Everywhere he goes, the camera goes with him.
Omaha resident Manny Oyet made a deal with a friend six months ago that quickly transformed into a passion. After helping this friend move furniture to a new house, Oyet received something he always wanted but knew nothing about: a digital camera. This camera had dead batteries, was coated in dust and left abandoned on a kitchen table; however, Oyet saw its potential.
Born in Kenya, Oyet briefly lived in the nearby country of Sudan until he moved to the United States at 2 months old. Oyet, now 21, hasn’t had the opportunity to return to his home country since he left. Despite this, he still embraces his African culture in America through food, music and visiting family in Omaha who are also Africa natives.
“That’s when I’m really around it,” said Oyet. “My mom and sister still wear traditional African clothes, my mom plays African music when she cleans and cooks a lot of African cuisine.”
Oyet’s family helps expand his interest in photography. He often teams up with his brother, Bill, when taking pictures—exchanging ideas and taking turns as cameramen.
While most photographers prefer their subjects to be staged in some way, Oyet strives for a more organic, candid approach. People simply being themselves in their own environment may sound boring to some, but Oyet transforms these mundane activities into works of art.
“The world is so surrounded by media and obsessed with what you’re supposed to be doing or how you’re supposed to look in photos,” Oyet said, “so if I catch people off guard doing their thing, what they genuinely like to do, it’s refreshing.”
Oyet’s photoshoots involve friends, family or anyone interested. They meet at an agreed upon location—typically downtown or anywhere with interesting scenery. They walk around and whatever or whoever they see has the potential to be the subject of a photo. When the photoshoot is complete, Manny uploads the images to his computer and spends hours editing. Along with obscure angles and varied subjects, editing is what makes Oyet’s photos stand out.
Many of his images are edited to look eccentric and cartoonish, as if they were drawn over with colored pencil or transformed with paint. His photos have a rug-ged, urban vibe, often capturing his squad hanging out in spots around Omaha decorated in vibrant graffiti or other eye-catching backdrops. Oyet’s photos are beautifully distinct, displaying people in their most genuine, relaxed conditions.
Aside from taking pictures, Oyet has dabbled in other creative endeavors including music recording, creating instrumental beats, designing mixtape album covers, screen pressing t-shirts and drawing.
“Anything that has to do with art and media interests me,” Oyet said.
Traveling, meeting new people and taking photos of these experiences are Oyet’s primary goals. He dreams of having his own space for creative projects and would like to build a community around his work.
“I’d like to teach people that they can do something new and creative if they really want to,” Oyet said. “No one should just settle. Life is all about finding what drives you, no matter where or when you start.”
To see some of Oyets’s work, contact him for photo inquiries or even participate in a photoshoot, follow him on Instagram @observe.and.learn.