52 Week Project Blog

Week 11/52 - Urban Nature

I like to introduce Leila Marie Ali as the portrait of the week for number 11! She is the newest addition to my ongoing 52 Environmental Portraiture project. The coolest fact was we were formally introduced from our mutual friend. On the day of the shoot, we officially met! We mapped out outfits and locations for our shoot! 

You are in for a ride with what is about to come up. Let's go!

Leila is a phenomenal woman. Upon meeting her, my eyes were wide open about her appearance. She's beyond energetic, outgoing, and driven. Picking out outfits was interesting because my head was spinning on the endless possibilities for this shoot! After munching on snacks, we finally hammered down on the chain link body armor with the red cape and a bad ass leather jacket. 

First location was her choice. We went to a cemetery near Discovery Park. Personally I have never photographed at a cemetery so the place spooked me. Once I saw the area, we went for it. The place was quiet and bright despite having a somber feel from the graves. Leila's bright and colorful outfit created a powerful almost Thor like feel. Combining the elements of nature with an intense medieval outfit shined light for the cemetery. Rest in peace for the bodies that laid there.  

Second and last location was my choice. Before the shoot, I discovered a hidden park directly under the Interstate 5 highway. Knowing Leila hula hoop equip with LED, I had to make this park our playground. The park was quiet, opened, and dope. This isn't the first time I photographed a hooper, however, this is a vast improvement on capturing a hooper right. Her moves with the hoop were smooth, lively, and fierce. It challenged me to configured my setting while capturing Leila's move as quick as possible. I'm so proud of myself!

The info here is about Leila. She is an entertainer and an entrepreneur. Her business You Pic It celebrates self-expression, community and fun through the shared experience of taking selfies in a state-of-the-art Japanese-style photobooth. 

More than what was describe above is also another reveal as a spoken word artist and actress/performer. She shared with me she went to NYU with a BFA in Theater and has performed on stages in New York City, Toyko and Melbourne. She is one busy woman that's for sure.  

Before concluding, Leila's bright blue hair with the mix of urban and nature created a unique photoshoot. During the entire shoot, I snapped over 300 images. After going through the RAW images, I pinpointed down to 119 complete photos to show 16 wonderful capture of Leila. 

I am so happy we connected! I had a blast! Thank you Leila for being a part of my project and making this happen. Even though we just met, our conversations were deep. I learned so much about you and definitely beyond excited to see what you will do for your future. It was an honor to photograph a compelling driven woman who continues to strive greater possibilities. 

For my readers, thank you for visiting. I enjoy writing about the portrait of the week. I hope you enjoyed this entry. 

For week 12, I cannot wait for what is about to happen. It will be a dusk/evening photo shoot so expect a beautiful night shoot. Stay tuned for next week!

- Sally Phnouk -


Leila is a wonderful businesswoman. To learn more about her endeavors, please visit: 

You can find her on social media: