*Real* family photography, and why it matters

Presenting… my new *real* family photography website!

natural documentary black and white family photo, father and son, writer father



The inspiration behind *real* family photography

A year ago I on was on a plane returning home after one of the best weekends of my life. My sister and brother and I met up in  Savannah just to play and be together. It was an agenda-less type trip us adults don’t often do…

We laughed until our tummies hurts, we wandered through old streets and drank too many fancy coffees. We played monkey in the middle on the beach. We allowed ourselves to get spooked on a Savannah Ghost tour (it’s the most haunted city in America they say). We were as carefree as kids, but as adults we could indulge in as many midnight snacks as we wanted. In fact we refer to that weekend as YOLO! (I must admit I didn’t even know what they meant before the trip!)

One late night we were leaning over the wall at a rooftop bar overlooking the river. Each of us gazed at the water but we were talking to each other. We talked about who could remember what about childhood and we ended up comparing our earliest memories. You know, those ones you have to reach for, in which the slight slant in the driveway is a massive hill. Being staggered in age it was interesting to compare.

My brother told me that his very first memory was me being born. My breath stopped for a moment.




I was so touched. But it was hard to say why exactly. Is that sweet? Is that natural considering it probably disturbed his world a bit?

It also made me wish I could remember what my family was like when I was born. Was that when my dad had the early 80’s mustache? And my mom’s hair permed? My mom said she was excited to have a little girl but I wish I could remember, like my brother did, what it was like and how the family changed. There are some photos of course, and I’m glad to have them. But they are line ups on the couch, or if they are in action they might be dark, distant or blurry. I treasure them, but doing what I do today I know what is possible.



A couple of my favorite couch line ups from when I was little.


I am one of 5 kids and as you can imagine there was an ever-changing network of dynamics between us; I love photos of us looking at each other. In my shoots I get one photo of everyone together with no one even aware of the camera. I’d give anything to have something like this from my childhood.



I create for others what I wish I had: real family photography. Photos of the ever changing dynamics between each person of the family. Photos of us in our home, surrounded by the toys, the furniture and the affection that was commonplace to us then. I want to feel what my parents felt when they held me as an infant. I want to feel the wonder, the gratitude and even the exhaustion of their state of parenthood. I want to be in awe of how young, how beautiful, and maybe even how overwhelmed they were.

As a person running a business I always ensure my parents are over the moon about their photos, but I don’t only have them in mind. I’m thinking about what the kids will want once they are grown. What will they cherish? What images will act as a time machine taking them back to their childhood? What images will show them a time they can’t remember at all?

All this was on my heart on that flight home from my family visit. And that was the moment I decided I needed to make these videos.

Because I just don’t know how else to tell you:
An album of real family photos will become your most cherished possession.
And it will mean *even more* to you a decade from now.
And it will mean *even more* to your kids when they are grown.
And it will mean *even more* to their kids when you are gone.

Do you believe me when I tell you that together, we can create art with infinite meaning? “Priceless” doesn’t even begin to describe it…



Baby’s First Year by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.


Field Trip Family Photo Shoot by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.



And then there were 5… Perhaps the only time all of us were in one frame and in focus.


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The Herb Lyceum: Rustic New England Farm Wedding

Liz Quill, wedding planner behind Elegant Aura had a vision to move beyond the mason jars that have filled Pinterest for the last couple years. She took her love for historic buildings and rustic charm and spiced it up with modern chic decor. To be honest I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but Liz made her vision come true, and I got to capture it all!

Feast your eyes on the most precious New England Mom n’ Pop herb farm, the Herb Lyceum, done over with the help of some truly talented vendors.

My favorite images from the shoot:

herb_lyceum01Here are some images from the awesome vendors that participated!


Liz writes about her vision and shares more photos on Elegant Aura’s blog.

Thank you to Bliss Bakery & Flourish Flower Design for creations that perfectly matched the vision.

Thank you Peterson Party Center for the unique linens, chairs & tableware.

Congrats to the Herb Lyceum who were recently featured on an episode of Top Chef!

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Presenting… The Field Trip — *Real* Family Photography


Ask my wife, my roommates of old, my siblings or my mom—I’m too eager for surprises. As soon as I get a gift for someone I want them to have it (Christmas in October anyone?), and when my wife hints she has a surprise for me the time is now! This is one of her favorite ways to torture me in fact.

You may have heard I’ll be revealing my new family photography website on March 1 but I’m just not able to save aaaaalllll the goodness until then!

So here it is: one of *two* new videos. This is my new vision for how I want to interact with families, and the everlasting gift I want to give them—a photo shoot that feels nothing like a photo shoot and a new family heirloom (aka gorgeous custom-designed exquisitely-made album).

Can you spare 2.5 minutes to play in the leaves and ride the carousel? How about for those small precious moments of affection in between?


The second weekend of every October this family goes to the spot in the Boston Common where Dad proposed to Mom. It’s an annual ritual, and this year I tagged along…


Field Trip Family Photo Shoot by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.

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Favorite Photos, and a glimpse over 3 years! {Boston family candid creative photography}

I recently asked Bridget and Phil about their favorite photos from our summer session. Their answer also made me realize that I’ve capture Anna in a tree every year of her life so far!

I’ve been photographing the family since I met Bridget at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a few years back! She worked there, I volunteered, and we hit it off right away!

Bridget & Phil’s favorite photo is of the two girls together on the bed, “It’s just the sweetest ‘sister’ picture ever. We have it framed!” said Bridget, and look at those smiles—you can almost hear the giggles!


