"Clueless" and "insensitive" are just some of the milder labels given to a woman who posed for a photo next to a mural about love, while seemingly oblivious to a homeless man sleeping beside her.

An image of the woman, captured by a passerby as she is being photographed by her friend, has been circulated online and has triggered a torrent of criticism.

The mural on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, reads "Stand here and think about someone you love", although the artist, Dallas Clayton, says he felt the opposite of warm fuzzies when he saw the cringe worthy shot.

"It's unfortunate that any person would have to sleep on the street. It's unfortunate that someone could be so disconnected that they would step over someone to take a photograph and also it's unfortunate that the spectacle of documenting this is easier to discuss and comment on than the root issue is to solve," he wrote on social causes site TakePart.com, adding that he "felt sorry for everyone involved".

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The person who took the photo of the two women, local real estate agent Rich Michalowski, has also spoken up online.

"The photographer was directing the woman on where to stand, how to pose and suggested she take off her jacket. At one point the photographer directed her to move closer to the homeless man so she could centre the photo. They were still at it when I drove away."

Social media users have voiced their disgust at the image, with one user commenting: "There's a certain amount of irony involved in posing for a warm fuzzy picture while trying not to stand on a homeless man's head," wrote one commenter on Facebook.

But others have been more sympathetic.

"When there is a homeless man in front of the grocery store camped out asking you for money ... most people still walk right by and do their shopping", wrote one commenter.

"I am not going to be p*ssed at these girls for wanting an Instagram photo."

I hadn't planned on posting anything about this photo because I didn't want it associated with me or mistaken for anything I support but after receiving a ton of notices and doing an interview with the Daily Mail it would seem that this photo and all it represents have gone viral. While I wish my mural had gotten to make its rounds on a more positive note, I'm glad that this photo is stirring a dialogue and hopefully enlightening some minds. Homelessness is a systemic issue that very few organizations and governing bodies seem to have a good handle on developing a holistic solution to. It's unfortunate that we live in a world, country, state, and city with so many resources and so much potential for progress, yet we still allow people to go without basic needs such as food and shelter. I appreciate that this photo is shining a light on the disparity between the haves and the have nots, but honestly if it takes this photograph for you to realize that this disparity exists I don't imagine you've been paying attention to society as a whole for the past fifty or sixty years. Issues like prison overcrowding, inadequate mental health care and drug policies, lack of support for veterans, and the ever-widening class gap are all just parts of this picture. I wish I had solutions to these issues. I wish we structured changes based around countries that were seeing success in lowering their homeless populations. I also wish that the woman in this photo had connected more with the intention of the mural itself, which was to offer a moment of pause to reflect on what it means to love someone else, to create empathy and bring us closer together as a people. So in the spirit of thinking about those we love, instead of talking about this woman and her (hopefully momentary) ineptitude can we instead focus on well-researched links to local organizations who are offering their best efforts to fight the uphill battle to help end homelessness in Los Angeles and worldwide. I'll be posting new prints this week, and donating 100% of the proceeds to whichever homeless organization you guys think would benefit the most. It's not a solution by any means but hopefully a step.

A post shared by Dallas Clayton (@dallasclayton) on

- nzherald.co.nz