I like interacting with people. I like taking pictures of people. I like looking at pictures of people. So when I get an assignment that doesn't involve me photographing people, I usually cringe. This was the case when I got an assignment from Illumination magazine to illustrate a story about munitions pollution remediation. The Department of Defense has identified 2,307 contaminated sites (more than 15 million acres) across the country, for which they have no viable plan to clean up. The story was about two researchers at Mizzou who have invented a new cost effective remediation process to clean up TNT and DNT pollution. I had two main obstacles with this assignment. The first was to find a site that was visually appealing. The second and most difficult was to actually gain access to the site. As you can imagine, the DOD was not real receptive to any publicity about these polluted sites. After weeks of dead ends, I finally had a break through and gained access to a site in Weldon Springs, MO.
The Weldon Springs Ordinance Works was the largest manufacturer of TNT and DNT during WWII. Over the course of the war Weldon Springs employed 5,000 people and manufactured millions of tons of explosives. Explosives manufacturing ended shortly after the war, but the site was then used to enrich weapons grade uranium up until the end of The Cold War. In the early 2000's the DOD worked with the EPA to clean up the contaminated site. Everything was burned, leveled and buried, which was the accepted remediation techniques used at the time. Everything except 1,600 acres that remained an Army ROTC training center. The below photographs came from this section of land.
I still don't like getting assignments where I'm not photographing people, but if I do, I hope they are all as visually stimulating as this place was.