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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Drug Reform 
Saturday, March 10, 2007, 18:17 - Commentary
Stuttgart

It seems as though the United Kingdom may join the increasing number of European nations which are moving to scrap their antiquated drug laws, The Guardian is reporting. What do you think, should soft and hard drugs continue to be illegal, punishable by stiff jail sentences? In America a large percentage of those who are in prison are there on non violent drug offenses, costing taxpayers untold billions. The main reason why most Black men in America are either in jail or on probation or parole is because of such laws. What do you think?


Skiing in Manhattan. © 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 don’t know much about me. So here 33 things you might find interesting, in no particular order…


Self Portrait. Rwanda 1999.©Damaso Reyes

1. I can go for weeks at a time without taking a photo
2. I haven’t 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, it’s where I do my best thinking
6. I generally don’t like to go to sleep before one or two in the morning
7. I don’t eat breakfast, I like to save myself for lunch
8. My favorite lens is the Canon Eos 24/1.4
9. I didn’t 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 “My mother didn’t come to this country so that I…”
18. I am a cat person
19. I like to write and receive postcards
20. I didn’t 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 don’t 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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The Commission for the Standardization of Blankets 
Monday, March 5, 2007, 12:00 - Project News
Stuttgart

I know it’s hard to believe but I am not an expert in everything. Nor do I want to be. For a long time this project has been more or less a one man show. Well now all of that is about to change.

Last week I was reading a 1962 article from the Complete New Yorker that Ruthie gave me about the formation of the European Community which mentioned a “Commission for the Standardization of Blankets” which had been toiling in futility for several years. I am not sure that this group actually ever existed but it if didn’t, it does now and if it did, it has now been resurrected.

Today I am announcing the formation of the Commission for the Standardization of Blankets. The CSB is an ad hoc panel of experts from different fields who are interested in the goals of The Europeans and wish to use their knowledge and experience to advise and support the project. The role of the members of the Commission is largely to advise me in the execution of the project and to advocate on behalf of The Europeans.


Our gang. Kosovo 2005. ©Damaso Reyes

The first member of the CSB is Philippe Perreaux, a Swiss lawyer specializing in copyright issues. Interested? Do you want to join? Let me know…

Update

The Commission already has its second member! Jean-Baptiste Joly, Director of Academy Schloss Solitude has joined the growing number of fine human beings who are supporting The Europeans. Will you be next?

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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

Don’t 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 yet…

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.

I’ve never been the pretty girl at bar.

I’ve never been the first picked on the team.

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

Moreover,

I’ve never been anyone’s best friend.

I’ve never been anyone’s most…

I’ve never been more important than…

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 someone’s 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
Gone… Gone…


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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Prince Harry 
Friday, February 23, 2007, 19:50 - Commentary
Stuttgart


Marine recruits. ©Damaso Reyes

It’s nice to see that SOME country’s elites are willing to put their money where their mouths are…

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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 stories…

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 don’t win things very often so I think I will bask in the afterglow for a while…


A malaria ward in a Tanzanian hospital. ©Damaso Reyes
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Carnival in Cologne 
Monday, February 19, 2007, 21:59 - Travel, Shooting, Commentary
Cologne

Day One
“We’re not in Stuttgart anymore, Toto”


It certainly has been a long weekend!

You know, every time I embark on one of these little adventures, I forget how much work is involved. I know, it sounds silly but something like Carnival is so overwhelming I think I block out the unpleasant parts and then am pleasantly surprised when some drunken idiot smashes into me.

I took the high speed ICE train at five and settled in with a book I had been saving just for this trip, Final Impact by John Birmingham. The train was about ten minutes delayed getting in and of course that made me miss my connection in Manheim. Have no fear, I was rerouted to Bonn where before long I caught a train headed into Cologne, just forty minutes behind schedule.

Luckily for me I was met on the platform by the lovely Eva, a cousin of one of the outstanding staff members here who agreed to let me crash at her place, which is actually an old fraternity house. Here I was, seven years late and four thousand miles away, living the college life I never got to have!

After a quick bite to eat back at the frat house, it was time to find me a costume. Now I haven’t really been into dressing up for Halloween or anything since I was a kid, but it is pretty much expected that you will. So we rummaged through the odds and ends in the house and managed to find a complete ladybug costume, which I will spare you any photos of.

