A conversation with Bethany of Whittier Wandering
WHITTIER – The most surprising thing about Bethany Gilbertson is that she’s not from Whittier originally.
A quick glance at her Instagram page (@whittierwandering) and you would assume she was Whittier born and raised. As it turns out, the East Coast’s loss is Whittier’s gain.
She is a talented photographer that, with no tools other than her iPhone and imagination, captures the subtle beauty Whittier has to offer: fallen leaves, sun-drenched trees, dusty walking trails, and stately Craftsmen homes.
“Whittier is a beautiful city and it’s got a lot of nostalgic charm,” said Gilbertson. “My goal, whenever I post, is to sort of have things look timeless.”
Gilbertson, 30, is originally from Lynnfield, Mass., a town of about 12,000 on the north shore of Boston. She moved west in 2007 to study journalism at Biola University.
Three years later, she met her future husband, Kyle, who lived in Whittier. Gilbertson would fall in love twice: first with Kyle and then his hometown.
Or perhaps it was the other way around.
“[Kyle] drove a 1971 Volkswagen Squareback and on the first date we ever went on, his car broke down on Painter,” she recalled. “I remember sitting in the car and looking at the trees lining the streets and being like, ‘This is an amazing little town.’ I didn’t know much about Whittier, but I remembered the trees.”
Now married and firmly settled in Whittier, Gilbertson last year launched her own company, Wander Creative Content, a small but modern creative agency. Gilbertson manages social media marketing for several local businesses, serving as the chief photographer and copywriter.
“This is a weird, fun fact: I try not to photograph cars,” she said of Whitier Wandering. “When you look through the feed, there will be no modern-day cars. I only photograph older cars.
“When you’re scrolling through, in theory, a lot of the homes are from 1910, 1915, 1920, so I want the feed and the photographs and the feel, even though they’re present-day, to potentially look like they’re from another decade without the editing and the filters — just the photographs themselves to have the throwback feel.”
Whittier Wandering has amassed nearly 6,500 followers on Instagram, where she’s been praised for her charming portrayal of Whittier.
“I think I’m just drawn to the beauty of the homes with character and the trees and the peacefulness of Whittier,” she said. “I think that resonates with people.”
Gilbertson has an eye for beauty. One of her tricks for finding interesting things to photograph is to ditch the car and explore the city by foot.
“People message me all the time or drop a comment saying, ‘Where is this? I’ve never seen this. I’ve lived in Whittier my whole life, where are you?’ And it’s interesting to start that conversation because it’ll be like, ‘It’s right next to Mimo’s’ or a place that’s public and available and open to anyone. I like the idea of fostering curiosity. That was my premise from the beginning of starting the page; I want people to be curious and to see something for themselves.”
But Gilbertson does more than take pictures — she’s also become an active member of the community. Three years ago, with Brinegar Marilin, she helped launch Art Stroll, a monthly art pop-up in Uptown Whittier. Art Stroll meets the second Wednesday of each month at a rotating selection of venues and features live musical performances, vendors, artisans, and more. Summer performances on the grassy lot on Greenleaf Avenue attracted hundreds of people.
She’s also a board member with the Friends of Uptown Whittier and an appointed member to Whittier’s Cultural Arts Commission.
The activism comes easy to Gilbertson, who cares for Whittier deeply.
“I tend to romanticize things – I’m a romanticist,” she said. “I love charm and beauty and life, and I know that’s not the full picture of Whittier, but that’s how I see it.”