HCB Quote of the Week #40 
Saturday, June 14, 2008, 13:21 - Commentary

Well Ireland said NO!!!! to the E.U. Constitution in a referendum this week. What’s interesting is that upper income urban voters supported the referendum and most others did not, a result that was mirrored in The Netherlands’ and France’s no votes in 2005.

What this tells me is that people who are for a more closely integrated Europe need to step up the discussion and the discourse. The people who are more active in talking about the future of Europe are the Euroskeptics. They own the debate right now and will continue to do so until those who see the benefits of a united Europe make their voices heard. Until then, here is you HCB Quote of the Week!

A very young voter. Amsterdam 2005 © Damaso Reyes

Of course it's all luck. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Photo of the Day #3 
Friday, June 13, 2008, 08:59 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Who knew posting a picture a day could be so much fun, or so topical? I took this image in Paris last fall back when you could smoke indoors. Well no more! France, like Ireland, Germany, Italy and numerous other nations have mostly banned smoking in cafes, bars and restaurants. I remember coming back to NYC from Indonesia in 2003 and being amazed that there was no longer a cloud of smoke in every bar I went into. Some people may not like it but the health benefits for smokers and non smokers alike are clear. Now Amsterdam is getting into the act according to this article. You can have a joint as long as it is tobacco free. Amazing, isn’t it?

Puff, Puff… © Damaso Reyes

In other news you have just two more days to vote in my online poll. Should Damaso shave? That is the question. So far eight people have voted and the Yes voters hold a slim, one vote margin. So make sure you voice gets heard. Results will be announced on Monday…

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Photo of the Day #2 (Free Speech vs. Hate Speech) 
Thursday, June 12, 2008, 17:04 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

It’s good when I can use a photograph to talk about a larger issue, something I hope to do more of with this blog and the future website. There was an interesting article in the International Herald Tribune about free speech vs. hate speech and the different approaches that America and most of the rest of the developed world has.

“Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.

Last week, the actress Brigitte Bardot, an animal rights activist, was fined €15,000, or $23,000, in France for provoking racial hatred by criticizing a Muslim ceremony involving the slaughter of sheep.”

By contrast, U.S. courts would not stop the American Nazi Party from marching in Skokie, Illinois, in 1977, though the march was deeply distressing to the many Holocaust survivors there,”
Adam Liptak writes.

The Wall. Vienna, Austria 2008 © Damaso Reyes

This is an issue I thought a lot about when I lived in Germany last year. I have to say that I am much more in favor of the American point of view here. Of course I don’t think that we should promote or endorse hate speech. I believe that once we begin to outlaw speech then the slope becomes very slippery very quickly. It’s an old argument but once you ban some speech that is very hateful what is to stop you from banning other speech which is somewhat offensive? More importantly who gets to decide?

In Germany the way they often deal with parties and groups that are offensive is to ban them. Of course this does not mean that these ideas go away as we have seen in the racist and anti-immigrant violence that still happens there, especially in the east. These ideas and their supporters are pushed underground rather than debated and refuted in the light of day. That is what by and large happens here in America. There are people who espouse neo-Nazi points of view but whenever they plan and march usually ten times as many people turn out to oppose them. They are shown as the racist and marginal figures that they are and society is strengthened without ever having to ban a book or idea.

To me this is a much more healthy and modern way of dealing with this issue. If we believe in the “marketplace of ideas” then we have to accept that there are some bad ideas out there and as progressive people we have to work as hard as we can to oppose them. But as we have seen simply outlawing an idea doesn’t make it go away.

What do you think?

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Photo of the Day #1 
Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 14:25 - Project News, Photo of the Day

If you don't already know I have started a Facebook group for The Europeans. So even if you don't want to be my friend (I know it is hard to even imagine) you can still join the group and engage in the conversation!

One more monument. Berlin, 2007 © Damaso Reyes

So I have decided to add another category to the blog: Photo of the Day. It struck me a few days ago as I was going through some images while looking for one in particular that I have a whole lot of photos. So why not share them? It is part of my goal of posting on a near daily basis and it give you the chance to post your thoughts and comments!

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Govenor's Island and Poll Results so far... 
Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 11:17 - Commentary

It was a hot but relaxing weekend. As you who are in NYC right now know it is hot, hot and more hot up in here but hey, it’s New York in June. If you thought spring would last forever well guess again.

