Hafen Hamburg 
Friday, March 23, 2007, 18:42 - Travel, Shooting, Personal
Hamburg

Well I have to say that Hamburg is pretty amazing. I am having a great time, taking photos and running around town. I am lucky enough to be staying with my friend Ewa, who I met at Solitude during a symposium a few months ago.

Today I shot at the Port of Hamburg, much thanks to Christian at the port for facilitating the trip. Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe and the largest by far in Germany, bringing tens of thousands of containers into the country every day and shipping them out as well. That Porsche you drive probably came through the Port of Hamburg. The day started cold but clear as we drove along the warehouses and cranes to the slip where a recently docked ship form China was being unloaded. As you can imagine the scale of everything at the Port is huge from the 40 foot containers to the 40 meter cranes that unload the ships which are longer than football fields. Giant blue container moving cars zip along the wharves looking like something out of a Lego set gone crazy. Containers were sacked six high, creating instant neighborhoods of corrugated steel. The little kid in me loves all the big trucks and ships and I had a wonderful time photographing them, at least until the rain and wind picked up towards the end of the afternoon, but my long underwear and waterproof Mountain Hardwear coat, pants and hat kept me warm and dry throughout.


An ocean of containers. © Damaso Reyes


My ship has come in. © Damaso Reyes


Up and Away. © Damaso Reyes


Big Wheel, Keep on Turning... © Damaso Reyes


Container Movers. © Damaso Reyes


Temporary City. © Damaso Reyes

Today is also a happy anniversary for me as well. Twelve years ago I truly began my journey as a socially conscious adult. That warm day in March I went to my first demonstration, where thousands of students from the City University of New York had gathered to protest rising tuitions. City Hall Park in lower Manhattan was jammed with placard waving and chanting young college students. I was there with my camera and documented it all including when the police broke up the end of the demonstration. I felt alive, excited by the energy of the students and the passion with which they protested. I became in the movement myself giving speeches and organizing demonstrations and that day set me on the road of journalism with the idea that a few, motivated people can change the world. Every year I think about that day and how different my life might be if I hadnít gone downtown that day. Life is full of twists and turns and I when I look back at my short life I am amazed at where I have been and how far I have come. I feel lucky to be living a life without limits, one where I can go as far as my talent and passion can take me.

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Off to Hamburg... Interlude.. 
Wednesday, March 21, 2007, 18:59 - Personal
En Route to Hamburg

So I am off to Hamburg for about a week. I will be shooting at the port there and hopefully a few other places. In the meantime, another interlude to satisfy the massesÖ

Date Unknown
Brooklyn, New York

In all honesty all I really have is memories of my father.

Recently my mother called me to let me know that it was his birthday. He is well into his 70ís and makes somewhat frequent trips to the hospital. Other than my mother there is no one in my family to whom I am close, and most people would even dispute that I am even close to her.


At my Mother's house. © Damaso Reyes

My father and I are separated by many things.

Age

Culture

History

I couldnít be more different than he is if I had planned it. Yet without him I wouldnít be here. A few years ago I sat down and, like a good journalist, I interviewed him. You see I donít know much about my father. He has always been around but never been there. Since I could remember he has been less than a kilometer away but never within reach. He left not too long after I was born. He settled close by, started the semblance of a new family but he never disappeared. He and my mother have always been good friends despite what happened.

He was always the man with five dollars for me, twenty on my birthday.

He was the man who took me to work with him once in a while when I was on summer vacation.

He was the man I always saw before I could forget him but that I never really remembered.




My Father's Shoes. © Damaso Reyes

He was always taller than me; he still is.
As some of you know I am the last of three children. There is an eight year gap between me and my sister, ten between me and my brother. I was in no way planned but somehow I became the hope where there was none.

I have exceeded expectations.

I have fulfilled dreams.

When my father came to this country he could not have imagined me. He could not have dreamed that I would question mayors and cabinet members; that I would stand in the same room with royalty and photograph the rich and famous. He could not have believed that I would be who I am and who I still could yet become.

I am not angry that he was not there. He seems to have had his reasons.

But I miss what we never had.

I do not enjoy our strained moments when he occasionally stops by.

There is no question that I am his son but I wish there was a way that I might have known him better.

But he brought me into this world and for me that has been enough.

He has smiled at my successes, even if he hasnít truly understood them.

I am what he couldnít become and perhaps that is the true meaning of fatherhood: reveling in the life that you have brought forth.

I donít know. I am not a father. I havenít disappointed anyone on that levelÖ.