Here is the intrepid 1 year old Anna! And again at 3, hear her roar!

Bridget mentioned, “We love the one of Anna in the tree! Mostly because we’ve done similar ones over the years and it’s awesome to see her grow and change, and see her personality shine through!”

And here she was 2 years old, and getting ready to be a big sister!

candid family photography bostonAs for my favorite I simply could not decide between these two special photos of Phil and little Anna—a portrait when they are making surprisingly similar expressions, and tickly kisses!

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Winter wedding at Colonial Hall at Rockafellas, Salem, MA

Nora & Ryan’s wedding was my first during Christmas time. Even with cold weather and snow on the ground, I remember this day as fun and warm! They picked their favorites, and here is mine!

This moment stands out to me because at the beginning of the day Nora said the only thing she was nervous about was all the attention. It was awesome to see that she not only got comfortable with all the affection and admiration, but reveled in it when the dancing began!

Nora said, “Some of my favorite photos are the ones in which I can see the excitement that I know we were feeling in the moment. One is Ryan and I sitting in the limo after we just got married! We both look as excited as we felt!”

“Similarly, I love the one of my best friends looking into the limo after the ceremony. The looks on their faces are so them!”


I’m just tossing this photo in because I love Christmas trees!

Thanks to Colonial Hall at Rockafellas for hosting an amazing space for a fabulous Christmas wedding!

Check out more authentic & intimate wedding photography by Maureen Cotton.

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Seeing old friends again! Caitlin & Greg {Vermont candid & creative wedding photographer}


One of my favorite things is seeing couples from previous years on the dance floor at a wedding. It’s always fun to see them again and enjoying each other with all the bustle of their own wedding behind them.


That joy was multiplied by 1,000 when I saw Caitlin & Greg (who had the sweetest most heartfelt Vermont wedding last summer) dancing with their new daughter! Congrats to them and their growing family!

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Favorite Newborn Photos! Emily & Mike with baby Danny

When I asked Emily & Mike to pick their favorite photograph of their newborn baby boy, Emily replied “It is really hard to pick just one!” They looked closely and narrowed it down to two.


This one is my favorite from their shoot. One of the most powerful things about photographing newborns is capturing those first gazes of bonding. It’s an honor to be part of something so fleeting and precious!

BostonNewbornPhotographer-3Emily writes, “I really like the way that Mike is beaming at the baby in this one, and how the baby is staring back. We were totally exhausted from learning how to care for the baby all day and night, but when you had us sit together like this, it was cozy and relaxing, and we felt like a family.”

BostonNewbornPhotographer-2“The baby only looked like this for a short time, and we’re really glad to have this and other photos from the session that show him in this wide-eyed, brand-new stage of life. I also like the gentle curve of Mike’s hand around his head; a reminder that he was once small enough to have his head cradled like this!”

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Documentary family portrait! Exploring the Old Manse House with a 2 year old

Family portraits and play time with a 2 year old! from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Becky & Matt

When I asked Becky & Matt to choose their favorite photos from their special day, Matt’s response was “Anyone with Becky in them!”—adorable answer! But that didn’t help since Becky looks incredible and happy in hundreds of photos! Becky did pick out her two favorites, but first here is my favorite photo!

beckymatt_233Typically when a couple is walking down the aisle I shoot wide so you can see family and friends cheering them on. With Becky and Matt for some reason I just kept my long lens on. Apparently it was so that I could get this photo.  :) While many couples look around as they recess, these two hugged close. I love the giddiness and intimacy I caught at a moment when family and friends could only see their backs.

beckymatt_076“I wanted to pick one of my Grandma, since we weren’t really sure if she’d make it to the wedding in the first place, and because she was determined to walk down the aisle without her walker. It meant so much to me that she was there, and I was so proud (and terrified) to watch her in the procession. I love this picture because my brothers look like Secret Service agents and Grandma is just loving the camera!”


“I picked this one of Matt and me because it makes me laugh every time I see it! I remember showing each other our new rings right after we got them, and since the Mass was still going on I kind of figured that no one was paying attention to us. I had no idea that you had captured that moment, so when we were going through our pictures I was so surprised. The expression on his face just cracks me up, and I love it!”

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Ashley & PJ

The first photo on my website is of Ashley and PJ so I thought I should share why I love it so much!
My favorite “posed” photos are always a co-creation between the couple and myself.
Something unique about Ashley & PJ’s wedding was that they did not have a formal bridal party. They invited their posse of friends to be in their own clothes and I wanted to capture that; everyone doing their own thing but part of this dynamic ground centered around the couple. I knew Ashley, PJ, and their friends would be up for anything (not all groups of adults will be willing to run around in circles in the grass!) so I offered up the idea.
It turned out to be a blast and everyone said it felt like playing Red Rover. When I see this photo I see not only the mix of stillness vs motion, and everyone’s individuality moving together, but I also remember the breathless smiles and laughter after everyone ran in circles and into each other. Such openness and joy!

BostonWeddingPhotographer02 Ashley favorite was of their first dance together as husband & wife. She says “It represents our whole community coming together for us and when I first saw it after the wedding it took my breath away. It was a moment that fully captured the feeling of being in that space with everyone together.”

BostonWeddingPhotographer03Her groom agrees with his love of the previous photo, but he also added another favorite. “Seeing our first dance with the bestest onlookers, I can hear Nana’s band playing when I see this. I also really love the photo of us jumping, it’s so fun and triumphant!”

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