#GoodPeople: Brian Oh
Our customers are extraordinary people. Here are their stories.
The last time food and travel photographer Brian Oh smiled so big it hurt, he was in Kathmandu for work in April with a colleague. One afternoon, they headed up the steps to the Buddhist Swayambhunath temple that’s colloquially referred to as “Monkey Temple,” because of the swarms of monkeys that inhabit the grounds and surrounding hills. Just outside the main stupa they sat in the shade to escape the midday sun and have a Coke. “I noticed one particular monkey staring daggers into the back of my colleague’s head from a couple of yards back. I told her not to move, and I began taking pictures as the monkey creeped forward until it stopped inches from her face. Being the good sport that she was, she stayed in place so I could keeping snapping away. Of course, the story ends with monkey fistfuls of hair, screams, and me dying from laughter,” recapped Brian.
After hearing that, we had to know more about Brian’s friendships. One of his favorite early memories with his best friend comes from a time when they were actually not friends at all. Rather, they more or less hated each other when they met in elementary school, he shared. “I remember making a comment about how loud and obnoxious his gum chewing was and he told me to mind my own business. That was nearly twenty years ago and he’s now my oldest friend,” recalled Brian.
When it comes to his newest friend, they were brought together by work. “She was thrust upon me for an assignment at work. Turns out she’s not a terrible person,” he joked. And, if Brian could tell the person he feels closest to right now something that he hasn’t, he would let them know they’re a terrible singer in the car, but it’s endearing nonetheless.
Speaking of music, when he dances like no one is watching, Brian plays Lotus Flower from Radiohead’s King of Limbs, which he lovingly describes as, “halfway between the Macarena and a seizure.”
It’s a juxtaposition of experiences that constantly refreshes my sense of perspective of how fortunate I am, and that I should never take it for granted.
Moving onto the clothing he surrounds himself with, while Brian’s most prized clothing item is not a particularly exciting item (according to him), it’s certainly been an exciting number of places. It’s his heather gray hoodie from Saturdays NYC that’s about six years old, which provides comfort and durability in spades. It’s a staple in his wardrobe and part of his travel uniform, which means it’s been with him to upwards of 20 countries and dozens of 12 plus hour flights.
All that traveling for his job to developing countries has made Brian think differently recently. “It’s an ongoing exercise in cognitive dissonance. I regularly have weeks where I’ll start off Monday in some of the poorest communities in the world and by the weekend be in some of the wealthiest (like Tokyo, London, or back to DC). It’s a juxtaposition of experiences that constantly refreshes my sense of perspective of how fortunate I am, and that I should never take it for granted,” said Brian.
When it comes to his perspective of himself in the world, if Brian had to pick a spirit animal, he might say an albatross, because the mythology of the bird is so layered and multifaceted; it’s seen as both a good and bad omen, and among one the most efficient fliers of all birds, covering great distance with almost no effort (some say that they can sleep in flight). Brian continued, “Not that I feel like my presence is particularly portentous, but that perhaps I, like anyone else, can be perceived differently by different people and, like the albatross, keep flying without concern.”
I don’t think that feeling will ever go away, no matter what I actually accomplish in my life, but I think that’s important as it keeps me from being complacent.
If Brian were to get a blue ribbon this week, he’d get it for killing six giant cockroaches in one night in his hotel room in Timor-Leste, where he’s currently staying. “They didn’t stand a chance,” he exclaimed.
Brian is most afraid of not getting the chance to feel like he’s done some measurable good in the world. “I don’t think that feeling will ever go away, no matter what I actually accomplish in my life, but I think that’s important as it keeps me from being complacent,” he elaborated.
If Brian could give a gift to anyone, he’d give President Obama a shirt with Leslie Knope’s face on it and the words “FLAME DUCK.” Which we’d argue, could definitely be measurable good. Get to know more about Brian, and keep in touch with him on Instagram.
Ready for more goodness? Explore our other #goodpeople profiles.