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Interlude... 
Saturday, March 17, 2007, 21:16 - Travel, Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

So I have been somewhat busy editing photos, taking long walks in the woods and planning some shoots for next week so I havenít been blogging too much. But I promise that soon you will see the fruits of my labor, or at least the vegetables. In the meantime I think I will begin a series of interludes describing some past experiences so you can get to know me and my work a little betterÖ

March 30, 2004
Kibuye, Rwanda


The hole was already a meter and a half deep by the time we arrived. The drive took over an hour, first over the newly paved roads which had recently been constructed and then over gravel and then dirt roads which took us continually west towards Kibuye, a small town which overlooks Lake Kivu.

The day began with a clear blue sky but as we headed west and up in altitude a fine mist began to envelope our Landcruiser. As we continued along the pothole filled roads I watched the hilly landscape through the occasional breaks in the weather. The terraced rice patties, the gentle slopes and intriguing valleys kept me occupied for most of the journey.

This was my second trip to the Central African nation which ten years before had been gripped by a hundred day genocide which took the lives of more than a million people. Jimmie, my best friend, was sitting next to me in the car, equally lost in his own thoughts. Finally we arrived at the hospital where we were supposed to observe the exhumation of a mass grave which was dug and filled during the genocide. As part of the tenth anniversary commemoration the Rwandan government had encouraged citizens to find the remaining mass graves which filled the countryside and exhume the bodies in order to give the dead a proper burial. We were to observe one such exhumation.

Raymond Kalisa, a Rwandan filmmaker who was working for CNN during the 10th anniversary, was our guide and slowly we walked toward a spot under a large tree where many people had gathered. A young man in his early twenties was telling his story. He had been at the hospital at the time and had witnessed the massacre. He was sure that this spot was where the bodies lay hidden for the past ten years. With no preamble young men began hacking away at the soft earth, much the way it had been disturbed ten years earlier, with picks and hoes.


Searching for bodies at the hospital. © Damaso Reyes

For nearly two hours they dug but other than a few animal remains the dead remained elusive.
Our small group went back to our vehicle and set off towards the Lake where we were told that another, smaller exhumation would be taking place. Again, silence filled the car.

Thirty minutes later we were walking up a small hillside. By the time we arrived the hole was already a meter and a half deep, villagers, some incongruously wearing their Sunday finest, were gathered around the sides of a long, curving trench which had been cut into the hillside. They observed us with eyes that seemed to ask ďwhy are you here?Ē Raymond told them that we were journalists here to document the exhumation. They returned to watching the trench, which was slowly growing deeper as men young and old took turns removing the sticky clay soil which buried their dead.


Digging up the past. © Damaso Reyes

Soon after we arrived a femur was found. It was carefully placed into one of the many empty rice sacks which had been procured for the exhumation. Soon more bones followed, then a skull. The onlookers watched on nearly impassively, occasionally pointing to some remains and whispering among themselves. Small children flitted about the edges, curious to see what was going on, unaware of the magnitude. These young souls had been born long after the evil that swept over their nation had left. The eyes of their parents bore silent witness to the horror that the landscape had endured.


A young child plays with a skull. © Damaso Reyes

Throughout it all I moved silently around and occasionally into, the trench, documenting the menís work and the terrible product of that work. The camera protected me from the content of the images I was creating: a freshly discovered bone hoisted out of the trench; a skull slowly cleaned of the cloying soil which had kept it hidden for a decade; the decomposed dress of a two year old who had been brutally murdered and casually dumped into the trench. Roll after roll, I went about my work, trying to be a professional.

After two hours and twelve rolls of film I turned to Jimmie, who had been observing and occasionally speaking with the villagers. ďIím done,Ē I told him. He seemed slightly surprised but understood. ďIf I donít have it already, Iím not going to get it.Ē He nodded his head as I sat down on a nearby rock and watched the villagers continue their work.


Bearing Witness. © Damaso Reyes

Five years earlier during my first trip here I was determined not to let me feelings get in the way of my work. What I realized afterwards is that it was not wise to let myself grow too distant from my humanity. Truly it was the thing which allowed me to do the painful work that I felt was my calling and to deny that would be to deny myself. Standing at the side of that trench, overlooking a lovely valley I knew that I couldnít take anymore photographs. I had imposed on the situation enough and I knew that taking more photographs would be bad for my soul, or what was left of it.

There is of course this deeply rooted myth that when you photograph someone you take their soul. I believe the opposite is true. You canít photograph something like an exhumation without leaving part of yourself behind. There is some kind of essential trade that happens when you photograph difficult situations: a piece of yourself for an image. We donít get a high or take any joy when documenting other peopleís pain, in way through creating a document of an event we share it, and often we would rather not. But in creating a connection between the viewer and the subject the photographer himself must act as a bridge. And that has an effect.


