Photo of the Day #66 
Monday, October 27, 2008, 17:08 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
It seems like the easiest way that politicians and government officials have to legislate morality or to inspire fear is to attack photography and photographers. As we learn in an article in The Guardian, the United Kingdom is considering prosecuting photographers to take certain kinds of sexually explicit images.

You are most certainly next! New York City 2001 © Damaso Reyes

“Campaigners fear the new law will criminalize thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships. 'They say this is about violence but it's distinctly about sex,' said Westwood. 'I feel the stick is always pointed at pornography as this terrible corrupting influence, this idea that it makes people do things that they wouldn't have done otherwise.”

While that kind of imagery is not my cup of tea the question that always must be asked when government proposes to regulate speech or content is “who will draw the line and what will the standard be?” Clearly this kind of legislation provides a very slippery slope indeed especially in a country that has no written constitution or enshrined protections for free speech.

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Images of Kodak's New Ektar Film 
Friday, October 24, 2008, 11:02 - Events, Commentary
I had a great day at PhotoPlus yesterday and got to talk a lot about Kodak’s new Ektar film. It’s a funny coincidence that when I was first shooting film back in the early 1990’s that the original Ektar 25 was one of the films I used. Now nearly fifteen years later I am shooting the new and improved version and the results are amazing. But rather than talk about it I will show you some photos I took at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in August. Have a great weekend!

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Photo of the Day #65 
Thursday, October 23, 2008, 12:04 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
So I will be spending some time over at PhotoPlus Expo today and tomorrow. New York’s biggest photography convention is happening now and today I will be at the Kodak booth talking about their new Ektar Film! Photography is always a hot topic here but it seems even the staid Economist has film on the brain with a recent article about the digital transition.

Instant gratification. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

“No matter how dismal the images, the satisfaction of being able to see the result on the camera’s little screen within seconds—and zap the many disappointing pictures—never fails to amuse. Meanwhile, printing the digital images with an ink-jet printer at home brings back fond memories of darkrooms under the stairs with trays of developer, acetic acid and hypo.
The question now is whether to go the whole hog and buy a serious digital camera for work as well as play. Two things have prompted this act of blasphemy.

One is the arrival of more attractively priced digital SLRs with “full-frame” image sensors—that is, with the same dimensions (24mm by 36mm) as a full frame of 35mm film. The largest sensors used previously in “prosumer” SLRs had the same APS format (16mm by 24mm) as disposable cameras. The sensors used in pocket-sized digital cameras and mobile phones are truly minuscule (5mm by 7mm) by comparison.”

It is a lighthearted article but a very entertaining one, especially if you have a thing for Leica cameras as I do!

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Photo of the Day #64 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008, 11:46 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
Even politicians are sounding the alarm about racism in Italy. Granted Jean-Léonard Touadi is not your average politician. Born in Congo he came to Italy in 1979 and made himself into a journalist, author and activist before being elected to the Italian parliament as we learn from the U.K.’s Observer.

'There are now Italians here with non-Italian horizons and this is our future,' said Touadi. For the MP, who forged a career in journalism and local politics in Rome before entering parliament this year, the rising number of incidents is linked to the increasingly strident tone of Maroni's party, the anti-immigrant Northern League, which is a linchpin in Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition.

'The League is pushing discrimination, separation and xenophobia and dragging the government, and with it Italy, towards the systematic violation of human rights,' he said, citing proposals tabled this month by the party which call for the expulsion of legal immigrants who commit a certain number of offences, restrictions on mixed marriages and a new obligation on doctors to report illegal immigrants in their care. Previous moves to expel vagrant Romanians and jail illegal immigrants were challenged last week by the EU.

'For the League, the real problem is not illegal immigration, it's immigration. They need to stop while there is still time,' said Touadi. With legal immigrant numbers rising 17 per cent last year to 3.6 million, Touadi said the spectre of fascism was returning to haunt Italy. 'We've seen Rome taxi drivers chanting "Duce, Duce" at the town hall when the new right-wing mayor was elected this year and now fans with swastikas are following the national football team. Italy will need millions of immigrants to maintain its workforce if birth rates continue to be low, and entire sectors of the economy, like hotels and agriculture, would go under now without them, but the government prefers demagoguery.'

Culture clash. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

The last sentence particularly resonates with me. This is the kind of honest conversation that Italians and all Europeans need to be having about this topic. But because so many people fear that immigration will somehow lead to a loss of their culture (which itself is an amalgamation) it is difficult for many people to talk about the topic rationally. But talk we must if we are going to ever come to a reconciliation about immigration.

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Photo of the Day #63 
Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 13:23 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
Perhaps it is naïve to think that 27 different countries can agree on anything, let alone a topic as complex as immigration but the E.U. recently did just that as we learn from Spiegel Online.

