42 years ago today :: in honor of my Lakota family & friends

it was on this day, 42 years ago that the start of the occupation of Wounded Knee took place. it was six years ago that i was in graduate school in vermont that i was tasked to find a "conflict" that i wanted to do a case study on for my MA in Conflict Transformation. i was talking to my dad about it and he told me that "because you have always been so passionate about Native Rights, you should consider Wounded Knee 1973". i dove in to this time in our history, read as many details as i could, searched high and low to find the most accurate information. i scoured the internet for photos, and one thing kept coming up for me, over and over again - i'd go to sleep at night and i could literally feel the power, the passion, the pain; i know it sounds strange but it was pulsating through me, my heart was so open and so broken and so angry and so sad. i couldn't stop thinking about it, the Struggle the Lakota have been through, the battles fought, the countless dead, the warriors who triumphed. i was never able to shake Pine Ridge from my being. for the next year it was so much of what i thought about, thinking how could i help, what could i do, as an outsider, someone who has never been there before, what would be appropriate and selfless.

flash forward six years, i am in los angeles at four in the morning feeding my seven week old son and a friend from Pine Ridge posts photos of facebook with the caption "never forget". i sat there in the dark, with tears streaming down my face, my heart beating out of my chest, feeling all too much. i missed being in south dakota so much, i missed my Lakota family and friends, i missed the power and the strength and the spirit and the laughter. i missed doing something i believed in so strongly. i missed being of service and helping fight a fight that i believe is my own as well. i know i'm not Native American - nor do i ever pretend to be and i don't get it twisted - but this fight is mine too, and always has been. this fight is all of ours, no matter your skin color. we all have a overwhelming responsibility to honor and respect the Native Americans, the ones that were here first, the ones that we took from and now pretend don't exist except in movies or as mascots. we all have a huge responsibility to speak out in our circles, raise awareness of the struggles and of the oppression, the continuing abuse and systematic and structural racism. we all have a responsibility to one another as members of the HUMAN RACE to do whatever we can to stop this cycle of abuse and stand up and speak out against it. keep educated, help educate others, talk about it, be of service. pass the real stories on to your children.

i went and looked at my photos again today, the ones i pulled off the internet years ago, before i moved to south dakota, before i worked with a Native advocacy org doing healing and community organizing, before i collected stories of the people of Pine Ridge for nat geo with aaron huey with an honor and humility i cannot describe in words, and now i'm here in los angeles on the eve of the anniversary of the beginning of the occupation of Wounded Knee and i feel all the feelings and have nothing to do with them but write on my blog after retiring it a year ago, resurrecting it to share with those that will listen, that They are still here, They are not invisible, They are my heroes and the Warriors, my heart beats alongside theirs and i will never stop fighting the in the best way i know how to honor a people that are of the most beautiful, generous, graceful, hospitable, unapologetic, eloquent, strong, hilarious people i have had the blessing of living with and learning from.


you may have noticed!

my dear readers, i want to share a couple of things.

i love this blog. i love posting on this blog. and i love all of you for reading it over all these years. it has meant the world to me. really.

i'm sure you've noticed i am not posting on here frequently at all this past six months. for that, i am sorry. i have been super busy focusing on my photography business - layli samimi photography. i want you all to know that i am blogging over here laylisamimi.com/blog now. so follow along with my photo adventures there!

i am not saying that i will never post on this blog again, but for now, i am finding my new space a place that is more appropriate for what headspace i currently am in.

i love you all, and shoot me an email if you'd like to chat.


instantly moved to tears

this is one of the most touching videos i've seen in a LONG time. a 95 year old man writes as song for his wife of 75 years who has just recently passed on...give it a watch, it'll break your heart.

A Letter From Fred from Green Shoe Studio on Vimeo.


dance dance

i may be dated, "the look" by metronomy did come out in 2011. i revisited it recently and fell hard in love. it is SUCH a good summer jam:

and i love this song and this video called "breakers" by the local natives:

i hope you all have a great weekend. xo


quote love

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― Mary Jean Irion


sisters ravari : a portrait session

last weekend i had the honor of shooting a bridal tea party and a portrait session with the stunning and sweet ravari sisters. the sister, nasim organized an amazing party with no details to spare - it looked amazing, complete with a live harpist. the bride, sahar was gracious and loving. i was touched to be a part of such a wonderful gesture of love from one sister to the other, by nasim hosting such a wonderful, beautiful party for her sister who is getting married to david in italy in a couple of months. enjoy the photos, i know i had a BLAST taking these precious photos!

congratulations to sahar + david, may your years be filled with laughter and love!

see my website for more of my portfolio. xo


hippie chic :: a polaroid portrait series of 2 women in flowers

you may have noticed that lately i've been obsessed with shooting faces in flowers ... i find it's a way for me to be close to nature whilst drowning in the bustle of big city life. and lucky for me, my dearest friend Anyssa came to LA this past week, and if you know LA, you know that there is always flowers in bloom all over the city - all sorts of varieties and colors. so for a couple of days, we drove around scouting for the prettiest flowers and then shot one another's portraits in them. this is just one of the reasons why i love LA - there are always bright, beautiful flowers in bloom. and this is why i love Anyssa - she is always down for taking photos, no matter the time, nor the place. i adore this series of us in nature - these bright, vivid flower bushes - all over LA. 

^ we came upon this last series of shots when i took Anyssa out to Malibu. the bougainvillea is so other-wordly. Anyssa commented that the photo of me looks like i'm on a cloud of flowers, it truly does look this way, and she, a angel on earth. we felt transported to a magical land that only exists in fanciful dreams full of magic and beauty.

some of these will make their way over to my lovely new website, come take a peek soon!


layli samimi photography :: ROXY + ASHKAN ENGAGEMENT SHOOT

This past weekend we had a blast with one of the best photo shoots of all time. I shot an engagement session with my dear friends, the beautiful couple Ashkan + Roxy. when they told me they were engaged, I was over the moon, as they are such a strong, radiant couple who complement one another so very well. They make one another laugh so much, can really have a great time together and truly are the best of friends. They are getting married soon and I absolutely cannot wait. If the engagement photos prove anything about how amazing they are in front of the camera, I am convinced that the shots taken on their wedding day will be phenomenal! 

We took to the streets of downtown LA for this shoot and the light was just perfection and the colors did not disappoint. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do this damn handsome couple:


Sending you both all my love and a I know you're going to have a bright future filled with laughter and good times.
Congratulations Ash + Roxy.