Searching the past. © Damaso Reyes

For me that day has remained with me and always will. When people ask me why I am an atheist, I tell them that story and the dozen others that I have borne witness to. No God I want to pray to allows such horror. When people ask why I donít believe in God I ask them in turn why do they believe. For me that day simply confirmed what I already knew: the goodness or evil in men resides solely with them; we have no one else to turn to, no one else to blameÖ.

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It's a Beautiful Day... 
Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 15:44 - Personal
Stuttgart

Of course it is a crystal clear day outside. There is no doubt that the sun is shining impossibly bright and that the birds are singing to each other that Spring is just around the corner.

Of course I am stuck inside, editing photos and sending emails.

Grrrr.



Lisa Martin, laughing at me. © Damaso Reyes
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Month Two 
Thursday, March 8, 2007, 15:54 - Personal, Project News, Commentary
Stuttgart

Well it has been two months since I left New York and arrived here in Germany. In that time I have traveled to a Munich and Cologne and shot and processed nearly a hundred rolls of film.


Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Cologne 2007. ©Damaso Reyes

Since I have been here time has had the dual sensation of moving slowly and quickly at the same time. On the one hand, it feels like I have been here for a long time, on the other, time seems to be slipping by. While I have been fairly productive I still feel like I am spinning my wheels at times, especially when it comes to setting up shoots at various institutions. I think that my stay here at Solitude has taught me to slow down a bit, to spend more time thinking and pondering what it is I am doing and for that I am truly grateful. Yesterday, after running some errands, I simply took a long walk in that park. As the clouds came and went I walked along the verdant paths and thought about the rest of the year, what I would like to be doing and about the long term prospects of the project. It was nice to feel like I had the time and space to think, indeed I think that outlook is going to be crucial to the success of the project. But alas my time here is also finite and I have to really begin to start searching for more long term financing for The Europeans if I am to keep going. As much as I distain the idea of being a business man I am going to have to start moving in that direction if I want to keep this up.

But for now I am enjoying the sanity that this fellowship is providing.

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33 Things about Damaso 
Wednesday, March 7, 2007, 18:12 - Personal
Stuttgart

While most of the people reading this blog are friends or search engine bots, there may very well be a few people here and there who donít know much about me. So here 33 things you might find interesting, in no particular orderÖ


Self Portrait. Rwanda 1999.©Damaso Reyes

1. I can go for weeks at a time without taking a photo
2. I havenít cut my hair since June 17th, 1995
3. I sometimes get carsick during short car trips
4. I need about 10 hours of sleep a day, but watch out when I wake up!
5. I like really hot, really long showers, itís where I do my best thinking
6. I generally donít like to go to sleep before one or two in the morning
7. I donít eat breakfast, I like to save myself for lunch
8. My favorite lens is the Canon Eos 24/1.4
9. I didnít pay for a taxi until I was 17
10. When I find a new song I like I listen to it over and over again, like 50 times in a row
11. I only have five good friends. Are YOU on that list?
12. I can barbecue really well
13. I hate writing but under deadline I can write well and prolifically. I can also write 300 words on any subject on demand
14. I have made more money and won more awards for my writing than for my photography ;(
15. When I am working really hard I often forget to eat, sometimes for a day or two
16. I have very little body hair
17. I am found of the phrase ďMy mother didnít come to this country so that IÖĒ
18. I am a cat person
19. I like to write and receive postcards
20. I didnít learn to drive until I was 20 years old
21. I can blow glass
22. I am a television junkie. I can watch a good TV series all day and all night
23. In winter I sometimes donít leave the house for three or four days at a time
24. I always take ice in my drinks and I never use a straw
25. It always takes me at least an hour to fall asleep after I go to bed, no matter what
26. I wear shoes, trousers and shirts until they wear out
27. I am a registered member of the Green party
28. I like to read techno-thriller novels
29. I have trouble sleeping on airplanes except for the last 45 minutes of a flight
30. My favorite cocktail is a Tom Collins
31. I only like to wear v neck undershirts
32. I am double jointed in my thumbs
33. I have never worn contact lenses

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Worker 
Thursday, March 1, 2007, 12:41 - Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

I am a worker.

©Damaso Reyes

This is where I work.

©Damaso Reyes

I mix chemicals.

©Damaso Reyes

I open film canisters.

©Damaso Reyes

I make photographs.

©Damaso Reyes

Donít forget it!