One of Eva’s friends knew of a house party and around ten we were off. We took the metro across town to the house where the theme was that of a forest, which some people took more seriously than others, my costume just happened to be a great fit. A real live Carnival music band was just finishing up as we entered, or rather, tried desperately to squeeze ourselves into, the house. Of course the downside of the ladybug costume, with its red fur, is that it is great at trapping heat, especially when you are pressed in cheek by jowl. Nevertheless, this wasn’t my first crowded house party and after a few liters of beer I was well in the spirit. We left sometime around three or four, it’s all a bit hazy…

Day Two
“Around the Way”


Initially I had some ideas about getting up early and shooting some parades but my four a.m. bedtime reordered my priorities. When I did get up, around one in the afternoon, some of the more exciting things in town had already happened. No matter, because invariably when a door closes a window is right there, ready to be opened. As it turned out, that afternoon was when all the neighborhoods in Cologne had their local parades. Cute kids in costumes, no drunken college students, what more could a photographer ask for? Eva’s family lives nearby so we went out at around two thirty and spent a few hours watching little kids throw candy at other little kids who were shouting “Kamella!!!” which translates to “sweeties!” and “Alaaf” which doesn’t translate to anything but is the standard Carnival greeting in these parts.


Eva and her cousin Anna. ©Damaso Reyes

So it was back to the crib for a little sack time, most of which I spent reading. I did manage to catch a few zzz’s before we headed out again into the great maw of Carnival in Koln. First we needed to refuel and we went to a passable Indian restaurant and filled up on some curry.


Man and dog. ©Damaso Reyes

The real problem with Carnival, at least downtown, is that the halfway cool places are literally packed to the rafters with revelers. So we spent the evening going from place to place, waiting in line, paying a cover, and sweating inside where it was only possible to get to the bar by throwing some sharp elbows, which almost made up for the ridiculous crowds (see how I suffer for my art?). Eventually we ended up at a nightclub with some of Eva’s friends which was mercifully not packed like a can of sardines. The music was halfway decent, the drinks were halfway cheap, at least until midnight, and we ended up rocking out until three or so when we left en masse of one of Eva’s friend’s house where we had a late night snack and waited for one of Eva’s roommates who was getting off of work late to give us a ride home.

Day Three
“Stranger in a Strange Land”


Sunday morning, or afternoon to be more accurate, was pretty much a repeat of Saturday. A late breakfast and little motivate to do anything but go back to bed. Today I was on my own and spent much of the afternoon lying in bed, engrossed in my novel of alternate history. Around seven I managed to summon my last reserves of motivation and hurled myself into the night, cameras in hand (if I hadn’t made it clear, I had been shooting pretty much continuously over the previous two days).

I took the metro into town and got off about a kilometer and a half from the Dom or big cathedral which dominates Koln. As I walked down a broad boulevard, only shadows and the occasional car were my companions. Where was everyone? I silently thought to myself, adjusting my camera bag as I continued my journey. How many times had I been here before, not knowing exactly where I was heading, walking down strange streets in unfamiliar cities, alone except for my determination to somehow make this self imposed solitude worthwhile by capturing a few images.

As I approached the Dom the fleeting sounds of drums echoed off the buildings groaning under the weight of hundreds of years of history. In the square in front of the church a few food and beer vendors had set up to service the transient crowds which were walking through on their way towards a night of merriment. An impromptu drum circle had come together and visitors danced and clapped in the crisp night air, not exactly what the architects of the grand house of worship behind them had envisioned when they built the old church.

The square, with its Gothic architecture and boozing crowds was rife with image making opportunities and I wandered from one end to the other, happily snapping away between bites of bratwurst and slugs of beer.

I continued to wander the narrow streets of cobblestone and once again the pavement reflected the distant sounds of drums, and now horns as well. I followed my ears and came upon a mobile rhythm section, twenty or so deep, playing the streets. For the second time in as many days I found myself tapping my foot and photographing to that classic “Eye of the Tiger.” I was quite impressed by the range of music they played from Cologne Carnival classics to New Orleans Mardi Gras anthems.

Eventually, and on the early side compared to the past two nights, I made my way home. I had to get some sack time in preparation for the big day tomorrow. Rose Monday is the culmination of the four month Carnival season and it was one parade I wasn’t going to miss.

