Posts Tagged ‘Photojournalism’

I started an internship, about a month ago, with a pretty major news outlet here in California. I am working as a reporter/multimedia journalist for a community news blog that focuses on South Los Angeles (or South Central). The experience thus far has been many things: interesting, challenging, surprising, enlightening and, most of all, eye-opening.

I grew up in a small community on the western edge of South LA, called View Park. For that reason, I felt as if this internship would be a little easier on me, having come from the area. However, my experience has been such that the more time I spend in the community, the more I realize that I knew, and know, next to nothing about the area I grew up in, or the city of Los Angeles as a whole. It’s an interesting feeling to live in a city your entire life and suddenly realize how little you know of it. I’ve given so much effort to getting to know other countries and other cultures, not that that’s a bad thing, that I have completely overlooked the community that shaped me.

Perhaps the most startling realization I have come to, since I started working in the South LA community, is how deeply and subtly media messages and values are embedded in my thoughts and beliefs about this community. I have always prided myself on having a critical and analytical mind. Being an english major previously and a journalism major currently, I naively thought that media messages had less of an impact on my psyche. However, when it came time for me to walk around South Central, on my own, with my camera in hand, I became acutely aware of my discomfort, paranoia, and fear.  I am not normally a person who is afraid to go out into the world, to talk to people, to photograph, etc. but as I stepped out of my car onto Central Ave., I experienced an internal shift from confident to fearful. This startled me. I was shocked to find that all of my media training – all of my critical thinking skills – didn’t offer me any more of a defense than the average media consumer. The stereotypes of the community and its people and the stigma attached to the area, were very much in the front of my mind.

Over the past month, my experiences in South LA have shown me a community that is entirely different from the one I was taught to see. It is a community with a vibrant history and culture, of which only shreds remain. South LA was decimated in the riots of both 1965 and 1992 and the community has never completely recovered from those traumas. However, if you can look beyond the problems, which are deeply embedded in the everyday life there, you will find people who are hard working, genuine, warm, and welcoming – at least that has been my experience.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post. I suppose I wanted to introduce a new topic to write about and most importantly, I wanted to start a new and different conversation about this community – a community that seems to have been abandoned; left to be ravaged by the problems which plague it. While the rest of LA grows, progresses and enjoys the many fruits of its labors, South LA  is scraping to get by, one day at a time.

When I walk the streets in South LA, I see a vital population of people who want the same things as everyone else – happiness, health, success and a chance for their children to grow up to have the same or better. The people there get up everyday, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work to build their lives despite of the odds against them. At the same time, underneath the welcoming smiles and warm conversations, there is a sense of sadness and defeat that can only be felt in a community that has been isolated; left to its own devices, without support.

I find South LA to be many things, most of them contradictory to each other: complicated yet simple, saddening yet joyful, lively yet dreary, lacking yet rich in many ways. Most of all, I find it to be inspiring. My curiosity is peaked.

It’s been four months since I left Istanbul to return home to Los Angeles. I can’t say that it was a happy departure. Returning to Los Angeles was difficult to say the least. It took me weeks to get used to not hearing the Call to Prayer ring out across the city five times a day and I missed the clinking of tea glasses, the smell of spices and the damp air coming in off the Bosphorus.

Istanbul was my home for 7 weeks, although when I first arrived there, I had no idea that the city would come to signify home for me. Now, four months later, I have journeyed back to Istanbul and discovered that I am still in awe of this city, I am still enthralled with its vibrance and its livelihood, and it still feels like home. My time here, once again, is limited and in a few short weeks I will be back in Los Angeles, but for now I intend to enjoy the dream that I hope to someday be my reality.

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Eyüp Cemetary. Eyüp is a district located outside of the original city walls and actually predates Istanbul proper. It is home to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque which is a pilgrimage sight in the Muslim faith.

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View from the top of Eyüp Cemetary.

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Walking through the Cemetery.

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View from the Eyüp Cemetery.

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Headstones.

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As we were walking out of the cemetery, we were greeted by hundreds of crows in the trees. It was sort of creepy.

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Rose.

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Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

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Storm Trooper.

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Somewhere in Çihangir.

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Çihangir.

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Galata.

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Galata Bridge. Fishermen on top. Fish restaurants on the bottom. Merely a coincidence.

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Google translate was not exactly helpful when attempting to translate the bottom word. “Bu” means “this”, but Budur???

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“Second Thoughts, Vision, Hearing, Speech” (don’t quote me on this)…

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View from Çihangir.

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Snowflake.

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Let there be light.