The view from the ferry. © Damaso Reyes

But the island was nice, if you’ve never been and happen to be around, I highly recommend it as a great place to have a picnic and cool off a bit. Thanks to Katie and Alix for joining us. In other news so far 100% (three votes) have been cast for me to keep my beard in the internet poll I am conducting. You have five more days or so to vote so don’t delay. I am actually surprised at the direction of the turnout so far. Just like in November this year, make sure your voice is heard and go and vote!

The view from the island. © Damaso Reyes
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Internet Poll 
Sunday, June 8, 2008, 17:08 - Personal

So the question is: Beard or no beard?

I am thinking about shaving but when I do I look like a teenage girl. Seriously, people call me miss and ma’am. But as you can see, I don’t really grow a ZZ Top type beard. What other people grow in a day takes me a month. So summer is here and I am thinking about shaving but what do you think?

More than two months of growth, kinda sad huh? © Damaso Reyes

Click on this link and vote, I will post the results next week…

So smooth…. © Damaso Reyes

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HCB Quote of the Week #39 
Saturday, June 7, 2008, 13:06 - Commentary

Well summer has officially arrived here in New York. Officially in the sense that it will be uncomfortably hot over the next three days and everyone will try to wear as little as possible. So it’s the perfect day to work on my tan, think about the future and have a picnic on Governor’s Island in New York harbor. While I am doing that, enjoy your HCB Quote of the Week…

Thinking in Jakarta.© Damaso Reyes

Our eye must constantly measure, evaluate. We alter our perspective by a slight bending of the knees; we convey the chance meeting of lines by a simple shifting of our heads a thousandth of an inch…. We compose almost at the same time we press the shutter, and in placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, we shape the details – taming or being tamed by them. - Henri Cartier-Bresson on composition. "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

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Which Way Forward? 
Thursday, June 5, 2008, 12:24 - Project News, Commentary

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.”
- Barack Obama

Hope. © Damaso Reyes

There was a time when those who managed our newspapers and television news divisions saw what they were doing as a public service. Today almost every major media source in America, and many in Europe, is part of a larger, multinational corporation. These companies rarely have media, let alone journalism as their primary focus. Last year I tried in vain to get a major newspaper to support a trip to Kosovo, one that would be paid for entirely by a journalism foundation. The response was unanimous: “We’re not interested.” So to address a comment on Tuesday’s post it’s not that a few commercial stories won’t help it’s A.) selling stories that do not focus on the media obsession of the moment is very difficult and B.) this approach is not a long term strategy for funding a project like mine.

So, which way forward? What is to be done? These are the questions I have spent the last few weeks and months thinking about…

What I have learned while embarking on this journey, besides that the commercial world isn’t interested, is that there is only so much you can do on your own. Often people would ask if I was the only photographer on the project and I would always say yes. There are many good reasons for this, the most important of which is that I think that seeing one person’s view through space and time can help bring together the disparate elements of a visual narrative that is as broad as The Europeans.

So I always thought of this as a one man show. But early on I had a desire to engage other people with my work. In fact that lies at the very heart of what I am trying to do: to bring people together and inspire dialogue through photography. But as a solitary artist it is very difficult to do that.

What I never wanted to do is have a cult of personality. It’s one of the reasons I don’t promote my work as fully as I should; I never wanted to make it about me. But how to bring people into this project was a question I wrestled with. So I started a blog. But this is not enough because it again only offers passive participation. As much fun as it is to read about my adventures it doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities to involve yourself other than posting comments.

So, what is to be done?

I have decided to form a non-profit corporation. In Europe and elsewhere you would be more familiar with the term NGO. For me this offers not only the opportunity to raise funds that I wouldn’t be able to as an individual it offers the chance to expand the scope of the project to include the participation of more of the public.

At the heart of this organization I envision a website, a kind of European Forum where visitors can come together and discuss the changes that are happening in Europe and the challenges it faces on a daily basis. Photographs would be the starting point, both mine and others that I, and the moderators would find. I also would like users to post their own images and even have their own galleries on the site. The idea is to give people a space that they can reshape as they see fit.

