The Dayton Family

When I think back on the best, most memorable moments from my life thus far, I’m never thinking about the fancy memories. You know, the ones that look good on paper. Instead I find myself thinking of the everyday.

I think about my sisters and I all sleeping in the same bed just for fun. I think about car rides and my dad pulling over until we putonseatbelts/stoppedyelling/stoppedbuggingthepersonnexttous. I think of pink curlers in my hair and Anne of Green Gables on Saturday night. I think about hiding under the kitchen counter avoiding dishes. I think about lazy Sunday afternoons and staring at the view from the back porch. I think about snuggling and listening and talking and crying and just feeling feelings. I think about the normal everyday stuff…that in hindsight, feels pretty extraordinary.

When It’s all said and done, those will be the moments I’ll think back on. And 99% of them will be of my family.

When the idea was presented of flying to Buffalo NY and spending a few days documenting a family…well…just being a family, it wasn’t hard to say yes.

I slept in their house and spent every waking moment with them and my camera. If they were eating breakfast I was there. If they were lazing around watching TV I was there.

Even though I pride myself on being a “documentary” photographer, this was no easy task. The challenge to see life as is and interject as little as possible is a challenge. No directing. No light control. No location control. Giving up all control to try and actually photograph WHAT IS.

It was an amazing exercise of faith on my part for two days. I had to trust “what was” and let it control me.

The result:

Dayton Family thank you for letting me be an honorary member.

When someone asks me to photograph their family…I will always hope they mean the “everyday”.

There are a lot of images in this blog post on purpose. Sometimes editing too much just feels dishonest.


30 thoughts on “The Dayton Family

  1. Oh my! I never comment, but this post brought me out of hiding. I love this! You are so very talented, and these photos just make it all that much more apparent to me. These are beautiful beyond description. I am speechless. What an incredible opportunity for this family, and for you. What great memories they will have forever. I feel like I know them… the real them. Thank you so much for sharing. This has inspired me beyond words.


  2. Dude, your pictures always just make me happy. I feel like a part of the Dayton family just by seeing the pictures you took, which I think says something about the spirit of your photography. Thanks so much for sharing your talent.


  3. I am in love with these, and it’s not even my family. This concept is amazing, and I am jealous they can afford your talent. 🙂 This IS the way every family should be documented. Well done Rach. You amaze me.


  4. rachie my love! this is my favorite so far. it reminds me of my all time favorite movie “dan in real life.” honestly, every family needs a rach to come with them on vacay and tell their story. you my dear are the real deal……. as matty would say…”i’m so jealous of rach’s kids…they will have the best photos ever!” and he is correct! XOXO


  5. These might be my favorite photos you’ve ever posted! They are so real. And so full of love. And resonate what family is all about. Absolutely stunning pictures. (And house. And yard. And lake. And people. Okay, so that part, not so easy to relate to…)

    Who wouldn’t love a family that eats German panackes!

    (Please, please, please talk my husband into letting me ask you to come photograph my family! C’mon, you’re his COUSIN. Don’t you have any pull with him?)


  6. love. love. love this! One day you’ll come document OUR every day. I mean it. You’re ridiculously talented at what you do. And you SEE things. Things other people might miss. Well done.


  7. OMG, I am totally blubbering after looking through this gallery! When I got to the photo of the dad reading with his kids in the hallway, it brought tears to my eyes as I remembered moments from my own childhood. Just wish my parents had had the forethought to do something like this… What a precious gift this will be for their kids as they get older. Really well done Rachel and totally inspiring!


  8. Dear Rachel, This was the first time all the family was able to come visit at the same time and enjoy the beauty of a Buffalo Summer. Many don’tnow that I am in Stage 4 brest cancer and not able to do much. Your pictures may be the record of the last time we are together. We put our house on the market this week as it is just too big for me to continue to care for. The pictures are stunning, full of life and reflective of the love we feel in our home. I can never thank you enough for stepping into the family and recording life for us. You are loved, Susan/ MOM


  9. Susan, I’m touched you shared the details that were not mine to share. These are the photos that matter..the ones that help families remember LOVE. You are a beautiful, magnificent women with so many adventures ahead. I have tears in my eyes thinking about the devotion your husband, sons, daughter in laws and grandkids have for you. It was such an honor. All my love, Rachel


  10. i know i have commented on the last three posts, but came back to look at your blog and….chills. every image captures so much emotion, what an amazing opportunity for you and THEM!


  11. Rachel,
    What an amazing concept and opportunity. While the photographs speak for themselves, the photographer in me would love to hear more about what you were thinking and feeling while doing this assignment.
    Even before Mrs. Dayton shared the reasons for the project, it was apparent that this family was gathering to spend some special time together.
    I commend your choice to include so many photos, they tell the story well.
    (p.s. I started following your blog after the Zarias workshop.)


  12. Rachel, I just love these. What a wonderful opportunity. Though you weren’t a part of the family you caputred their essence and love. You were also able to capture your affection and respect for them. I can see it in every picture. Wonderful work.


  13. i can’t echo everyone’s comments enough.
    this is why you are my favorite too.
    and this is one of my top favorite posts ever posted, by you or anybody.
    bc of your words, your images, bc of who you really are.
    i love this i love this i love this.

    i know my every-days are beautiful in their own way, but they don’t always feel like they look this picturesque!!
    but you make me believe my family’s day to day could be capture-able in a beautiful way too : )
    bc you’re that good.
    when can i have you come out here??
    you won’t be able to do my delivery/newborn pix, so when?? : (

    i just ADORE YOU, rachel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  14. Rachel, you captured such amazing images. They are full of love. I was so happy to see them. And knowing the Dayton’s and being related to such a family is a blessing. I’m sure you felt their great spirit while in their home.


  15. Someone referred me to your blog because I had written a post about how I want to photograph families in their normal everyday lives and I was feeling bummed and not liking my sessions (I’m newer into the art) This post and these pictures are SOOO inspiring. They’re beautiful!! Thanks so much for posting these.


  16. This photo story plus Mrs. Dayton’s story moved me to tears. I have been following your blog for two plus years now and this is definitely one of my favorite posts. It makes me long to go home, make German pancakes with my family, play games, and simply just enjoy being with them.


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