Zen and the Art of Waiting 
Wednesday, January 24, 2007, 02:24 - Shooting, Commentary
Stuttgart

Some people think of photography as an action packed adventure but those of us who actually take the photographs know that it is all about waiting. And then waiting some more. And then a little more after that.

Sometimes it’s about waiting for the right moment, other times it’s about waiting for someone to get back to you about a shoot. Still other times it’s about waiting for the bus to take you to the shoot, or waiting for your subject to show up. At the end of the day we often spend more time waiting than taking pictures.

Today I spent the afternoon taking pictures at the state parliament, which mostly entailed waiting. I had tentatively arranged to shoot there through one of the members but as Tuesday grew closer I still had not heard back. When I called her office her assistant said that she was indeed in but in a meeting, the very meeting that I wanted to come and photograph as it turned out.

So I had a choice: sit and wait to hear back or just show up. In true Damaso fashion I chose the later. The security guard didn’t know what to do with me when I arrived but after a few phone calls I was let in and directed to the SPD party floor where I wandered a bit aimlessly, my two contacts not being in their office but, you guessed it, in the meeting. I finally found someone nice enough to let the two members know that I was there. He asked me to wait.

So I had some tea and caught up with the battle of Arnhem.

And I waited.

After a while one of the members who I knew came out. I asked if I could come inside and photograph. The real selling point was the fact that I wouldn’t understand a word they were saying. I find not being able to speak the language of the country I am in as helpful as it can be annoying sometimes. He said he would ask the other members inside.

And then he asked me to wait.

So I had some more tea and kept reading. And reading. And reading.

Finally he emerged and said it would be no problem for me to shoot.

So I spent the next ninety minutes photographing the meeting and later one of the members as he went over a draft of the budget with an assistant. I spent just about the same amount of time waiting to take pictures as I did actually photographing. While this isn’t always the case I find that it is not all that unusual either.

If you want excitement, become a racecar driver.

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January Dinner 
Sunday, January 21, 2007, 21:51 - Events
Stuttgart

So yesterday was the monthly fellow’s dinner here at Schloss Solitude. It is one of the few chances we get to all come together on a regular basis and share a meal. It was a great chance to meet some of the more reclusive fellows and share a couple (read dozen) bottles of wine. Fun was had by all. See the photos here.


©Damaso Reyes
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Hide and Sheep 
Friday, January 19, 2007, 00:53 - Shooting, Project News
Stuttgart

So, yesterday I got up all early to go hang out with that shepherd that I met the other day. We were supposed to meet up at nine so I got up, showered, put on my long underwear, got all my camera gear ready and went out into the brisk morning air. I searched and searched but found no sign of the sheep. For the better part of an hour I traipsed around the fields and meadows surrounding the Schloss looking for this guy. Finally I spotted a police car and asked the rather silly question “have you seen any sheep today?” Indeed they had and pointed me in the right direction.

So I spot the sheep, nicely penned in by a portable plastic fence that even appeared to have some kind of alarm attached. While I was impressed by the technology, the shepherd was no where to be found. I figured he would return soon enough and I decided to hang tight and await his arrival.

So I waited, staring at the sheep, them staring back. If you’ve never really been around sheep, they spend most of their time eating, sleeping or going to the bathroom right where they stand.

So I waited some more.

And some more.

Finally well past the time he said that he would be leaving this place, sheep in tow, I decided to go back to the Schloss and have some breakfast, after all, I was cold and tired. Having had a little something I returned to the spot where I had left the sheep little more than a half an hour ago and lo, they had vanished. Of course what I assumed was the shepherd’s car was parked in the field, plastic fence neatly wrapped up next to it. But no trace of sheep or shepherd to be found.


But where is the Shepherd? ©Damaso Reyes

Very strange.