The organization would also be active not just in presenting exhibitions but organizing panels, debates and discussions around the topics that matter most to Europe: immigration, EU expansion, foreign relations and more. The idea is to engage the public on many different planes: through art, through conversation, through the internet and thereby expand the reach of the project.

It is an ambitious goal and I will spend a good part of this year settling up the organization and launching the website in addition to my duties as a photographer. To be honest it is all a bit daunting. As when I began my journey in Europe more than three years ago I can’t tell you all the twists and turns it will take but I do have a clear vision and as always I ask for your support.

Your advice, your expertise and yes, even your money will help me bring this idea to fruition. I look forward to taking this trip with you!

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered!!!! 
Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 12:02 - Commentary
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life...

Can you believe it?

Yes, I can...

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Where I Stand... 
Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 14:25 - Commentary

Sorry, I can't make it

You got problems, baby?

(Laughs) Yeah, I got a couple of 'em. I
was born black and I was born poor.

From Shaft (1971)

© Damaso Reyes

Right now I am standing in Brooklyn, where it all began. I’ve been around the world from Asia to Europe and once again I find myself in the borough of Kings. All in all, not a bad place to be all things considered. But before I address the issue of where I want to go it is important to look at where I am.

For the moment I will address this topic from the perspective of The Europeans. So far I have photographed in eight countries in Europe. Not bad but considering there are more than thirty on the continent there is some distance still to travel. I have shot several hundred rolls of film, pretty good once you accept how anachronistic it is to still be shooting film. If you take the time, and it does take a while, to explore the website and look at the images I feel like the outside viewer can see something of a theme, at least a visual one, emerging from the disparate elements. Of course this is not the final presentation of the work; nevertheless one can imagine what a book or an exhibition might look like.

In my head I feel as though I am about one third of the way through the project, at least in terms of time. It began three years ago with money out of my own pocket. No grants, no fellowships; just money I earned through photography and journalism. The few articles I published along the way helped defray some of the costs I incurred that first year but in no way paid for my adventures.

Realizing this I decided to apply for as many fellowships and grants as I could. While this was certainly a great idea, the problem is one of time. Most grants of any substance have a long waiting period between when you apply and when you receive a decision. Usually a few months but sometimes it’s the better part of a year before you get that email in your inbox. And that doesn’t mean that you can start right away. It could be another six months before you receive any money. So 2006 was a fallow year with only a few days of shooting on the project.

Finally in 2007 I began to reap the harvest of filling out all those applications. I spent eight months total as a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and then another two months as an Arthur F. Burns fellow in Berlin. For ten months last year I did little else but shoot, traveling all around Germany as well as to France and Switzerland documenting the changing face of Europe. Earlier this year I spent several months in Austria as a Fulbright scholar where I continued my work.

I learned a few things. First: I really enjoy working for myself. It may seem obvious but I like setting my own pace, deciding on my own what is important to photograph and when and most importantly how. Second: this requires money. Again, it may seem obvious but money is what makes this world go around and in order to do as I please I need the funds to do it.

The reason I mention this point is that it has become increasingly clear to me that the marketplace isn’t going to provide those funds. Journalism as a funding course is a dead end. This article I did for the Christian Science Monitor from Kosovo paid less than $400. That doesn’t begin to touch the airfare and on the ground expenses that I incurred let alone compensate me for my time. Now I didn’t get into journalism to get rich but I did expect it to pay my way. That has become increasingly untenable. Magazines and newspapers are cutting back on their foreign coverage, closing international bureaus and increasingly relying on the wire services. All this means that there are fewer dollars, or Euros for that matter, for freelancers like me.

Perhaps more importantly the main-stream media has a notoriously short attention span. Right now they only thing most editors care about is Iraq. Now when I went to Iraq in 2000 no one was interested in a story. When I went to Kosovo in 2005 it was all I could do to sell the story that I did. I have decided that I am not interested in letting the marketplace decide what I should cover and when; history is too important to let middle managers who never leave their desks to choose what is important to pay attention to.

So what does that leave? There are too few substantial grants for individuals out there to rely upon and they take far too long to get. The marketplace has other interests and nuance is not among them. So which way forward?

