enough to photograph the family of Bob and Priscilla Rathbone. A pair of very cool cats who are awesome wedding and family photographers in Seattle. They had just landed less than 12 hours before we met up with them (coming from Vegas) on the Burke Gilman trail and we were on our way to the airport (going back to Vegas).
Make sure to check out the Roadside Families Facebook Page. You don’t have to be one of the families John photographed to be part – start your own trend in your own city. It all starts with you.
Bob, Priscilla and Frost on the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle.