Monkey retreat founder to build more cages to lodge 130 primates in her backyard

Sitting on a creaky, wooden bench surrounded by tall trees, Linda Loethen listens to her monkeys interact with one another in their squeaky cages on a hot, sunny day. There are 130 of them. Loethen had to speak over her monkeys, hearing them swing around in their screeching cages, with their high-pitched shrieks consuming the backyard.

“When I started, it was just a hobby, and now it has grown into a full-time, 365-day-a-year job,” Loethen said, as she received kisses all over her face from Rudy, a 33-year-old spider monkey.

The TLC Primate Retreat, which occupies her roomy backyard, was founded by Loethen, and has expanded over the course of 20 years. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining small primates that are endangered or are in need. Her husband bought her first monkey for her as a companion pet, and she continued to learn more about them ever since.

“My husband knew I really liked monkeys and that’s why he bought me one, and then eventually I did this as a job,” Loethen said. “He started this retreat with me and was a huge help. He passed away last year.”

She is currently working on building seven more cages to better accommodate her primates. The retreat is home to various breeds of New World primates, many of which are facing extinction. She works every day to provide education to people about the endangered species, as well as the difference losing them due to extinction will make to our environment.

“Our goal when we first started was to have 12 cages…but 12 cages got filled up really fast, and now we have 38 cages,” Loethen said. “We need at least seven more new ones just to be able to take care of the overflow we have.”

Her day-to-day routine includes waking up early to feed and care for the animals, as well as to tend to the property all day. Maintaining the property consists of a lot of manual labor and maintenance.

After Loethen’s husband passed away, her assistant, Ginger Ribinski, took on more responsibilities to help her manage the organization. When Ribinski is not at her daytime job as an educator, she is tending to the retreat. She expresses how difficult yet rewarding this work is.

“It’s funny because some people use essential oils to relax or they have a cocktail, but for me, I put a monkey on my head or sit in the cage with them and it’s just the best relaxer,” Ribinski said. “It is very therapeutic.”

Loethen has six different breeds of primates that occupy the retreat, two of which are endangered. Both Loethen and Ribinski work endlessly to educate people as to why it is so important to maintain a sustainable environment.

Different species of animals are affected by changes in the environment, leading them to have to adjust to a different lifestyle in which they are not meant to be in. This causes them to face extinction. Linda continuously receives more abused, ill and unwanted primates.

“We take every opportunity we can to talk to people about primates,” Loethen said. “We throw away common misconceptions by telling people that they don’t throw their poop, and they don’t always bite you. They really do have a place in certain people’s lives.”

Loethen said she never thought this organization was going to expand as much as it did, and she did not expect how hard the work would be. People are constantly calling her and sharing their worries and concerns about their troubled monkeys, and she never turns them down, always taking more monkeys in. All of the monkeys share cages so they are not alone.

“It is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding…there are some days where I don’t want to do anything, but then I hear them and their voices and it feels so good to get it done and interact with them,” Loethen said, as she strokes a little, calm marmoset with her pinky.

People are encouraged to volunteer at the retreat, which is in need of people to help maintain the grounds, as well as to interact with the monkeys.

“I just think it’s a great place for people to come and volunteer, and I hope more people come out,” Ribinski said.

Loethen continues to care for her monkeys, and hopes to carry on to educate young people as to why it is so important for our environment and planet as a whole to protect these primates from going extinct.

“I stand behind my primates,” Loethen said. “I hope to continue to educate people about these monkeys, and it is a life-long commitment of mine to make sure they remain safe and cared for.”

Loethen gives a baby marmoset little tickles as he sticks his hands out of the cage to be touched and played with.
One of the oldest marmosets in the retreat sits and waits patiently in his cage to be fed.
Loethen gives Rudy, her 33-year-old spider monkey, kisses as she spends time with him in his cage.

Jill Stein supporter remains seated during the national anthem at Trump rally

Nicholas Michel anticipated the moment he decided to remain seated for the national anthem at a Trump rally to protest police brutality.

The rally was held in Germain Arena, where Trump supporters eagerly waited to see him.

One of the people among the crowd was Michel, a Jill Stein supporter. He attended the rally to discuss racial issues going on in our country, and to protest the national anthem.

Michel angrily walked up to a man wearing a shirt that had Hillary Clinton’s face behind bars on it with words underneath saying, “I Have A Dream,” and informed him that his attire was offensive to him.

“I figured the guy knew exactly what message he was going for from wearing that shirt,” Michel said. “I’m the one person in the rally that was vocal about it and told him it was offensive. I guess I was really mad at it, but more disappointed.”

The crowd was filled with passionate Trump supporters, however some were hesitant to share their reasons as to why they chose to support him. Others however, were open to sharing their beliefs.

“I support Trump because of his policies and the changes he plans on making to America,” Bill Toledo said, a man wearing a shirt with a picture of Hillary Clinton behind bars. “He can put people back to America, and not the same old rhetoric of a promise and don’t deliver.”

Jane Bogot, a former Obama supporter, stood in line for three hours as she waited to get into the arena. She said Trump would not be her first choice for president, but at this point, she does not feel like she has much of a choice but to vote for him.

“I don’t want Hillary…I think our country is going into the totally wrong direction, no offense to you,” Bogot said, pointing at Michel. “The Democratic Party doesn’t do anything for minorities, they like to keep them down…there needs to be a change.”

People angrily fought with each other as others tried to cut in front of them while waiting in line. As the doors opened into the arena, swarms of people flooded in, going through security and metal detectors. There was not one empty seat.

There were many guest speakers that spoke, but the crowd impatiently waited to hear the person they came to see—Trump. Commercials on numerous televisions portrayed negative images and information about Clinton, and each time they came on, everyone in the arena booed and shouted, “Lock her up!”

Francis Rooney, former United States ambassador to the Holy See, spoke out about his concerns for the current state of this country.

“After eight years of a president trampling on our constitution, mocking American traditional values and stealing away our rights, we are at the breaking point,” Rooney said to the crowd. “That’s why we need Donald Trump.”

After hours of the crowd chanting and screaming for Trump to “Make America great again,” Donald Trump finally made an appearance on the stage. Cameras were going off and everyone was on their feet applauding the Republican nominee.

“I wasn’t really impressed seeing him speak in person,” Michel said. “The things the crowds were yelling and saying…it was crazy. The fact that there were no other protestors also made me really mad.”

As everyone stood for the national anthem, Michel remained seated. The people behind him were very displeased with his actions, and he said they mumbled hateful words towards Michel and one of his friends.

“I sat down for similar reasons to Kaepernick,” Michel said. “There’s a lot of oppression and subjects regarding race that aren’t being addressed. It seems that’s the only way you can get people to be talking about these things.”

Michel is referring to American football player, Colin Kaepernick, who recently kneeled during the national anthem at a football game. Michel’s reasoning reflects Kaepernick’s statement about police brutality in this country, mostly directed towards minorities.

“Between the rally and the videos of Terence Crutcher, I’m losing hope in this country,” Michel said.

Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is one of the many victims of police brutality, especially directed towards African American males.

“I’m not gonna lie…I feel scared, and I’ve never really felt scared before,” Michel said. “Like I look around now, and I just don’t feel like I belong.”

People camp outside of the arena as they wait in line for hours.
Trump supporter wears a shirt that Nicholas Michel finds to be disrespectful.
People waiting to be let into the arena.
Volunteers sell Trump attire and signs to the people attending the rally.
The crowd screams out chants as they wait for the arena to be filled.

High Tide concert regularly gets interrupted by storms

On Friday evening, dark storm clouds developed over the beach as Scott Novello, lead vocalist for the band High Tide, sang “Natural Mystic,” by Bob Marley, and small crowds of people started running to avoid the storm.

The Sunset Celebration, located in Times Square on Fort Myers Beach, occurs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Friday with good weather conditions.

This event has been going on for the past five years. The cover band, High Tide, performs for locals and tourists who attend the event.

“I’ve been coming out here for about 50 years, and I regularly come and watch the band play,” Tracy Troeger, who lives in Fort Myers, said. “My favorite part about this event is the great food and the great music.”

High Tide was formed in July of 2005 and has performed in places in the Caribbean and all over the nation. Its three band members, Scott Novello on the bass and vocals, Danny Shepard on the guitar and vocals and David Moore on the drums and vocals, come out and perform every Friday evening in an intimate setting. They play all genres of songs such as alternative rock, reggae, R&B and Funk.

“There’s a lot of annual tourists who always make it to this event, and they’ve been coming ever since it started,” Scott Novello said, lead vocalist and bass player. “I love the people here and touching them with our music.”

Other street performers also take the opportunity to play for the crowd on the side.

The combination of sounds of a young violinist playing right outside Kilwins and High Tide playing a reggae song filled the air with musical tunes.

“We’ve really made a good connection here with everyone,” Novello said. “The reaction and connection with the crowd is the best part of playing music at this event.”

The band performs in the center of Plaka, Pete’s Time Out, Kilwin’s, Citrola and Dairy Queen, which are the main sponsors that financially support this event. The event is surrounded with restaurants and dessert places to enjoy while sitting back and listening to the relaxing tunes played from the band.

“I love coming for the sunsets and food,” Roger Troeger said, a Fort Myers Beach local, while sipping on his chilled Corona. “I love listening to the music they play because I can understand the songs.”

Lying down on benches, enjoying cold drinks and sharing intimate moments together, small crowds of people stopped to listen to the band play tropical music as storm clouds hovered over the beach. The Sunset Celebration is free for everyone to enjoy. Many couples in the crowd relaxed in the romantic setting to the music playing, while kids enjoyed their ice cream cones from Dairy Queen.

“It’s a beautiful event, it’s on the beach with the sunset, it’s free and you can walk around and get something to eat and drink and stuff,” Novello said. “It’s a really cool event, kids like it, it’s a family thing.”

The band members hope to advertise the event more throughout the year by being more active on social media. They feel as though it is not publicized as much as it should be. They said if more people knew about the event, then they would have larger crowds.

“I think the whole idea of the band coming together to play for people on the pier is really cool,” Marissa Barron said, an FGCU student who happened to be walking by as the event took place. “I’m a little mad that the weather got bad, cause I was really enjoying myself, but I’m definitely coming back again!”

Being that this event does depend on the weather condition for the evening, it does get cancelled if the weather is not ideal. Unfortunately, this time it did get shut down soon after they started playing due to a storm. Many people were disappointed the event did not go long enough to last until sunset, but they were pleased to know they can return the following week.

“They have a great sound and have a smooth tone to them,” Raymond Starrett said, member of the crowd, as he had his arm wrapped around his wife sitting next to him. “They’re kind of romantic with it. We wish we could’ve seen a sunset but that’s okay, we’ll be back to see millions of them!”

Danny Shepard, member of the band, smoking a cigarette as he is playing the guitar during their performance.
Scott Novello, lead vocalist, sings “One Love” by Bob Marley for the audience.
Brian Green, drummer of the band, poses for a photograph during one of their performances.
Shephard playing guitar.
Member of the audience relaxing while listing to the band perform.



Cancer survivor starting up her own online boutique

After months of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation, Patricia Suarez embraces her beautifully cut, cropped hair and her slightly tanned skin on her chest with a big smile on her face.

Suarez is officially cancer free and starting up her own online fashion boutique. While shuffling through her new inventory of clothes and accessories, Suarez discusses her battle through cancer and the changes it has had on her, both positive and negative.

After undergoing numerous tests, Suarez was diagnosed with Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January of 2016. A short while after, she started her chemotherapy and her battle to get healthy again.

“My first thought when I found out was that I’m gonna die…” Suarez said, teary eyed yet still smiling. “I read the diagnosis on my phone, and I woke up in the middle of the night to check it and I just saw it. I didn’t know anything about it and thought the worst case scenario.”

Although it does not seem like it due to Suarez’s radiant energy and positivity, she did face some struggles throughout her battle against cancer. She had to stop working as a model to focus on her wellbeing, and could not do much physical exercise.

There were also a variety of foods she could not eat, and some activities she was not able to do because she was physically not up for it. The chemotherapy made her tired. She wanted to sleep all day. Suarez said she got through her days by binge-watching Netflix and sleeping.

Jaydah Smith, close friend of Suarez, started a gofundme page for her. She was confident Suarez would make it through the cancer, but knew the cost of treatment was building up.

“Throughout this whole thing, Patty never sat down and felt sorry for herself,” Smith said. “She basically always thought positive which made her feel positive.”

When Suarez told her friends about the cancer, they all told her they immediately thought of death. However, they said the same thing when asked about what reassured them into knowing she would be okay—her positive attitude and strong personality.

“I had a mixture of emotions when she told me,” Courtney Goodstein said, lifelong friend of Suarez. “I was sad, scared and really worried, but she’s one of the strongest people I know so I knew she would beat it.”

Even when talking about the whole chemo process, Suarez laughed through the detailed description of her experience. She would spend over two hours every time she went for treatment.

Although she was getting tough treatment, Suarez looked forward to the inclining heated chair, the massages and the food that were brought to her. She figured she might as well look at this whole situation as a positive experience.

“I was like trying to look forward to the little things like getting my hands and feet massaged,” Suarez said, laughing and joking around. “Like okay today I’m getting a little massage but also getting chemo at the same time. But it was fine.”

Suarez attended her last treatment of radiation two weeks ago, and is now cancer free. She worries it will come back, but she is more relieved than anything.

“I was just saying to my mom the other day how if Patty never told me she had cancer I wouldn’t have seen a change,” Hannah Tejera said, close friend to Suarez. “Patty never stopped living her life the way she wanted to, and that’s what really helped her.”

Now that Suarez does not have to worry about attending weekly doctors appointments, she is putting all her energy and focus towards opening up her own online fashion boutique. Her line is called “2Sided Clothing,” and she is hoping to launch by Oct. 1 of this year.

“I’m super stoked that she’s opening up her own business,” Goodstein said. “She used fashion to get her through the whole cancer process. To see her put her passion into something like this is great.”

Suarez is going to be selling clothing and accessories, both new and used. Her goal is to make the store the place where people can go in and get everything they need. She would like people to be able to get their whole wardrobe from one shop.

“I like to dress up and dress down as well,” Suarez said. “It’s usually difficult to find that in one store, so I wanna make it affordable and easy for people to shop.”

Surprisingly enough, her experience with battling cancer has actually influenced Suarez’s fashion trends and has led her to explore fashion from a different perspective. She loves her hair short, and is keeping it that style from now on. She is also selling head scarves in her store because she has grown to love them.

“I remember thinking one day oh my god my hair is gonna fall off,” Suarez said. “Now I love it like this. I also would’ve never worn head scarves if it wasn’t for the chemo, and now I love them.”

Suarez is now back into physical exercise, attending pilates, yoga, barre and boxing classes weekly. She feels herself getting stronger again, and feels good about how far she has come.

“I always feared cancer, like it was my worst fear,” Suarez said. “And now that I’ve conquered that, I feel like I can conquer anything. I feel like a stronger person and I’ve learned a lot about myself…like I’m stronger than I thought I was.”

Release your stress and join the foam fighting club


Screaming and falling to the floor, Sam Kozlowski alerts the herald of the match that he has been stabbed and killed for the rest of the game.

The Foam Fighting Club is a sports club at FGCU that meets three times a week to prepare for competitions across the nation. This sport includes three major techniques of foam fighting. It combines the rule sets of Dagorhir, Amtgard and Way of the Sword.

“I like hitting people,” Kozlowski said, who has been a member of the FFC for two years. “It’s a great way to relieve some stress.”

Ryan Fox, the founder and president of the FFC, founded the club in the fall of 2013. FGCU is the first school in Florida to have made this an official club sport.

“It bridges that gap between a nerd and a jock…I’m both,” Fox said. “Where am I supposed to go? I don’t really like football or soccer, but I like dungeons and dragons… does that make sense?”

Foam fighting is known to be a game of honor. You declare yourself dead once someone hits you with one of their foam weapons. You build a reputation for yourself and the way you treat other fighters.

“Fox kept bugging me to watch the video of people fighting and I was like, ‘dude no, it’s lame,’” David Flanigan said, former treasurer of the club. “Then I watched it and thought it was pretty cool so I got out and fought and he proceeded to break my hand…I got in it from then.”

All participants must sign a release form before they can fight in any event. They are also required to wear a garb that meets Dagorhir requirements. To “kill” or “wound” someone, you must use a weapon that has passed the safety inspection for that particular event.

There are five separate classifications of weapon types, and each is differentiated by color. The hit locations in which you can kill someone are the torso, leg, arm, head, neck, hands and feet. The extent of the damage depends on the weapon type and whether or not the target is armored.

“You gotta have skill for this and I love the honor that comes with it,” Flanigan said. “You build a reputation based on your own skills and abilities.”

The FFC is headed to South Carolina this weekend to compete in the Winter War competition, where hundreds of other foam fighters fight against each other from all over the country.

Flanigan says the competition portion is a six-hour-long period that takes place in a wooden circle with sand. It includes different categories of competitions based on your skill such as single sword competitions, four-member teams competing against each other and specialty teams with different categories.

When you are killed, you must scream and fall to the floor to alert the herald, who is in charge of observing and making all the calls, that you have been killed. When you lose an arm, you must drop whatever is in that arm and hold it behind your back to continue on fighting.

Harly Hurlbutt, member of FFC for a little over a year, said she feels as though not enough people in the FGCU community are truly aware of the sport and what it really is.

“I feel like they look at us and people are just like, ‘oh they’re just larping,’” Hurlbutt said. “It’s a lot more physical than people realize.”

The FFC typically receives about two people every month that are interested in signing up and becoming a member. Once they sign up, they train for about two weeks until they start participating in fights with the rest of the team.

“It’s more like a legacy you know,” Fox said. “I’ve been doing this for four years now and we have no problem teaching people about the sport, and we’re really open to new people coming and trying it out. One thing I really love about this is that all genders are treated equally; we all fight together.”

The FFC members all agree that this has given them a fun activity to do while also getting exercise and being outside. Great friendships and bonds have been formed while they share laughs with one another as Fox directs them on where to take position and where to jab their opponent next to get them killed off.

“I’m a small guy, unfortunately,” Flanigan said. “I used to play football, and while everybody else had their growth spurt, I didn’t, so I couldn’t play football anymore even though it was something I really liked. Finding this allowed me to be able to be outside and have fun and fool around.

Sam Kozlowski preparing to fight.
David Flanigan and Sam Kozlowski sparring.
David Flanigan celebrating his victory against Sam Kozlowski.
Harly Hurlbutt adjusting her garb.
Ryan Fox leading the members in a stretch session before they fight.
Ryan Fox giving direction to the different teams.
One of the members showing how to block a hit.



Former Dunbar student reflects back on her days of attending a segregated high school

Reminiscing back on her high school days, Harriet Myers shuffles through old records of Dunbar High School as she recalls the memories of being a student at Dunbar when it was a segregated public school.

Myers is a native of Fort Myers, Florida, and is a board member for the Lee County Black History Society. She was a former student at Dunbar High School back in the 60’s.

“Our education was good as we knew it,” Harriet Myers said. “We got the books from the Fort Myers high School, which was an all white high school, with a lot of derogatory things written in the books…but we still learned.”

Dunbar High School was founded in 1926, and was named after the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. It was a segregated school for African Americans only, until it was closed in 1969. It is now reopened for all students in grades nine through twelve.

“Growing up with segregation was…different, different from what it is now,” Myers said. “When I was growing up here, we still had the white water fountains and the colored water fountains.”

Prior to Dunbar, there was no public education available for African American students past eighth grade in Lee County. Students from all over the county were bused to Dunbar everyday to receive their high school education.

“You knew that if you acted out, you were gonna get in trouble and gonna get your butt spanked back when I went to school,” Myers said. “The education really wasn’t as bad as people seem to think it was. We’ve had doctors and lawyers come from a segregated school.”

Two of the original classrooms from the Williams Academy, which became a part of Dunbar in 1935, are preserved with the original desks at the county-owned Clemente Park. The words previous students carved onto the desks from back when Dunbar was segregated are still visible.

“Back then, I enjoyed the education because teachers made sure you learned,” Myers said. “All that you have now, with kids being suspended from school, we didn’t have that going on cause you knew not to go to school and act crazy.”

Myers does not recall going to a segregated school as a bad thing. Instead of discussing the downsides to the segregated facilities, she spoke about the positive outcomes it has had.

“We went to school and enjoyed it,” Myers said. “The thing about it is in our school, everyone was like a family…everyone knew each other and everyone lived by each other. We always interacted with each other cause that was all we had.”

Myers has played a big role in the LCBHS. She works there as a volunteer to help plan and organize events, as well as to help manage the museum.

