“Tomorrow? Yeah? I’m down! What time? I’ll pick you up at 5am.”

5am... Shit.

I know Willie through my cousin, they were students together at the Brooks Institute for Photography. We surfed together the morning after we first met and talked about simple things: the waves, driving on the PCH, burritos, the usual California surf banter. But mostly we just surfed and enjoyed the early morning light. He smiled wide the entire time; I liked him instantly.

Slowly that friendship turned to pure admiration of his talent as a photographer. I don’t remember when I first became intimately familiar with Willie’s work, I just remember being able to spot a Kessel photo out of a lineup without hesitation. Still, his artistic range takes his unmistakable aesthetic through genres and across mediums. The depth of color, the striking intimacy of his portraits, entrancing landscapes, and eye for the beauty in the small, oft-unseen moments that lay in between draw you in and force your eyes to linger. Enjoying the moment, as he does.

In the time I have known Willie we have both grown as people, as artists, and together as friends. His work has matured, becoming both maverick in its style and timeless in its appeal. And Willie is still excited. Always.