When Giles and Michelle Paley-Phillips first ducked into a train station photo booth back in 2000, they were giddy sweethearts wanting a silly souvenir. They didn’t know they were starting a tradition that has seen them take a photo booth picture every year for 17 years, marking the trajectory of their lives together along the way.
The couple, who lives in East Sussex, U.K., had known each other as children through their involvement in a local drama group. In the first photo, they were newly smitten after reconnecting at a club.
By the time the third photo was taken in 2002, they were married.
Now 39 and 35, respectively, Giles and Michelle Paley-Phillips have two kids, plus a few more gray hairs. And the photo booth remains an annual tradition — one that the whole family looks forward to each year.
“We always do it around the same time of year, beginning of winter, which is when we did the first one,” Giles told TODAY in an email. “We always remember, and the children do, too. The only challenging thing now is getting us all to fit in the booth.”
Elijah, 10, and Sonny, 8, made their first joint appearance in the 2009 photo, which Giles says is his favorite. “Our family was complete,” he explained, looking back on that joyful time.
According to Giles, the boys enjoy hamming it up, and especially love waiting for the picture to come out of the machine.
“I guess at some point they might get a bit fed up with it,” he said. But until those too-cool teenage years arrive, Giles and Michelle are stockpiling the happy memories.
“My wife and I each keep a copy (of the strip), and we have a little book we put the others in,” he said.
Seeing the couple’s yearly photos laid out on a page creates a striking visual of how things have changed: their relationship, their lives, their laugh lines, their hair colors.
Since the couple’s story recently went viral, “a lot of people remark on how young Michelle still looks, and how the years haven’t been so kind to me,” said Giles. “I guess … the gray has aged me somewhat.” (To us, that just looks like evidence of a life well lived).
Giles hopes other families might be inspired to gather evidence of their own adventures.
“We are a very happy and loving family, who love goofing around and creating something that will stay in our memory forever,” he said.
“I just hope it’s something that makes people smile.”