In other news, I processed film for the first time, and I didn’t screw it up, woo hoo! Results to follow in the next few days. Tomorrow I have to go and try and get my printer from the evil customs guy who is holding it hostage…

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First Week, First Impressions 
Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 01:40 - Personal
Stuttgart

Hard to believe that I have been here for a whole week, isn’t it? For all the anxiety that I experience before a big move like the one I have just taken it always amazes me how easily I manage to adapt to wherever I land. Of course it helps that I have done this before, most notably when I went to Indonesia on a one way ticket with $400 in my pocket. It also helps that I have landed in such a supportive environment from the beautiful studio that I live in rent free to the knowledgeable staff who are already working with me to secure some shoots. All in all it has been a pretty smooth transition.

I was a little dumbfounded when I first walked into my studio. I mean I always joked that I would be living in a castle but I really had no idea what to expect. I had a talk with Mr. Joly, the director of Solitude today and he basically said that I didn’t have to do anything, that nothing was expected of me and that they wouldn’t bother me in my “private space.” Pretty liberating, isn’t it? Of course having looked forward to being here for so long I will try to work as hard as I can. Since arriving I have been forced to shift gears a bit. Every time I come to Europe, or more accurately every time I leave NYC, I am forced to remember that not everyone in the world works at the manic pace that we do. It will all come together, but it will take time, which is okay since I am here for six months.

I have made a few friends in the other fellows. Amazingly enough I am living across the hall from a fellow who lives in Harlem, small world, no? It is very quiet here and the place seems to encourage the fellows to lead their own lives, which is fine but it can be a little isolating. I have managed to get down into town several times. I am looking forward to actually meeting more Germans and immersing myself in the culture. And there is a weekly German class which I think I will try to get in on. So all in all week one has gone pretty well. Stay tuned for more…
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MLK DAY 
Monday, January 15, 2007, 22:27 - Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

This is just about the only holiday that I actually take seriously and though tempted I managed to avoid doing any work today. I simply meditated on the man and his message. How far we have come since he gave his famous speech in 1963 and how very far we still have to go to form this more perfect union.



If you haven’t already, I highly suggest listening to “I have a Dream” in its entirety. I do this several times a year myself, mostly just as an inspirational pick-me-up. But considering that it is the greatest English language speech of the 20th century there is really no reason just to listen to it one day a year. If you haven’t heard it in a while, or ever heard the whole speech, you will be amazed by how relevant it still is today and just how beautifully moving it is.

When I was in elementary school every year as the holiday approached we had to do something King related. In the fourth grade I recall an art project where we had to write out the word of the speech in the background of a portrait of Dr. King. I remember thinking at the time how boring it was and how long the speech was but as I have gotten older the words that I labored over have attained a meaning that I could have scarcely imagined back then. I leave you with a paragraph from the speech….


"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, 'When will you be satisfied?' We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
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Watch Out for the Sheep! 
Monday, January 15, 2007, 19:23 - Shooting, Events
Stuttgart

While at lunch today the woman sitting next to me asked “Have you seen the sheep?” Of course I responded “What sheep?” Apparently twice a year a shepherd comes by with his flock to graze on the grasses surrounding the Schloss. So I went out camera in hand and lo and behold there were indeed many, many sheep!


The shepherd and his flock. ©Damaso Reyes

I walked amongst them, petted the sheep dog and even spoke a bit with the shepherd and nice older fellow named Reinhold Weiss who is from Leonberg. I wish I could have spent more time with him but I had to catch a bus into town. I figure he couldn’t have gone too far, maybe I will track him down in the next couple of days and spend a little more time with him. I probably won’t but a guy can dream can’t he?


Sheep and the Schloss. ©Damaso Reyes


Sheep and the sky. ©Damaso Reyes
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Party in Munich 
Friday, January 12, 2007, 22:51 - Travel, Shooting, Personal
Munich, Germany

Traveling in Germany is fun and easy! Yesterday I took the ICE (high speed) train from Stuttgart to Munich for a party at Lisa and Renate’s studio. They insisted that I come so how could I refuse? It also gave me the chance to visit Calumet and to meet with Meike from Ketchum who I also met during Photokina. More about that later, first the train and then the party.