The museum is run by volunteers that help organize fundraisers and events to bring awareness to the museum. Jarrett Eady, the chairman for the LCBHS, actively goes around and gives speeches to schools and college campuses about the role they play with the organization, as well as the history behind it.

Eady helps manage what historical events they consider to be relevant to document, as well as what they put into their records. He feels as though the Dunbar community has played a huge role on the history of African Americans in Fort Myers.

“A lot of our history with racism in this country shows that when people don’t feel like they’re a part of something, they’ll find a community they feel comfortable with,” Eady said.

The LCBHS provides records of historic events that have occurred here in Fort Myers, and its significance to where we are now.

“History is relevant,” said Eady. “It shows us who we are and how we got to be here, so I think everything that happened in the past is still very relevant today.”

Dunbar was the center of activity for the African American community in Lee County. Everyone lived in proximity within one another, so they were constantly around each other growing with their community.

Myers has experienced the direct effects of segregation on her life. She looks as segregation not entirely as a negative thing, but as a significant point in our history that brought an entire community together to fight for what is right.

“We had events going on in our neighborhood all the time for us to go to,” Myers said. “I don’t like integration because of that…cause everyone is separated from each other now. But if we had not had integration, then we wouldn’t have been able to progress the way we have.”

Setup of a typical classroom at Dunbar in the 1960’s when it was segregated.



Original photograph and sign used when water fountains were segregated.


Original photograph of Dunbar’s first football team.
One of the original desks that was used in Dunbar when it was segregated.
Carvings on the original desks by students of Dunbar from when it was segregated are still visible.
Photographs that were placed on the teacher’s desk that was displayed at the Lee County Black History Museum.
Jarrett Eady posing for a photograph in the museum.



Theodore Soliday Receives Honorary Award At Military Banquet

Theodore Soliday has received numerous honorary awards, as well as three Purple Heart medals for his service in the military. On Saturday, February 6th, he stood beside his ripped uniform from a plane crash during the Vietnam War, which was on display at the military banquet held at the Hertz Hanger in Southwest Florida International Airport.

The banquet was supported by The Naples Senior Squadron Civil Air Patrol and was a fundraiser for the Museum of Military Memorabilia. Food, drinks, entertainment and auctions were provided for the veterans to enjoy for the night.

“Being able to help out even just a little for this event is an honor,”  Carla Enriquez said, pastry chef for the event. “Just being here around all these veterans gives me the goose bumps.”

A couple of awards were given to a few veterans, however the focus of the night was on Theodore Soliday, a retired pilot, captain and air traffic controller for the United States Marine Corps, who has received three Purple Hearts. The Purple Heart is the oldest award still given to U.S. military members, and was established by George Washington. It honors wounded veterans who have fought in war.

He had three of his uniforms on display from the museum at the gala for everyone to observe. Visible tears and rips were present on the uniform from which he was wearing when he got into a crash.

“My recollection is that it was in early March or late February,” Soliday said, when asked about his crash. “As we were going down spinning, I aimed for the dirt and had to turn the aircraft so we could soften the impact, and then it rolled down the hill…it was a pretty traumatic crash.”

He describes what it was like and what was going through his head as he was going down. He chuckled and made few jokes about the experience.

“The funniest part of it though, is sitting there and thinking what don’t you do when you’re upside down,” Soliday said. “First thing I see is my copilot moving his head around, so that means he’s not dead…I told to him to get out. I had to cut myself out, and that’s where the rips on the uniform come from.”

Four veterans attending the gala greet each other with laughs and hugs.
Decorations with the American flag were placed on each of the tables.
Veteran smiles as her photo is being taken.
Some moments reveal the inner stress veterans feel on a daily basis.
Drinks were available all night to the veterans at the gala.
Young kids of veterans attend the gala.
Everyone stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ted Soliday’s ripped uniform from the crash.

Don’t know how to approach someone you want to photograph?

If you have your shy and timid moments like me, then you understand the constant barrier I face with taking that perfect shot or getting that perfect story: approaching someone and asking for their permission to be documented. There are numerous ways to go about this, but which one is right?

I wrote a few tips on what helps me the most when approaching someone for a quote for my story or a photograph to add to my portfolio!

