on their wall at no cost to them.” In turn, photographers
are then asked to photograph another photographer’s
family willing to also pay it forward, provide a physical
print for their wall and commit
to doing a couple of hours of
volunteer work, community service
or to donate their service to a
While on a nine-city speaking
and workshop tour in 2008 from
Las Vegas to Boston and back,
Cooper and Dalisa photographed
37 families who had either never
had a family portrait taken or hadn’t
had one done in a very long time.
Round two took place in 2011,
when the duo went from North
Carolina to New York, back down
through Kansas and then up through
California—and photographed 56
families. “Truly American,” Cooper
says of the experience. In 2017,
they shot 114 families in three trips
across the country, driving 20,000
miles. Some portraits were shot against the side of an
RV against a white background; others were finished as
environmental scenes taken in 5 to 15 frames each, with
the final images done as composites. Some images in the
series may look instantly familiar to WPPI showgoers, like
those of former WPPI director Jason Groupp and his family,
current print comp directors Jerry Ghionis and wife Melissa,
photographer Jen Hillenga and SEO guru and wedding
photographer/WPPI speaker Rob Greer.
“It was a huge endeavor but fortunately my wife
took care of all the logistics to see who was willing to
participate,” Cooper says. Also helpful in moving things
along was the involvement of Cooper’s main sponsor,
Simply Color Lab, along with sponsorship from Finao
Early on, Simply Color founder and CEO Adam
Fried committed to giving a ready-to-hang print to
each subject’s family, “which made it so easy for the
photographers getting the prints to not procrastinate
in hanging it on a wall and memorializing their family
portrait,” Cooper says. “In 2008, they gave subjects canvas
prints, in 2011 a framed print, and for 2017 a Heritage wood
print. You simply put a nail in it and hang it on a wall.”
And when Fried was getting married, Cooper veered off
his Roadside Families route a bit in order to shoot the
wedding. “A bridal portrait is a first family photo, so I was
thrilled to be able to give Adam his first family portrait.” To
see the complete project, visit roadsidefamilies.org.
“My point for the Roadside Families
series is that I want people to look
dated and I want them to age fast,”
Here are the do’s and don’ts he tells
families to make that happen.
• Do dress the way you do in real life.
• Don’t have everyone dress in like or
• Don’t tell your kids how to dress.
• Do bring a personal item to reflect
what you’re doing or what’s important
to you at that time in your life.
ABOVE: Photographer Jan Simonelli with four generations of
her family, shot by Cooper at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.