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Art.

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Sunset on the Golden Horn.

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Sidewalk.

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No clue.

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Child’s play.

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Street Art.

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Vintage.

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Modern Art.

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I’d happily live there.

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Sheep.

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Istikal Caddesi

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I have no idea…

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Going places.

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I bought 5 of these. Actually, I think I bought those ones…

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I only took a picture of this one. No purchase necessary.

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I still haven’t figured out which mosque this is, but I think it’s beautiful.

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One day I hope to be able to read this.

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A very small cemetery in Sultanahmet.

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Blue Mosque.

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Ottoman candy.

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Decor.

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Lanterns.

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Tiles in the Tokapı Saray

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I just love the way the script looks.

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I had a lot of fun playing with depth of field and geometrical shapes.

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More words I can’t read.

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Now this is a record player (phonograph really).

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Galata Kulesi

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Nescafe and Backgammon = Necessities

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View from the Galata Tower.

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Inside a Synagogue.

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Irresistible Cuteness

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View from Galata Tower.

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Weirdest graffiti I have ever seen…

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Legs for Days…

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Mosque goers.

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Fatıh Camii’nde

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I heart Nescafe.

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Last time I was in Istanbul I flew to Jerusalem to visit my bestie. He has been living there for the past year while studying to be a rabbi. This time he flew to Istanbul to visit me.

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I have no idea what this is, but it looks cool.

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Slightly Disturbing. The red square at the top says “Tahir Square” and at the child’s waist it says “your child.”

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Roses.

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I am pretty sure this says “this is not a butt.” Those Turkish lessons I’ve been taking are paying off.

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What is it with Turkey and disembodied legs?

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Prayers.

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It is customary for muslim men and women to wash their hands, feet and head before entering the mosque. But I think this water spout doubled as a drinking fountain.

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Cheese anyone?

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Such a beautiful city.

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Lollipops.

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This was my hood for this trip.

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Wood paneling.

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One of the pillars that is not like the other in the Cistern.

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Topkapı Saray

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This is not a Canon ad, but sort of is.

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Sardines?

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Awestruck.

‘Til Next Time Istanbul.

Peace and Love.

The Occupy Los Angeles encampment, which has been inhabiting the lawns of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles for the past two months, was evicted in the early hours of November 30, when approximately 1,400 LAPD police officers stormed out of City Hall, surrounded the encampment and arrested the remaining occupants.

Mayor Villaraigosa had initially set the eviction deadline for 12:01 a.m. Monday, November 28, but an influx of nearly 2,000 supporters on that night caused city officials to hold off on enforcing the eviction orders in the hope that protesters would disperse on their own.

I was present for the November 28 standoff with the LAPD and for the eviction on November 30 and what struck me the most about the mainstream media accounts of the actual eviction were the differences between my own experience and those of the people I knew, who were there, and the accounts of the media.

In hindsight, I realized that the November 28 standoff was more of a “recon mission” than an actual threat of eviction. It was the perfect opportunity for the LAPD to pose a threat and observe the protesters’ reactions. All of us fell for it – hook, line and sinker. During the eviction I was able to witness what the LAPD had learned from the standoff the day before and the plans they put into action based on those observations.

The actual eviction began shortly after midnight on November 30. Up until then, the LAPD kept the visible police presence to a minimum with only a line of officers guarding the front of the police station on Main and First, across from the encampment.

Just before midnight, a line of officers, wearing black and white helmets and sporting batons, appeared on the south side of the First and Main intersection. A diversion. The LAPD had learned from the standoff, that if they presented a line of officers, in this case across the street from the encampment, that the protesters would rush to confront them (verbally), thus dividing the crowd between those remaining in the encampment and those in the streets. It worked.

A few minutes after the appearance of that line of officers, in a swift and surprise attack, approximately 1,400 officers rushed out of City Hall, kicking over tents and brandishing their batons, and surrounded the camp, thus locking out those who were in the streets and locking in those who remained in the camp.

The people who were in the street were immediately pushed back to the far sides of the intersections on either side of the camp, where lines of officers kept them at bay. Inside the encampment, the officers formed two inner circles – one surrounding the group of protesters who were in the center of the park, and another one around the outer perimeter of the park’s center. Officers lined all the walkways leading into the park and a final circle was formed at the outside perimeter of the park.

They came fast, hard and in full force. They greatly out numbered the protesters – there were approximately four officers for every one protester. The first wave came out of City Hall pushing over people and  kicking over tents in their path with batons at the ready.