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Rejection and Aceptance 
Saturday, February 24, 2007, 11:39 - Personal
Stuttgart

My life has been framed by the twin concepts of Rejection and Acceptance. No matter how far I seem to have come or how old I get these two parallel themes are my constant companions.

It seems as though my life has been punctuated by a few significant instances of acceptance. I recall tearing open my acceptance letter to NYU; the first woman who bade me come closer; the fact that I am writing this entry at 5 a.m. in Stuttgart, one of 800 or so who applied for the privilege.

And yetÖ

Between those moments of unexplainable acceptance lie many, many more instances of opposition. Sometimes it feels as though it cuts to who I very essentially am. It is not simply the letter thanking me for my application, or my submission, or my request for information: no it is more profound, at least to me, than that.

Iíve never been the pretty girl at bar.

Iíve never been the first picked on the team.

Iíve never been so good at anything that my talent has been more important than who I am.

Moreover,

Iíve never been anyoneís best friend.

Iíve never been anyoneís mostÖ

Iíve never been more important thanÖ

I stopped wondering why quite some time ago but unfortunately for me acceptance never truly comes. It might sound overwrought but I suppose we all strive for happiness. I suppose my problem is that I am so acutely aware of my own unhappiness that at times it colors everything else.

But I can no more change who I am than I can fly. But does that mean that I will never see over my own horizon? Does that mean that my moments of joy will always be fleeting? Can I never be the object of someoneís desire or will I forever be hawking myself like so much aluminum siding? Are these the moments, the late night interludes, or more accurately, the early morning ones, to which I must become accustomed?


Ayu, Jakarta 2003. ©Damaso Reyes

Where's my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who'll be my role-model?
Now that my role-model is
GoneÖ GoneÖ


Perhaps solitude is a prerequisite to what I do. Maybe this is but one in a long line of hours in which I ask myself exactly what was it about myself which was that much less appealing? The feeling is certainly not unfamiliar; it seems that the scenery has simply changed.

So I sit here, in my solitude.

And in the morning the sun will rise and no doubt I will shake off this antic disposition.

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Rememberance of Things Past 
Thursday, February 22, 2007, 11:10 - Travel, Personal
Stuttgart

Recently I was talking with some of the other fellows and several told me that they were surprised by how much traveling I have done and the places that I have been to. I never feel like I have covered enough ground myself, but the conversations did give me an opportunity to think about some of the more interesting datelines that I have filed from. Feel free to follow the links and read the storiesÖ

BALI
BEUFORT
BOSTON
DAR ES SALAAM
DOBRCANE
GJILAN
JAMBIANI
KIGALI
LABLJANE
LONDON
NEW ORLEANS
OFF THE COAST OF SULAWESI
STUBLINA
USA RIVER VILLAGE



Rwanda, ten years after the Genocide. ©Damaso Reyes
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NYABJ Award 
Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 15:42 - Personal
Stuttgart

Well I have recovered, mostly. I sleep in and have a fairly lazy day but did manage to do some late afternoon bike riding through the local woods with another fellow.

In other news, I just checked online and it turns out that I won 1st place for international reporting from the New York Association of Black Journalists for a series I did on malaria in Tanzania last year. Hooray for me. I donít win things very often so I think I will bask in the afterglow for a whileÖ


A malaria ward in a Tanzanian hospital. ©Damaso Reyes
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One down... 
Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 17:44 - Shooting, Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

One month down, five to go!

Time is a tricky thing, something it goes by at warp speed, usually when Iím doing something fun like eating ice cream or nude karaoke; at other times it drags on, most notably when I am loading one of the 16 rolls of films that I have been regularly processing. In truth while I feel totally settled in and I have shot upwards of 40 rolls so far I donít feel like I have already been here a month, I suppose it is a testament to how quickly I have gotten used to adapting to new circumstances. In reality I think it is simply that I very quickly got into a routine and have been working it like a rented mule.

Yesterday I shot the opening session of the year for the State Parliament, which is just as exciting as it sounds, except that it is in German. As a politics junkie I find European parliamentary democracy fascinating and not just for the fact that politicians commonly boo and hiss one another. I hope to spend more time there next week as I continue my foray into the depths of the German political system with its direct and proportional representation. Admit it, Iím making you a little hot under the collar arenít I?

Academy Schloss Solitude certainly lives up to its name. On most nights during a walk around this building you will only encounters the shot hum of electronics and the darkness of unlit hallways. Most fellows seem content to spend a good deal of their time working in their studios. I tend to wander a bit, down to the darkroom, into town, I like this whole fresh air and people concept, well the fresh air part, and only if itís not too cold, but anyway I feel like I have been seeing less and less of people but about one a week there seems to be some kind of spontaneous gather involving food and wine and of course cigarettes, much to my dismay.