I have to say the train was quite comfortable. I sat back in my somewhat plush seat and rejoined the famous battle of Arnhem in Cornelius Ryan’s great book “A Bridge Too Far.” As I sped through the German countryside the sun fled from view leaving only a cobalt colored sky to backlight the barren tree branches. I paused from the mayhem the Germans were inflicting on the troops of the 1st British Airborne Army to watch an inky darkness overtake the last light of day. Having grown up in New York City, I fell in love with trains of all kinds and this trip simply reinforced that love.


A camera phone photo from the speeding train. ©Damaso Reyes

I arrived in Munich in about two and a half hours and left the main station and boarded a tram for a brief ride. Map in hand, I made my way to the studio and arrived a short time later. Both Lisa and Renate were still at home fixing their faces I suppose but then again I was early so I grabbed a glass of wine and loaded my camera to start taking the first images of my trip so far.

As I have mentioned in a previous entry, or at least I think I did, I am not the kind of photographer who is always running around camera in hand. While I may seem strange that it would take me a whole four days to start shooting, that’s the way I am. While I enjoy shooting for the hell of it, my background in photojournalism, and perhaps more tellingly the fact that until recently I never had as much film as I needed, leads me to shoot only when I have an assignment or something specific scheduled. Over the past year or so I have mostly grown out of it but at the same time I don’t feel I need to shoot if I don’t feel like it, after all, I am not trying to prove anything.

Soon the ladies arrived and the party kicked into full swing. I managed to shoot a few rolls before I decided to put the camera away and socialize, something I need to get better at if I am going to make some friends and not live like a monk up in the castle on the hill. We stayed until two or three (it’s all a little fuzzy) and a good time was had by all.

I woke up with the slightest of headaches, fortunately I remembered to start drinking water towards the end of the night, and set off to walk around Munich for a while on my way to meet Meike. It sounds trite but the history really is all around you in Munich. From the statuary to the imposing buildings it definitely feels like a place that has been around for a while, like a few centuries. Meike and I had a great lunch where I got to sample that famous German delicacy curry wurst. For those of you unfamiliar with it think of a big hot dog on a plate drenched in sauce. That’s not really accurate but hey, I’m not exactly writing for Gourmet magazine either. After lunch I set out for Calumet where I hoped the staff there would be able to sort me out.

Rainer, a tall good natured fellow, entertained my silly questions for the better part of an hour. Most of his responses were in the nature of “No, we don’t have it here but we can probably order it,” a welcome relief if not totally satisfying.

The big issue is still that of the enlarger. Right now there is a decent condenser head in the darkroom but I would really like to get a cold head. If anyone knows of where I can pick one up here in Germany, sing out. But I think I am well on my way to making some magical pictures. I may be ambitious enough to do a little test processing so I will let you know how it goes.

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Jet Lag 
Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 20:58 - Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart, Germany


I guess I shouldn’t have joked about the jet lag in my last entry. For some reason I have been waking up at 2:30 in the morning for the past two days, unable to get back to sleep until five or six in the morning. As you could imagine this has put a serious cramp in my style. But I fight on.


My door. ©Damaso Reyes

As promised here are some photos of my studio. Really it is a very posh apartment, nicer than I have ever lived in but I think I will find a way to manage.


This I where the feasts are prepared, mostly pasta so far! ©Damaso Reyes


This is my desk, exciting isn't it? ©Damaso Reyes


Note the high ceilings... ©Damaso Reyes


Did I mention the ceilings? ©Damaso Reyes


The view from the bedroom, seriously I have to climb stairs. ©Damaso Reyes


See I told you, stairs... ©Damaso Reyes


This is where the magic happens. ©Damaso Reyes

In other news, I have been having quite a time finding photo equipment. There is a ton of stuff that I didn’t pick up in New York because I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find what it is I am looking for. Big mistake. In any event, I am going to head to Munich tomorrow to see my friends Lisa and Renate, fellow photographers I met at Photokina in October. While I am there I will hit up a few photo stores and see what’s what.

More than even the amazing space I am living in I have been incredibly impressed by the friendly and helpful staff here. There are close to a dozen people here working to support the fellows and I think it will make a big difference in my productivity.



