How it all started
In 2011, I left my job as Director of Global Enterprise Solution Architecture at one of the world's largest hotel companies to pursue my fine art photography. I had grown tired of corporate America and my girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Hanson, encouraged me to take time off and pursue my photography.
I met with several gallery owners and the curator of the High Museum in Atlanta to show them my portfolio. Their responses were all very similar: “Great work, but I don’t see a cohesive body of work.” My first thought was, “What the heck is a cohesive body of work?” And my second thought was, “How am I to create a cohesive body of work?”
I knew as I set out to develop this “cohesive body of work” that the topic would have to be something I could find passion for developing over time. Ever the engineer, I began to analyze what others had done in developing their successful bodies of work.
I grew up in Pennsylvania about 11 miles from the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. I was in Mrs. Murray’s 3rd grade class when the accident at the plant happened. It left an indelible mark on my interest in nuclear power and engineering in general. With that experience always in the back of my head and then during an interview with my father to archive my family’s history, I learned that my ancestors last stop in Europe before emigrating to America in the beginning of the 1900s was the Ukraine. It seemed like an obvious decision – I should document the Chernobyl Nuclear Zone. Of course, I had no idea how to undertake such a project.
In November 2011, I managed to find an guy on the internet, who had been in the “zone” several times and was returning. He told me that he sometimes takes “professional” photographers with him. I sent him links to some of my photos and he responded, “You look like a professional. Wire me $500 to hold you place.” I took a leap of faith - it wasn’t to Western Union and he didn’t promise me access to the king of Nigeria’s fortune through a concierge, so it at least appeared legit - and I wired Arek my savings. Several weeks later, I arrived in Kiev and met Arek and several other photographers at 7 am outside Hotel Rus in Kiev.
On this first trip, Arek and I managed to convince the local authorizes to allow us to access the control room of Reactor No. 4, ground zero for the infamous 1986 accident. This was the crown jewel according to Arek; he had tried on several other occasions to gain access.
Since this first expedition, my passion for the story and the people of Chernobyl has grown. I have now made 10 expeditions and spent nearly 100 days exploring the zone. I just completed my most complex trip to zone in order to document it as no one else has and will be the subject of the Discovery Science Channels "Mysteries of the Abandoned: Chernobyl's Deadly Secrets" host by me on August 31st, 2017 at 9 PM ET.