Stuttgart is a nice town, of course the logistics of the bus makes accessing the nightlife an all or nothing proposition, no drunken subway rides home at 2:45 here. I like the town and by and large the people are friendly and patient with this non-German speaking foreigner here to take their jobs, women and drink their beer.

So far I have shot at a professional football match, a hip-hop nightclub, three times at the State Parliament, in the forest for some reason, in a field full of smelly sheep, at a party in Munich, and probably some other places my bad memory is getting in the way of. Lucky I got it on film!

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Memory... 
Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 12:22 - Personal
Stuttgart

I have a bad memory.

That comes as no shock to those of you who know me, after all I often joke that the reason why I take pictures is to remember what it is that Iíve seen.

More seriously, I have a hard time remembering the names of people Iíve just met; I often have to check my watch two or three times before I know what time it is; sometimes I forget to email people back.

But it is deeper than knowing the time or some strangerís name; for me memory is this fleeting part of myself that I canít seem to master. In summer I forget the misery of a stiff wind that blows through you; in winter I canít recall a humid dayís intimate embrace. When Iím alone I have a hard time recalling just how it feels to hold a woman that I love; when Iím with good friends I have a hard to imagining the depths of solitude that has been my near constant companion for as long as I can remember.


Christine, Bali 2003. ©Damaso Reyes

The only upside I find is that I am constantly experiencing the old as new again. Each spring I long for that first day, usually sometime in April or May when I can finally feel again what it is like to walk without the fear of a sudden chill, to have the sunshine tell me just how much it loves me after such a long separation.

Moreover for me photographs are more like invented memories. For this professional the paradox is that when I photograph something I rarely experience it, often I must go back and imagine again what that event was like.

Perhaps I am lucky since I cannot be accused of living in the past. At the same time I wish those lovely and intense feelings would linger a little longer instead of being lost to time.

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Workin' hard.... 
Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 20:48 - Shooting, Personal
Stuttgart

Okay, I donít want everyone getting the wrong idea and thinking that this trip is nothing but trips to the mineral bath and beer hall. Sure, those places are playing a crucial role, but I do actually do work from time to time, I just donít like to always bore you with all the details.

So one of the reasons why I have 40 odd rolls waiting to be processed is that the film drying cabinet that they have here is, well letís just say, inadequate. So when my request to ďmodifyĒ it were turned down (whatís the big deal about cutting a hole in the bottom and making it a little taller?), I decided to build my own. With the help of the long-suffering Mr. Ludwig, we set upon the wood shop yesterday and created a mammoth yet stylish film drying cabinet.

It took all day, with the occasional tea break of course.

After a short break it was off to Daimler Stadium to photograph at my first professional football (soccer for you American barbarians) game. It was a bit chilly out but I had a great time photographing the game and the fans.


Damaso at the game...©Damaso Reyes

So see, I do actually work from time to time. Donít worry, things are ramping up, I predict a great deal of film will be processed this weekend and next week is all about setting up shoots for the rest of the month.

And yes, there will be a trip to another mineral bathÖ


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Bad Boy 
Monday, January 29, 2007, 16:55 - Personal
Stuttgart

So after playing in the snow I decided to visit one of the many mineral baths here in Stuttgart. I took the train to Mineralbad Leuze with itís warm and cool pools full of mineral rich water. Having learned to schvitz at the Tenth Street Baths in NYC, I was looking forward to beginning my world sauna tour here in Germany. I was not disappointed.



The huge size of the place was a little disorientating, especially since I couldnít get any of my prudish and lazy other fellows to join me and the fact that I canít see more than three feet in front of my face without my glasses didnít make things any easier. But slowly I found my way and eventually made it to the sauna section, where they have something like 8 or 9 different rooms ranging from a soft sauna at 40įC to a huge log cabin type room where the heat reaches well in excess of 100įC or 212įF or the boiling point of water.

Apparently lighting is an important part of the experience here and several of the rooms and colored lights including one room where the lights slowly shifted form one color to another, which sort of made me feel like I was in a spaceship sauna. After three hours I left refreshed and ready for more. Next week I think I will try a different place, stay tunedÖ

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Another Day, Another Snowfall 
Sunday, January 28, 2007, 21:42 - Personal
Stuttgart

Another day, more snow! After a winter of dry weather winter has come to Stuttgart with a vengeance.


Rolling uphill, like true artists!


More sledding, more fun! Photo by Ligia Nobre.


Me and my buddy. Photo by Ligia Nobre.
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