1. The first thing I usually ask myself before approaching someone, is would I be comfortable with someone documenting me in my current situation if the roles were reversed? If so, you are that much closer to getting your shot! But, keep in mind, just because you would be okay with it, does not necessarily mean they will be!

2. Another thing I usually consider first, is whether or not it is my legal right to be able to document the subject you want. Usually, if in a public area  where cameras are allowed, you are able to photograph someone for your purpose without their consent, unless it is for advertisement. Same goes for children! Different countries have different laws regarding this, so do your research before to avoid any sticky situations!

3. What I usually tell myself as I am about to approach someone, is that the worst that could happen is they say no! And people will say no; if that is the case, thank them for their time and walk away. There is no point in starting an argument or trying to sneak a photo! Respect their desires and carry on. Also, you’d be surprised at how much people love getting their photo taken!

4. A good place to practice approaching people is in really crowded areas such as streets and entertainment events.  You are often able to appear invisible in a crowded area, allowing you to take candid shots of your subjects. If someone catches you photographing a candid of them, to avoid the awkwardness, go up to them and show the photo you took of them-almost everyone loves seeing the photos taken of them!

Hope this helped!

Local man in Montego Bay, Jamaica, prepares a meal of jerk chicken with festival at a local restaurant called “Pork Pit.”
Jamaican man told me to get my camera ready because he had the perfect pose for me.
Local Jamaican boy watches over at a customer buying a product from his mother’s store.

Circo Fest takes the streets of Old San Juan

Locals dressed up in the brightest of colors while singing and dancing down the street, Circo Fest takes the streets of Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico’s “Circo Fest” is an annual parade and festival held on the streets of Old San Juan. It takes place every March in the same area. It is a festive parade that locals and tourists from all over gather to enjoy.

This festival provides entertainment such as circus acts and street performers from all over the world. It is an international festival that brings in art and music to the streets for the community to enjoy.

“I’ve been living in Puerto Rico for many years, and I still enjoy coming to this parade,” Patricia Butler said, native to Puerto Rico. “It’s such a beautiful thing to see people get together and participate in.”

The main purpose of this festival is to promote the use of public spaces for the circus and street arts in Puerto Rico.

Seeing the community come together with diverse groups of people of all ages participate in this colorful parade is an enjoyable experience for everyone who attends.

One of the entertainers blowing their whistle to the beat of the music.
Local man sits on a quiet street as the festival goes on right across the street from him.
Puerto Rican man stands as he waits for people to buy food and snacks from his concession stand.
Live circus acts and entertainment take place as people walk through the streets.
People of all ages dress up and march in the parade on the streets of Old San Juan.


Rasta Living

“Camo” the Rasta man has been living on the side of the street right down my family’s house in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for as long as I can remember.

Seeing him walk down the street everyday, wearing his yellow shirt and khaki shorts, became the norm for me. However, one day I decided to stop by and talk to him for a while.

He showed me around his whole setup and elaborated on what he does on a day-to-day basis.

Being a Rastafarian, he is a vegetarian, or as Camo says it, “I don’t eat anything with eyes.” All of the food he eats is made from scratch, right down to the coconut oil. I had the privilege of seeing the process of it being made.

“You need to find from de wild…ya know…naturally,” Camo said.

Camo also makes his own juices that he sells to people for the little income he receives. These juices are believed to cure terminal illnesses such as cancer, liver disease, heart problems and much more.

Rastafarians believe in the Judeo-Christian God, and their beliefs are based on Judaism and Christianity. Rastafarians do not believe in the afterlife, and view Africa as a Heaven on Earth.

An important Rastafarian concept is “I and I,” which is instead of “you and I.” This puts emphasis on the oneness between humanity and God, as well as the equality of all human beings.

Camo believes in the simplicity of life, being attached to no material items. He holds money to of little value, enjoying the natural way of living and becoming one with the Earth, using its natural and renewable resources.


This fruit is called Ackee, which is the national fruit of Jamaica. If not cleaned properly, it is poisonous and can be fatal when consumed.
The collection of juices Camo makes and sells.
Camo cooking the Ackee he prepared himself.
Camo sharing his views on living life naturally.
The way Camo cooks his food, using the few pots and pans he owns.
Camo shows the inside of a coconut while he is making coconut oil.