I will address that on Thursday…

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HCB Quote of the Week #38 
Saturday, May 31, 2008, 14:46 - Commentary

Time sure is going by quickly! It’s hard to believe that I have already been back in New York for two months but I most certainly have. I have always felt like the danger of being here is that I start to become too comfortable. Being in the city that I love with the people I love doesn’t motivate me to leave. At the same time the longer that I am here the more I miss being out in the field and working on The Europeans. It’s two sides of the same coin, a push and pull that I have experienced ever since I first came back from Indonesia in 2003.

Well I have been trying to use my time in New York wisely and I will tell you all about it next week. Until then, here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

A tombstone in Vienna's Jewish cemetery.

There is no closed figure in nature. Every shape participates with another. No one thing is independent of another and one thing rhymes with another, and light gives them shape. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Bridging the Gap 
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 15:33 - Personal, Commentary

The Brooklyn Bridge just turned 125!

And you don’t look a day over 100…

This was a beautiful and warm Memorial Day weekend here in New York. I was a bit under the weather for some of it but by Sunday I was smiling and sitting in the sun like thousands of other New Yorkers.

The view from below. © Damaso Reyes

The anniversary of the opening of the bridge serves as a reminder of what we can accomplish when we work together for something greater than ourselves. It is a testament that the space between us can be bridged both literally and metaphorically and that is what we should strive for as a society.

Shadows. © Damaso Reyes

For me that is what The Europeans is: a bridge. Images can serve that function in our society and I hope that this project can serve as a bridge both among Europeans as well as a link between the present and the future. Time, as it always does, will tell…

We can’t leave out the Manhattan Bridge! © Damaso Reyes

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Cornell Capa R.I.P. 
Saturday, May 24, 2008, 11:08 - Events, Commentary

Cornell Capa is dead.

He did more than perhaps anyone else to promote the cause of photojournalism in the second half of the last century. He was a great photographer and a visionary who founded the International Center of Photography. He will be sorely missed and in his honor we will turn the HCB Quote of the Week into the Cornell Capa Quote of the Week.

The Wall, Vienna. © Damaso Reyes

Images at their passionate and truthful best are as powerful as words can ever be. If they alone cannot bring change, they can at least provide and understanding mirror of man’s actions, thereby sharpening human awareness and awakening conscience. - Cornell Capa, Collection, Use, and Care of Historical Photographs by Robert A. Weinstein

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Fine, So I Caved... 
Wednesday, May 21, 2008, 13:47 - Project News, Commentary

I am not what they would call a “first adopter.” For me the worth of technology must be proved, it is not tacitly accepted. I remember when mobile phone first became affordable enough that everyone was getting them. I held out. I didn’t see the value. After all, I had a pager so people could get in touch with me, or at least let me know that they wanted to get in touch with me, and I was fine with that. After a while I began to see the value of having a mobile communications device and I relented.

Last week I finally set up a Facebook page.

Now many of you probably already have one but for a long time I didn’t see the point, after all, if people want to know what I am doing they could read my blog I argued. Well after reading an insightful piece in the Atlantic about the Obama campaign’s use of the internet to bring people together I decided there was value in this idea. I realized much like the value of having a mobile phone it is not just about being accessible; it is about lowering the bar of accessibility and making it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you and to know what you are doing.

So I signed up and found a lot of people from high school and college and my work life that I have been out of touch with. I can also share with those very same people what I have been up to. So it’s all good as the young people say…

Three Women in Vienna. © Damaso Reyes

I almost forgot to tell you that I have added images to my gallery on asylum seekers in Austria as well as a gallery on the Ute Bock Center. This work took up the second half of my Fulbright Fellowship and I think there are some really great images there, please let me know what you think!

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HCB Quote of the Week #37 
Saturday, May 17, 2008, 15:29 - Project News, Commentary

I’m done!

Berlin by night. © Damaso Reyes

And it feels good!

Dancing in Vienna. © Damaso Reyes

So I have finished updating my website. If you go online you can see brand new galleries including images from Vienna’s traditional balls, Berlin at night, the Ute Bock Center for asylum seekers as well as from the German Cancer Research Center and one of Vienna’s oldest Jewish cemeteries.

Remembering the past © Damaso Reyes

You can also see updated galleries with additional images from Vienna and Berlin. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, until then here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

I went to Marseille. A small allowance enabled me to get along, and I worked with enjoyment. I had just discovered the Leica. It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it. I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung-up and ready to pounce, determined to "trap" life - to preserve life in the act of living. Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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