Despite referring to himself as a failed mathematician, there are several areas Brian Siambi excels in. Graphic designer by day and photographer when time permits, this Kenya native is a jack of all trades. His approach to photography is unconfined as he yields his camera whenever there’s an opportunity for a moment to be immortalized. From the scenic landscapes of Naivasha to the enthralling beaches of Lamu, Brian paints a portrait of a Kenya that he describes as diverse, easy-going, ambitious and thriving with creativity.
My name is Brian Siambi and I’m Kenyan. I’m a graphic designer and semi-professional photographer, born and bred in Nairobi, Kenya.
How does photography influence the way you travel and see the world around you?
Photography has completely changed how I see everyday life, even more so when I travel. I see beauty in everything, from the sunrise, to landscapes, culture and people. Every time I travel, I take more time to see things. Photography has heightened my appreciation of beauty and I’m more grateful for God’s wonders.
What is your favorite approach to photography? Do you generally strike up a conversation with your subjects or just capture the moment?
I enjoy fashion, travel and concept photography. When I travel to new places, I tend to scope out the place and its people. In most cases, I will capture the moment and get candid shots. In some instances, I will ask to take a portrait of someone interesting and strike up a conversation, which sometimes gives me insight on the place that I’m visiting.
How would you describe the local culture and life in Kenya? What do you love most about living in (and being from) Kenya?
I would describe our culture as diverse. I believe that we have the most diverse people in the world. With forty-two tribes in the country, I get to experience different cultures everywhere I go. Kenyans are the easiest going people. In Nairobi, we are constantly moving up and down, chasing money. On the other hand, when you go down to other parts of the country (near the coast for example), everyone is so chill and friendly. That’s what I love most about Kenya. We are all different and I learn a lot from the people around me.
What would surprise most people about Kenya? What would you like people to know about Kenya that the media rarely shows?
What most surprises people about Kenya is how advanced and stable we are as a country. Not every Kenyan is poor and we’re a friendly nation.
What are three of your favorite places to explore throughout Kenya? Why?
Lamu is definitely at the top of my list. I’ve been there three times in a span of six months. It’s the most amazing place in the world and each time I visit, I get to experience new things. I love the deep culture that has been preserved for centuries. The amazing Swahili architecture, water sports and the food are out of this world. My favorite house on the island is the Forodhani house – it’s right next to the ocean and you get to see the most amazing sunrise from there. You also get to indulge in the most delicious prawns, served by amazing chefs. I highly recommend this place to everyone.
Next is Naivasha. Located an hour and a half away from Nairobi, it’s one of my favorite places to visit, mostly because of the Hell’s Gate National Park. It offers an amazing scenery for bike riding, rock climbing, camping and wildlife. Next to the park are the gorges – where Tomb Raider was filmed – they are ideal for photographers and hikers alike. Lake Elementatia and Lake Naivasha also offer some stunning views and they have some of the largest bird population, notably flamingoes.
Meru and Nanyuki are also two of my favorite places in Kenya, with breathtaking landscapes.
What are two places in Kenya you’ve always wanted to explore, but haven’t yet had the opportunity/time?
I would really love to visit Samburu, Turkana and the Chalbi desert. My friends have been there and they’ve told me great things. I would really love to a do a concept shoot there.
What recommendations can you share for future travelers interested in visiting Kenya? Descriptions & recommendations of the best places for visitors to experience Kenya?
Neighborhoods, galleries, and museums to explore:
The National Museum in Nairobi has an amazing collection of the history of mankind. The snake park is right next door for the brave-hearted. The National Archives also have a political documentary of Africa's struggle for independence.
Activities to do and places to explore:
I would highly recommend the places I named previously. They offer amazing experiences and are budget friendly. Closer to home in Nairobi, I would recommend visiting the Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust along with the Giraffe Centre and the KICC rooftop for great views of the city. For travelers who like to be active, the Karura forest is perfect for hiking, jogging, picnics and biking. The Nairobi National Park has a variety of wild animals and is a must-see.
Best foods to try and great local cafes/restaurants:
Nyama Choma (roasted meat) is one of the best foods to try. It goes well with ugali, a local delicacy. For restaurants, check out Nyama Mama, which offers authentic African food and atmosphere.
Best markets and neighborhoods for local shopping:
If you’d like to buy African jewelry and accessories, the Masaai Market has all you need. It’s open 7 days a week in different parts of the city. City markets are perfect if you’re looking for fresh meat and flowers.
What would you say has been the most gratifying thing about living in Kenya?
The most gratifying thing for me is that we’re living in very exciting times, with the world being connected more than ever. Kenya is thriving with creativity and the rest of the world is noticing. From actors, techies, photographers and filmmakers, the youth is taking charge of its destiny and we’re rising beyond the stereotypes.
What advice would you give for those who are interested in visiting Kenya?
I would say: COME, COME, COME! Kenya has a lot to offer for everyone. Whether you want to see the wildlife, white sandy beaches, people or nightlife, there’s something for everyone.
What’s next for you? Any final words of advice?
I want to travel more and explore my country. I’d also love to explore different African countries like Morocco, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Egypt, the list goes on.
My word of advice is: do what makes you happy in life. I’ve come to realize that life is not about accumulating wealth, only to die and not spend it. Live for the experiences, love hard, be kind and find something you are passionate about.
Images Courtesy of Brian Siambi
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