Day Four
“The Long Road Ahead”


Despite the warmth of my bed and the sleep still in my eyes, I managed to roust myself out of the house more or less on time to get to the start of the parade before it kicked off at 11. For as far as the eye could see, men and women prepared to march in blue and white. As the parade began to move forward I found myself with a particularly merry group of candy and flower throwing men and stuck with them as the parade wound its way through the heart of the old city.


Alaaf! ©Damaso Reyes


Would you like a flower? ©Damaso Reyes


Where, I wondered were my kisses? ©Damaso Reyes

Kilometer after kilometer the sounds of drums and horse hoofs on cobblestone intermingled with cries of “Alaaf!!!” The crowds were having nearly as much fun and children of all ages dressed as only their imaginations could conceive cheered us on. Carnival here in Cologne is pretty much a family affair and far from the cries for public nudity that I encountered last year in New Orleans, here small children were the one having the most fun.


On horseback. ©Damaso Reyes


Festive attire. ©Damaso Reyes


American imperialism hard at work. ©Damaso Reyes


Echoes. ©Damaso Reyes


Am I the only one who finds this offensive? Comments please. ©Damaso Reyes

And now I am here at the train station, still surrounded by costumed revelers waiting for the train to take me back to Stuttgart. All in all a good couple of days.


In front of the Dom. ©Damaso Reyes
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Off to Cologne! 
Friday, February 16, 2007, 20:27 - Travel, Shooting, Project News, Events
En Route to Cologne

Well here I am, off to Cologne for carnival weekend! Last year I was in New Orleans, which was a lot of fun and hard work. It might be interesting to try carnival in a different city every year, we’ll see if we can make a habit out of this. So I will try to post whilst I am away but you might not hear from me until next week. Catch you later…


New Orleans this time last year. ©Damaso Reyes
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Video Killed the Photography Star 
Thursday, February 15, 2007, 13:30 - Commentary
Stuttgart

Often when I tell people that I am a photojournalist they ask me if I do video as well.

I always answer no.

I mention this because of an article I saw today online. One quote gave me pause:

“Digital stills photography will, when we look back on it, form a very small period of time in the history of photojournalism”, Nicol told EPUK. “Telegraph photographers will undoubtedly be shooting solely on video in the future, and certainly within a year we hope to be well advanced down that route.” Read the whole story here.

Now I know this Platypus idea has been around for the better part of a decade, but I am a staunch holdout. It’s not that I don’t think that people should do video if they want to, after all I am a live and let live kinda guy, I just don’t want to do it.


The video camera: friend or foe? ©Damaso Reyes

But why, you ask? Well, because I am a photographer. Not a videographer, director, producer or on air personality. I like still images, I believe that they have the ability to convey a perspective that video simply can’t. As well I don’t want to do all the jobs that an independent videographer has to do. My job is hard enough, thank you very much, without turning me into a multimedia octopus. And to what end? So APTV can buy my snippet and it appears for 30 seconds on a nightly news broadcast if I’m lucky? Or I spend years trying to sell a feature documentary that might win some awards and get seen buy a few thousand people? Not my bag. I feel artists should be free to pursue whatever they want but I refuse to let the market, or fashion, dictate how I do my work.

I still think there is a place for still photography. Now if anyone out these has a map, I could use some directions…

***


Two articles I was made aware of recently bring more interesting news. The first announces a high speed imaging sensor, the other talks about the trend towards video from print publications. I'm starting to feel like a bald eagle, except they are thinking of taking them off the endangered species list...

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Party Time 
Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 18:01 - Events
Stuttgart

Another monthly dinner and fun was had by all, though speaking just for myself there was a little too much wine consumed, which I felt this morning when I woke up just after eight to go photograph at the State Parliament, but that’s another story. Here are some photos….enjoy!


Ligia. ©Damaso Reyes


Narges. ©Damaso Reyes


Sanford. ©Damaso Reyes


©Damaso Reyes
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Iraq Then and Now 
Tuesday, February 13, 2007, 19:36 - Commentary
Stuttgart

When I visited Iraq in 2000 I thought that there was little else that my country to could to make the situation there more intolerable for the people whom we wished to “liberate.”


An Iraqi hospital in 2000. ©Damaso Reyes

Clearly, I was wrong.

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