After being laid off in 2009, Omar McKenzie and a friend began a nightlife marketing website in which technical and photography abilities were required. With a computer science degree, the tech part was easy for McKenzie, but he’d never used a professional grade camera before. He bought a Canon rebel setup with flash from Craigslist and taught himself everything through trial and error. In October 2014, he quit his corporate life completely to travel and photograph his experiences.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I have a very photojournalistic style that loves to include portraits and expresses lifestyles in a sort of depth most people won’t see.
Can you share the backstories behind these two photos?
While backpacking through Singapore, I was downtown near the Merlion statue that shoots water. I sat for an hour observing people pose near it to simulate it actually shooting in their mouths. I got turned off from even taking a picture of the statue, walked to get a beer and saw the amazing light shining through this bridge.
In Luang Prabang, Laos, there is an alms giving ceremony every morning at sunrise when monks emerge from the temples in a single file to accept gifts of sticky rice and cash from the townspeople in exchange for a blessing. The tourist industry has made it a complete farce through disrespect, but if you avoid the crowds and know where to position yourself, amazing shots like this will come about.
The “Snapshot” series are mini interviews with fellow black travel photographers to inspire others and myself. As I’ve navigated the world of travel photography over the last few years, I’ve found very few fellow photographers of color who are also doing this professionally with a heavy focus on travel documentary. So this inspirational resource of professional travel photographers of color is a way for people to always find us. Please get in touch if you’d like to be featured or know of others to feature.