Thomas Cook
Director & Senior Photographer

My initial interest started in the 70's when my childhood neighbor, a sales rep for a Japanese robotics company, brought my father a Canon A-1 from Japan. Seeing, and more importantly being able to play with that technology, really sparked my interest in photography. From that point forward I can remember seeing things in the world as moments or photographs -- I would remember family trips or childhood adventures as albums or photo books in my mind. As I grew older and got my own camera, I ventured into black and white, trying to get down to the essence of the medium. During that same period, I got to see the Robert Mapplethorpe show in Cincinnati amidst heavy national controversy. The fact that I experienced the work of an amazing and ground-breaking photographer in his most visible moment (ironically a year after his death) fueled my passion for the medium, and etched its power in my mind forever. After college I moved to Vail, Colorado to live the life of a ski bum, and continue my exploration of black and white photography. I worked under several professional photographers, experiencing the industry through sports action and scenic images. The beauty and power of nature, paired with my passion for black and white photography, drove me to explore the great American West. Much to my surprise, I found that I loved photographing the people and the places of the West more than the natural landscape. This discovery pushed me back toward the art world and civilization, ultimately carrying me back to Cleveland. And, it wasn't long before, once again, I found myself surrounded by artists fueling my passion. I found myself at TRG. Reflecting on my life as an artist, the common thread I've found is that time and again, I've wound up surrounded by incredible artists who share the same passion for photography and art. They have pushed me to rethink how I perceive the world, and to find new ways to express those experiences that form the photo books in my mind.

Fun Fact

Dad. Bike rider. Amateur woodworker and furniture builder.

Favorite Cleveland Hangout

A couple of my favorite cleveland hangouts are the CMA and the Emerald Necklace (Cleveland MetroParks). The CMA is a simple one. As a creative, it's always refreshing to visit the museum. It's such an amazing space. Not only are the galleries and the work inspiring, but the atrium always surprises with an unexpected smile from the skies. The CMA has such an awesome collection that it's simple to saturate your creative mind sponge in a heartbeat, leaving you full and ready to push yourself beyond your barriers. Oh, and it's always humbling, too.

The Emerald Necklace is another Cleveland gem that sits quietly, waiting, without regard for the urbanization surrounding. I frequently ride my bike through the eastern portion, along chagrin river road, through the calming fields and rolling hills, in search of my presence. Nothing clears my mind like cycling with nature for hours. unless, of course, i crash. But that's another story.

Favorite Project You've Worked On

Just knowing that I would be meeting Viktor Schreckengost gave me chills. That day, in his Cleveland Heights home, we found ourselves surrounded by his iconic designs. There they were -- the airplane pedal car, the Murray bicycle, the jazz bowl, the metal toys, the lawn chair, the sketches of the trucks, the pitchers and sculptures and watercolors. Most were the original pieces. We all stood there, aghast, admiring a lifetime of brilliance before us. To then shake his hand and take his picture left me speechless. To this day, it remains one of the most surreal experiences of my life. 

Viktor Schreckengost received the National Medal of Arts a few months later, and passed away a little over a year after that. The American Da Vinci, he is truly an icon of american design. I still can't believe I had the honor of photographing him.