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Arrival 
Tuesday, January 9, 2007, 02:30 - Travel, Personal, Project News
Stuttgart, Germany


I don’t know if it’s the jet lag, the 400 rolls of film I have sitting in my fridge or the absurdly nice “studio” that I am working in right now but I am giddy. I arrived a few hours ago and I am duly impressed by the place and I haven’t gotten to see nearly all of it yet. Needless to day it is pretty swank, photos to come tomorrow after I have slept and what not.

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Comments Please 
Thursday, January 4, 2007, 13:27 - Commentary
New York City

So I have decided to enable comments on this blog, let’s see how this little experiment works out. One of the reasons why I have hesitated up until now was that I was wary of vandals and more likely idiots posting silly comments. But I have also realized that comments are an important part of blogging since it allows readers to feel more connected and gives them an easy way of providing feedback. So here goes….

Don’t even ask how the packing is going….

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Happy New Year! 
Monday, January 1, 2007, 18:33 - Travel, Personal
New York City


I have been joking to my friends that 2007 will be the “Year of Yes.” Not so much for me, mind you, more about getting other people to say yes to The Europeans.

Once again I find myself at the beginning of a new year having no real clue as to where I will be when it ends. While to some this might seem like a terrifying prospect I relish the idea of not knowing exactly what twists and turns the next 365 days have in store. There’s little doubt that the next six months will be challenging, learning a new language and culture, not to mention taking as many photographs as humanly possible. But after that? Almost certainly France for a month long residency, then perhaps a trip to Scandinavia, more details as they become available. But I am still waiting to hear about the Fulbright and the Guggenheim not to mention a couple of other residencies.


New Year's Eve in Indonesia, 2002 ©Damaso Reyes

Yesterday I went to New Jersey to visit my very good friend Al Somma, who is recovering from a spinal cord injury at a rehab center there. All told he is doing remarkably well and hopefully this year will find him back home writing, where he belongs. During our conversation I told him how much I enjoy traveling and how it teaches you so much about yourself and your culture, something we Americans are accused of caring nothing about. I also mentioned that before I started this project I had no idea what kinds of images I would create but here it is nearly two years later and many of my favorite images are ones that I have taken during the course of this project.

Heading out to Germany in less than a week and once again I have no idea of what images I will encounter but for some irrational reason I have faith that I will find some wonderful ones and they will bring me that much closer to a cohesive body of work.


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Two Weeks Notice 
Sunday, December 24, 2006, 19:42 - Travel, Personal

Manhattan from Roosevelt Island. ©Damaso Reyes

New York City

So I have given New York City my two weeks notice! A fortnight from now I will be off to sunny Stuttgart and as is usual before I head out on an extended trip I have been trying to do all the “New York things” I can think of.

I’ve strolled through Riverside Park, walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, been to the Met and the Whitney and in between I am systematically eating at my favorite restaurants, which I discovered the hard way is the most important thing to do.

I was about two weeks into what would become a year and a half long trip to Southeast Asia when I was hit with an acute bout of homesickness. No, I didn’t long to see a Mets game, or watch the glowing skyline of Manhattan as I took the train over the Williamsburg Bridge. It turned out that I was jonesing for a good slice of pizza, or a well done burger and fries or an extra spicy plate of chicken pad Thai from Planet Thailand.

New York is world famous for its diversity but most people who’ve never lived here simply don’t understand how spoiled you can get by having world class cuisine from any country in the world at almost any time of the day or night. Want good Chinese at 1 a.m.? I’ve got a place two blocks from my house. Like cheesecake? Junior's has the best. Nearly broke? Check out Gray’s Papaya on 8th and 6th, their recession special got my through college. Knowing the best places to eat is one of the things that makes a place feel like home and while I am sure I will be eating lots of great German food, what will I do without the Thai, Indian, Chinese and Mexican that I have come to depend on?

Of course within a few moths of living in Indonesia I was hooked on nasi goring and other tasty treats that the push cart vendors would prepare nightly right in front of your house. So whilst I will long for a chicken gyro from my favorite guy down on Broadway, I am looking forward to discovering the culinary delights that Germany has to offer.