The first arrest I witnessed took place maybe 45 minutes after the onset of the raid. I was standing outside the inner circle, with a line of officers separating me from the protesters on the inside. A young man to my left was standing next to me with his girlfriend, holding up his cell phone (presumably collecting video) in one hand and a peace sign with his other hand. Without any provocation, two officers suddenly grabbed him and dragged him out of the crowd, pinning him down and cuffing him. Three officers then carried him away with his girlfriend (who was later arrested) crying and calling after him.

And so it began. Arrest after arrest was made. Approximately 300 protesters were arrested that night and loaded on to LAPD buses where that sat for as long as seven hours with their hands tightly bound, unable to move or go to the bathroom. After talking to some of the arrestees after the eviction, I learned that some of those arrested passed out or lost feeling in their arms and hands from the cuffs being too tight, others became ill and were vomiting from the pressure points used by the officers when they were removing the protesters, and several were forced to go to the bathroom, on the buses, where they sat.

All in all, in comparison to some of the other evictions which have taken place across the country, namely Oakland and New York, the OccupyLA eviction was executed with significantly less violence, but it wasn’t without brutality of one form or another. Realistically, the encampments were going to have to come to a close at some point, but I can’t say I am in total agreement with the way they came to a close.

As a journalist, my biggest concern or gripe with the OccupyLA eviction was the blatant muzzling of the press during the actual event. Journalists were restricted, not only in number, but in the access they were given and how they were allowed to transmit their information. Mayor Villaraigosa and the LAPD trampled the First Amendment that night without remorse and without justification. In doing so, their actions were absent of integrity or transparency and they succeeded in minimizing the accountability of, not only the officers, but of the protesters as well. It was a show of blatant disrespect for the truth and for the public’s right to know the truth, whatever it may be.

Occupy Los Angeles was scheduled for a so-called eviction, which was to take place anytime after 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 28. What happened however, was a large-scale “theatrical display” orchestrated by the LAPD in order to create a media frenzy in which they could demonstrate how  well-behaved and restrained their officers are.

On Friday, November 25, Mayor Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck, announced that the city will be closing “Solidarity Park”, at 12:01 a.m., on Monday November 28 and that the park’s closure would be enforced sometime after that, thus signing Occupy LA’s eviction notice.

In response to the announcement, some 2,000 supporters flooded the camp on Sunday, in the hopes of preventing what was believed to be an imminent eviction. Protesters poured into the streets surrounding City Hall, blocking traffic up until the early morning hours.

The LAPD kept their police presence minimal for most of the night, making their presence known sometime after midnight and increasing in numbers throughout the night.

The 7 hour standoff, which stretched from roughly midnight to 7 a.m., resulted in the LAPD Police Commander, Andrew Smith, stating they were not going to attempt eviction that night and requesting that the occupiers vacate the intersections of 1st and Spring and 1st and Main. In reality, the LAPD had not planned to evict the occupiers to begin with.

Their goal was simple: threaten eviction, present a moderately large police presence (approximately 400 – 500 officers appeared sometime close to 4 a.m.), and watch for the occupiers’ reaction. You could call it a test run, or a study – LAPD was attempting to learn how the protesters would react to eviction (would there be violence? would there be resistance?), what they would do (would they disperse? would they attempt to protect their encampment?), and where their weak spots were.

This I realized in hindsight, after witnessing the actual eviction. The observations the LAPD had gathered on Monday morning, during the standoff, directly influenced the planning of the actual eviction. Brilliant strategy (even if I hate to admit it).

The eviction took place two days later.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles on October 15, 2011 for what they dubbed the “Global Change March”. The protestors started in Pershing Square where they rallied first and then proceeded to march through the downtown financial district. There were approximately 2,000 in attendance for the march. The march ended back at City Hall, where occupants have been camping for the last 3 weeks in protest of Big Banks’ corruption and profit hoarding, the staggering unemployment rate, and the prevalence of corporate greed. The rest of the day boasted several events from speakers known in the financial and activism worlds to bands showing their solidarity and support by performing.

As the name “Global Change March” might imply, similar marches took place in more than 1,000 cities in over 92 countries across the globe. There are a lot of fed up people in the world right now. Turn outs all over the world averaged in the tens of thousands. The most notable turn out, in my opinion, had to be Madrid, Spain where an unfathomable 500,000 people flooded in to the streets and packed into the city’s center. What’s even more remarkable to me is that the Madrid protest was peaceful!!!

