Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia and Siberia are places that, for most of us, seem far away and exotic. For me, they are places that feel like home. As a student of Russian, I visited the capitol of the former Soviet Union and was awed by the stark Stalinist architecture mingled with quaint historic churches. My fascination with Russia led me to spend 5 years living and working in the rapidly changing world of post-Soviet capitalism where I thrived on the chaotic economic and political landscapes that challenged my flexibility, patience and creativity.

Since 2000, I have traveled nearly a dozen times back to Russia and other former republics. Just last year, I was in Georgia prior to their controversial elections and had the chance to visit far away cities close to the Turkish and Armenian borders. Traveling as a consultant for ACDI/VOCA (Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance), a nonprofit organization out of DC, I found time to develop my passion for photography, amassing a collection of 35 mm slides of the people and places in these regions.

Through my desire to share my experiences about these places with Americans, I have developed slide presentations for schools, businesses and other community organizations. My first public photography exhibit took place at L'Amyx on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. It was entitled, "Faces and Places" and incorporated 22 images from around the world, including Lance Armstrong at the 2003 Tour de France and Thich Naht Hanh, renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist.

My second show, entitled "Off the Beaten Track", ran in November 2004 at Javarama Coffee House on Park St. in Alameda. With 80 images from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Georgia, Moscow and Siberia, as well as 6 short stories and lively captions, this exhibit is really storytelling in images.

On Friday, November 5th, the show opened with a bang as part of the First Friday series in Alameda. Over 150 guests enjoyed live cello music by Elaine Kreston, homemade feta-walnut dip (my favorite) and a journey off the beaten track in photos and essays. Many guests won prizes during the raffle and I even held a spontaneous auction at the end of the evening!

I've created a virtual exhibit for those who are not able to make it to Javarama by the end of November. Please enjoy the exhibit by clicking on the countries to the right and then clicking on the thumbnails in order to get larger images and the brief captions that weave the stories.