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Studio Photography Magazine 
Friday, December 22, 2006, 16:27 - Commentary
New York City

If you find yourself needing a reason to take a few minutes away from the “joyous family celebrations” check out my article in Studio Photography magazine. Not only will you get away from your drunken uncle and spoiled nieces but you might even pick up something useful!


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Five Stages 
Tuesday, December 19, 2006, 05:03 - Travel, Personal
New York City


©Damaso Reyes

Everyone has faith, even if you are an atheist like me. We have faith that we will wake up in the morning, believe that the elevator will work, or that we will find true love. While my faith is not deity based sometimes I feel that it is no less abstract.

It seems like every step in my career has been an act of faith. The first time I went to Rwanda in 1999 with Jimmie Briggs he had enough faith in me to insist that I go on my first international assignment, over the objections of some who felt that I didn’t have the experience. I knew that I could do the work but of course there was nothing to prove this. In the end I think the results validated my faith but it is hard to describe how nervous I was before that flight.

When I left for Indonesia in 2001 with $400 and a one way ticket I simply believed that things would work out. I knew all of one person on the ground but I knew that I would figure out a way of surviving. Of course in the end I certainly did, mostly through equal parts of luck and determination.

Now I am heading to Germany for six months and that old familiar feeling is coming back. Uncertainty. Anxiety. Doubt.

This may come as a shock to some people who might think of me as someone of unshakable conviction, something that always makes me laugh. But I think that if you don’t have some doubt then you aren’t a person of faith, you’re a fanatic.

This trip is in many ways better organized and more structured than some of my past endeavors, after all I have a fellowship, a place to live and a stipend, but the doubt remains. I doubt think it is so much about this trip, after all with all those things in place I doubt that I will have too much trouble getting some interesting images, it is more about the greater idea of spending the next five years or so based in Europe. It’s funny as secure as I am for the next six months I have already been thinking about what I will do for the second half of the year. Here’s to hoping that the Guggenheim Fellowship come through!

In some ways I feel like this is my version of the famous five stages of grief. Call it Damaso’s Five Stages of Travel Preparation:

Stage 1: Denial - The "This can't be real" stage: "This is not happening to me. There must be a mistake.” This is pretty much the same. While I know the trip is coming it is so far off in the distance that it is not real to me.

Stage 2: Nonchalance – The “Casual indifference” stage: “Yeah I know I’m leaving soon, so what?” This usually happens about two months before I leave.

Stage 3:
Depression - The "Defeated" stage: "There is no way that I am ready for this, how could I have come up with this silly idea?” Again this is pretty much the same as the classic model. This usually pops up about a month before I leave. It is also tied into not wanting to leave New York, which is in addition to being an amazing city, my home town.

Stage 4:
Acceptance - The "This is going to happen" stage: “I'm ready, I can’t fight it anymore...” About two weeks before I leave I give in to the fact that A: I’m not ready, B: I’m probably not going to be totally ready, whatever that means and C: I am still going to leave.

Stage 5: Excitement – The “I’m getting outta here, thank goodness” stage: About five days before I leave I finally start getting excited about my trip.

Right now I am somewhere between 3 and 4….

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Not again! 
Saturday, December 16, 2006, 21:46 - Personal
New York City

So yesterday I dropped off my portfolio at the Guggenheim Foundation. Today I received a letter from them saying: “Your communication of photographic prints has come to hand. It will receive due attention.” I always enjoy the formal tone to their correspondence , let’s hope that things break my way and I get a happy letter in May. Thanks to Audrey, Elinor, Patrice and Djibril for writing what I am sure are great recommendation letters. I will keep you all posted on what happens.

After that fun trip to 5th Avenue I met my good friend Jimmie at, wait for it, Peter Luger’s! Twice in one week, I know it’s a bit much but he couldn’t be there on Monday so he graciously offered to take me on Friday and I enjoyed every bit of it. Man, I am going to miss that good eating but then again I am going to the land of beer and bratwurst so I imagine that I will do okay.


Mmmmm...steak.... ©Damaso Reyes
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