I was at the OccupyLA rally and march and I must say that as nice as it was to see people actively protesting, standing up for what they think is right, and really trying to make their voices heard, I was disappointed by the small scale of the LA march. A couple thousand people, in a city that claims approximately 10,000,000, is unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, the protest was filled with passion and energy, and I really enjoyed being there and being a part of it, but at the same time I found myself wondering “where is everybody?”

Since I was there as a press photographer, I had the job of documenting the march. I decided to do things a little differently this time. I shot photos, as usual, and some video too, but I also decided to record sound. Later listening to what I had recorded, it occurred to me that I had a new project to work on. Here is the final result. Enjoy!

Goodbyes have never been my forte. I’m a crier plain and simple. Goodbyes for me are often punctuated with tears, sniffles and the occasional snot bubble. Saying goodbye to Istanbul and the people I have come to care for there was no exception. I never expected it to be so hard to leave. Perhaps because I never expected to love Istanbul as deeply as I do. Istanbul has changed me, taught me, and helped me to grow. Saying goodbye left my heart aching and my eyes puffy and red. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had and the people I met and loved.

Returning to Los Angeles has been difficult. It really hit me for the first time as I was standing on the curb at LAX, waiting for my friend to pick me up, that I am not in Istanbul anymore. It hurts my heart. The pain of leaving the city that I have come to love so dearly to return to a city that I have never liked leaves me feeling a deep sadness. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at a clock and expected to here a Call ring out across the city or the Ramazan drums booming up and down the streets. I miss Istanbul something fierce.

I take comfort in the fact that I know in my heart that this is not the end for Istanbul and I. I will return and when I do, it will be to stay. And I remind myself that returning to Los Angeles gives me the opportunity prepare for that reunion. Goals have been set, actions are being taken and inquiries have been made, all in the name of going home to Istanbul. It will happen. My heart tells me so.

The Blue Mosque. One of the most heavily touristed mosques in Istanbul that is still used as a place of prayer.

Istikal. The major shopping promenade located in the neighborhood of Taksim. This was taken around 2am so it was unusually quiet. At anytime during the day there are thousands of people walking up and down this street.

This is a hot air balloon located in Kadaköy on the asian side of Istanbul. It takes you 200m into the air for a panoramic view of the city. Unfortunately it was too windy to operate during my time in Istanbul.

One of the things  I love about Istanbul is that the city is filled with music. This guy was performing on the street in Ankara.

One of things I don’t like about Istanbul is the disregard shown towards the disabled. Often disabled people are used as “props” on the streets (frequently by friends or family members) in order to beg for money.  This blind man was sitting alone, outside of a bar off of Istikal, drinking an muttering to himself. Nobody seemed to even notice that he was there.

I saw this little girl as I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe drinking tea. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to catch a shot of her face. She was adorable. This was taken without me even looking through my camera. My camera was sitting on the table in front of me when I clicked the shutter.  I know it’s not sharp, but I still like it.

View of Sultanahmet taken from a ferry crossing the Bosphorus.

Another shot taken from my perch in the window of my hostel room.

The Bosphorus.

The Boy and I on our last day together. Tearful goodbyes followed.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara. Playing with Depth of Field. Also might want to note that this pocketwatch was behind glass.

Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara.

My classmate and friend Liv.

The cistern in Sultanahmet.

A playful little girl. She got a little freaked out when she noticed I was taking her picture.

More fun with depth of field at the Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

View from Galata.

The AyaSofya. Once a mosque. Now a museum.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

Heart Balloons.

AyaSofya

The Galata Tower

I shot this around 2am on a side street off of Istikal. Not sure what this little boy was roasting. He is one of thousands of children seen working the streets in Istanbul at all hours of the day or night.

I just liked the color of this boat.

The changing of the guards at Ataturk’s tomb. This is the only time you will see the guards move. Once they are in their stationed spot, they remain perfectly still. I was told that they even inject some sort of drug in order to stay so still…

Along the coast of Asia.

Take from it what you will…

A couple of Muslim women enjoying the breeze on the Bosphorus.

My heart belongs to Istanbul.

Peace and Love.

A few more sneak attack images. I will be adding to this as I shoot more.

I sat in my window for 20 minutes waiting for this woman to turn her head…

… and then I got caught.

I see this man everyday and I am dying to take a portrait of him…

More to come…

Peace and Love.

Looks like she caught me again trying to snag a photo of her. I swear I am not in the habit of stalking lil old ladies. I have just been dying to get a good picture or two of her.

I have seen this woman a few times sitting in her window and have never been quick enough to grab my camera and snap a pic of her… until now.

Peace and Love