Still waiting. Berlin 2006

Many critics are unhappy with the restrictive content of the agreement: Refugee organizations claim its main focus is on security questions, and argue that such an approach has so far failed to solve immigration problems in Europe.
“Important guidelines to defend human rights were missing, said Bjarte Vandvik, Secretary General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. He said it wasn't at all clear how asylum seekers could even reach the EU under the new, stronger border security proposals.

“A German EU parliamentarian, Angelika Beer from the Green Party, condemned the new document. "This immigration pact from Sarkozy and company is a plan for even more deportation and segregation in the EU," she said. Europe's border-protection agency, Frontex, will have more influence, punishments against immigrants will be sharpened and the power of parliaments in the member states to oversee immigration remains unclear, she argued."

What we don’t have is an open and honest discussion about the needs of Europe when it comes to labor and what immigrants and asylum seekers deserve. Until that happens there will be very little in the way of change when it comes to European attitude towards immigrant, something that needs to happen as xenophobia and attacks of immigrants and well as nationals of foreign decent continue.

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Photo of the Day #62 
Monday, October 20, 2008, 13:44 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
There is a food fight going on in France. Well a cheese fight at least. The future is bumping up against the past as it so often does in Europe with big manufactures squaring off against independent producers as we learn in a article in the International Herald Tribune.

Protect me from what I want. © Damaso Reyes

“But Alléosse, premier maître artisan fromager affineur, or master cheese ager, fears that he is one of a dying breed.
He is worried that industrial processes - from sourcing through production and distribution - are squeezing small farmers and threatening to deny consumers the choice, complexity and quality of a product that is considered a luxury in many countries but a staple on French tables.

The giant producers counter that such complaints are sour grapes and that traditionalists are scared of losing market share to new techniques, resentful of their profit. Consumers, they say, are happy with the products available and prices charged.”

As important as heritage is if a culture does not evolve it dies. The question is how should that change come about. There are some that feel the market should decide; others want government to have a strong say in protecting people, sometimes form what they want. Few French or European consumers want the Walmartization of Europe. At the same time the McDonald's that flourish in Paris or Rome are full of Europeans, not Americans.

What do you think?

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Photo of the Day #61 
Friday, October 17, 2008, 11:11 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
The question we all must ultimately ask is: what do I want to be?

Sure it sounds like something a 6 year old would say but how many of us have honestly asked and answered that question lately? The reason I mention this is because of yet another article on PDN’s blog extolling the virtues of a camera which shoots video.

“Earlier in the afternoon, Laforet suggested to me that the new cameras, which allow image makers to create commercial-quality still and video images working on their own in low light, were a major technological advancement along the lines of the daguerreotype, the Brownie and the 35 millimeter. However, he said, the technology in the Nikon D90s and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II’s would be a bigger advancement than those preceding landmarks, because, he said, it would “redefine what our jobs are” as photographers. Given their technical skill sets and stylistic sensibilities, photojournalists, Laforet thinks, are the people best equipped to utilize this new imaging technology.”

Film at 11. Berlin 2008 © Damaso Reyes

For me here is what it all come down to: you are in a hotspot right in the middle of the action. Something incredible is about to happen do you A.) shoot stills or B.) shoot video? This is the question thousands of photojournalists will soon have to answer. Some will no doubt decide to shoot video and pull out still images but this is no longer photography it is videography.

The two fields have vastly different needs and you can’t really do both, at least not well. People looking to shoot a lot of video will be frustrated by the limitations of a DSLR. I am not a luddite, as you know I have a digital camera and use it. The real problem is that today photographers are increasingly asked to do jobs for which they have little training and even less desire. That doesn’t really change anything but it is important to note.

As for me, I will stay with the stills. If and when I want to shoot video I will get a video camera. But I am a still photographer. Since age 16 I have had the word photojournalist on my business cards.

It isn’t going away anytime soon…

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Photo of the Day #60 
Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 12:31 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
It seems like immigration, and the tensions that are closely associated with it are never far from our posts here. Today we turn out attention once again to Italy which has one of the most complicated relationships to immigrants of all E.U. member states. As we pointed out recently some immigrants have integrated so well they win top prizes for their culinary achievements.

But that doesn’t mean that anti-immigrant violence doesn’t happen. Last month in Milan an African immigrant was beaten to death after a store owner and his son thought he stole a package of cookies.

The writing is still on the wall. Spain 2005. © Damaso Reyes

“Although there is some debate about whether the killing was racially motivated, the attack on Mr. Guibre was the most severe in a recent spate of violence against immigrants across Italy. The attacks are fueling a national conversation about racism and tolerance in a country that has only recently transformed itself from a nation of emigrants into a prime destination for immigrants.

