Woman tracks down Times Square photo after boyfriend's death in Oakland fire

ByCeFaan Kim, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, December 9, 2016
Woman tracks down Times Square photo after boyfriend's death in fire
CeFaan Kim has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A young man from Oakland was visiting New York City last year with his girlfriend, when a photographer in Times Square took their picture, but they never got a copy.

The girlfriend wanted so much to have that photo of her boyfriend after he tragically died and set about to find the cameraman.

Arken Avan says he never forgets faces, faces he's captured of couples in love.

But one couple he photographed is no longer together.

Saya Tomioka lost her boyfriend last week, 23-year-old Griffin Madden was among the dozens who perished in a fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland.

But two summers before tragedy tore them apart; the Queens photographer snapped a precious moment.

It's a moment Tomioka wished she had a copy of, her first time in Times Square with the love of her life.

So she took her crippling pain to social media, hoping others could help her track the photo down.

Posting on Facebook: "Friends, possibly with your help, I can be reunited with this photograph, this treasured memory that I'll always keep in my heart. I need some light right now. I need a reminder of the brightest light of all---love."

Her post was shared more than 300 times.

Avan's friend is a cop who works in Times Square and he saw the girlfriend's Facebook post and figured out who took the picture.

"I actually remembered their faces because they really looked so adorable. I photograph couples, I love couples. I photograph everything romantic, everything about love. I saw her lipstick on his cheek and she was having a pretzel that time when I photographed them," Avan said.

Avan posted the picture on Tomioka's page.

She says she immediately sobbed and laughed uncontrollably.

This photo she says helped bring a "glimpse of your light back into my life. With the infinite help from our families, friends, and strangers, I finally found you."

"Photography in general is like a time machine you know. The photography I do, you can always go back to the moment that happened with you. It is a very sad moment but I hope she will keep this photograph as a memory you know, and she will look at life from a different angle right now. Because you know, we don't live forever," Avan said.