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Dallas’ dynasty on the rise is the Wilson family, whose combined achievements are sizable even by Texas standards. Laura Wilson’s photographs have earned her worldwide attention. Robert A. Wilson just published Character Above All, a collection of essays about presidents. And their sons, Andrew, Owen, and Luke, joined forces to produce Bottle Rocket, a quirky shoestring film that is the Hollywood success story of 1996.

But 23 years ago, the Wilsons were just an anonymous party of five. Bob worked long hours building up his communications firm; Laura stayed home to ride herd on their rowdy sons. As she recalls, “I had majored in painting in college. But with three little boys underfoot, I didn’t have time to lift a paintbrush. Then a friend gave me a camera. I realized at once that the boys were the perfect subjects.” When Andrew was ten, Owen six, and Luke two, Laura began taking photos of her sons running, riding, swimming, playacting, and just horsing around. Says Owen, who co-wrote and co-starred in Bottle Rocket: “I’d like to be able to say that there’s nothing a child adores more than having his play interrupted by his mother so she can take his picture. But at the time it was ‘Aw, Mom! Not again!’ Now it seems really worthwhile and maybe we helped prepare her for the even more difficult subjects that lay ahead.” The ease that Owen and his brothers felt in front of Mom’s camera no doubt accounts in part for the fluidity of their performances in Bottle Rocket; similarly, Laura’s confidence and skill eventually developed, midlife, into an unplanned photographic career (see “The Inside Story,” page 11).

Here, then, is a Mother’s Day peek at the Wilsons’ family album, ten pictures that reveal the roots of Laura’s keen eye and the boys’ dramatic flair. “These photographs show the fun of three brothers growing up,” Laura says. “And yet, when I look back at them, I feel a sense of loss. There were so many moments I missed. I didn’t take enough.”