George McKenzie Jr

George McKenzie Jr

MR’21 – Photographer

the path of the panther

meet george

George McKenzie, Jr. is a National Geographic Society award-winning photographer and documentarian from Brooklyn, New York. His work explores the intersection of wildlife, natural history, cultures and conservation through visual storytelling. In December, George accepted a position in Florida with the Path of the Panther Project. As a camera trap technician, he oversees a network of camera trap systems in the Northern Everglades to document the recovery of the endangered Florida panther. This work contributes to both field research and public awareness for the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a collaborative campaign to permanently connect, protect, and restore vital conservation lands.

the path of the panther
Nominated by: Constance Difede MED'01
Class of 2022 Location USA

I would like to give voice to people who are not usually represented. The impact of my work centers around storytelling from a person of color’s perspective. Wildlife and natural beauty surround us. While often overlooked, it is often most unique where you least expect to see it. I discovered a greater appreciation of the natural world through the lens of a camera in largely urban surroundings. I wanted to share stories that were not being told from my perspective. Not only through a camera lens, but through my cultural lens as well. I decided that the only way to change the story is to change the storyteller.

“Learning to use a camera, paint brush, sketch pencil or pen gives [students] the ability to see the world around them, and also confidence..”

- George McKenzie Jr

When I began to work professionally, I often focused on stories highlighting people of color and the communities in which we lived. As my understanding of the natural world increased, so did my awareness of its fragility. It was no longer enough to just tell my specific stories. It became apparent that I needed to share the tools I used in order that others could amplify the message by sharing their stories as well. Through social media, as a National Geographic instructor and Fjällräven guide, I mentor young people around the globe. It makes a difference when a young person from a background similar to mine sees what I’m doing and realizes the possibilities for their own lives.

Learning expression through photography changed the course of my life. It is important to encourage students to understand that their lives have value. They have a story to tell. Learning to use a camera, paint brush, sketch pencil or pen gives them the ability to see the world around them, and also confidence.

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