“A black English person, or French person, or Dutch person, that’s O.K.,” said Giovanni Giulio Valtolina, a psychologist and scholar at the ISMU Foundation in Milan, which studies multiethnic societies. “But a black Italian is a very new thing.”

Italy, like the rest of Europe is changing as immigration continues to accelerate. The question is how will these societies adapt to and integrate their new citizens?

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Too Big to Fail? Too Small to Survive? 
Monday, October 13, 2008, 10:03 - Commentary
Can a country go bankrupt?

It is a question that is on many people’s lips in America and in Europe. In Iceland, the question seems to have been answered as we read in a recent article in the New York Times. The tiny nation has seen the value of its currency plummet and its banks start to fail.

“Iceland is bankrupt,” said Arsaell Valfells, a professor at the University of Iceland. “The Icelandic krona is history. The only sensible option is for the I.M.F. to come and rescue us.”

Leaders of E.U. nations recently met to shore up their own credit and banking markets in a bid to avoid the troubles Iceland has faced. Whether it will work remains to be seen.

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Photo of the Day #59 
Friday, October 10, 2008, 14:14 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
Inclusion is the antidote to radicalism. It seems like an obvious statement but a recent article in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad points to the conclusions that Dutch researchers came to.

Bridging the gap. Paris 2008 © Damaso Reyes

“Researcher Marieke Slootman says Muslims should become involved in the wider Dutch society. "They can still have orthodox beliefs, but they won't use violence to force these on others if they see the Netherlands as their country," according to Slootman.

"Some of their ideas might clash with our democratic life-style, but listening to them takes the wind out of the sails of those who say the government is the enemy of every Muslim," she says.

“Slootman says it is important to avoid evoking 'us versus them' emotions and politicians must play a role in this. Un-nuanced comments by politicians make Muslims feel more isolated in the community, the researchers say."

If integration is the true goal of Europeans then of course that has to include political integration. As American painfully accepted in the 1950’s and 60’s minorities can’t fully participate in the life of their society unless they are allowed to participate politically as well…

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Still photos are dead! Long live still photos! 
Thursday, October 9, 2008, 13:28 - Commentary
So with all the advances in high resolution videography the day we still photo conservatives have been dreading is rapidly approaching. Some photographers are now shooting ultra-high definition video and taking still images from that video as we read in an article from PDN online.

From my cold, dead hands! © Damaso Reyes

Of course it is not simple as 1,2,3 but the point is now that in the coming years an increasingly number of photographers will simply become videographers and anyone who says that these two fields overlap just doesn’t know what they are talking about. Still and video shooters have very different concerns from framing and focus to audio recording and usually one suffers for the sake of the other. What will no doubt happen is we will see a lot of great video and bad still imagery in the future.

And that is my rant for today!

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Be a Brit Different! 
Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 13:01 - Project News
I’m a TransAtlanticist!

I am one of several artists commissions to create a piece inspired by British culture for this new website. When I was first contacted I thought it was a great idea and wonderful opportunity. As the manifesto points out:

Signs by Damaso Reyes

“By invention, our cultural landscape is a transatlantic blend of ideas and customs. And it has been the friction between these ideas that has yielded our most substantial innovations.”

Take some time to check out and see the artwork!

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Film is Dead! Long LIve Film! 
Monday, October 6, 2008, 11:22 - Personal, Commentary
People have been saying that film is dead since the start of the century. With each successive generation of digital camera the shouts grow louder. Now you digicam can shoot movies if you so choose. How long will it be before people are saying the still image is dead?

The king is dead, long live the king. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

All that having been said, Kodak just released another new film, the ultra fine grained Ektar 100, and is using one of my images to promote it! There is a reason I chose film when I decided to work on The Europeans. I liked the idea of consistency, of films archival properties and timelessness. Increasingly we see the world digitally but the job of a photographer is not to show us what we already see; it is to show us the world in a new way. Increasingly film is the tool that allows us to stand apart.

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A visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard 
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 14:41 - Personal
I know today is the Sabbath and all but I just wanted to share some non-European images. Yesterday I took a trip over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where many of the artists there were having open studios. While the Navy Yard has been transforming over the past decade from its shipbuilding past to a more diverse future there were still signs everywhere of its heritage. Enjoy the images!


Through a window, darkly.

Out of context.

Remains of the day.

A closed door.

Up and down.

Power and nature.

Fast forward.

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HCB Quote of the Week #53 
Saturday, October 4, 2008, 16:24 - Commentary
While I love spring, fall in New York isn’t too bad either. The crisp air, the changing leaves and the changing light all give one a special feeling I haven’t found anywhere else. So while I enjoy a fall afternoon enjoy your HCB Quote of the Week.

Autumn in New York…. © Damaso Reyes

Actually, I'm not all that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in the box, I'm not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters, after all, aren't cooks. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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