Photo of the Day #72 
Monday, November 10, 2008, 15:54 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
There are two kinds of people: those who love mirrors, stopping at every one they see in order to check their appearance and those who do everything they can to avoid them. The lens is a kind of mirror too, holding up an image of ourselves, often one that we would rather not see.

Mirror, Mirror. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

The election last week of Barack Obama serves as a kind of mirror as well. Americans, even those who didn’t support Obama see his victory as an important milestone that deserves to be celebrated. Around the world the cheers have come. Of course there are always exceptions.

Der Spiegel tells us about how one prominent Austrian television personality viewed the American election.

“I wouldn't want the Western world to be directed by a black man. When you say that is a racist remark: right, without a doubt."
Americans are "racists, now as before, and it must be going very badly for them that they so convincingly ... send a black man, and a black, very good-looking woman, into the White House,"
Klaus Emmerich said.

This would be funny if it were in a satirical newspaper like The Onion which did run a very funny article titled Black Man gets Nation’s Worst Job. But it wasn’t.

Then we have our good friend Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy who the New York Times reports:

“amiably called the first African-American president-elect in United States history ‘young, handsome and suntanned.’”

Clearly there are many in Europe who would like to go back to the good old days before immigration, presumably sometime before the rise of the Roman republic I imagine. Both Austria and Italy are having problems dealing with immigration and xenophobia ao it is not so surprising that these comments come from these nations. Of course these two men don’t speak for the entire population. That said, they are indicators of who a not insubstantial percentage of the population feel. The question is how can we move past old prejudices and into a society that is reflective of the diversity of our world?

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Photo of the Day #71  
Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 12:18 - Events, Commentary, Photo of the Day
Our time for change has come.

Hope for Europe as well. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

“Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.” So said the New York Times today. Clearly this is a historic moment in American politics but one that I believe will serve as a symbol to Europe as well.

American elected the son of an immigrant from Africa. A member of a minority that makes up just 12% of the population. Today he has become the very face of our nation, the embodiment of our hopes and dreams. This is a powerful statement about what kind of nation America truly is and the kind of place it hopes to become.

In Vienna and Paris; Berlin and Rome there are millions of young men and women just like Barack Obama. Young boys and girls who want to take part in the fullness of their nation’s lives but for many reasons cannot. If the nations of Europe are to live up to their own ideals this must change. As in America it won’t be easy but Europeans must begin to see each other not simply as decedents but as aspirants to a common dream of a better future. And that future includes people of all races and heritages.

“For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.

It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. 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.”
President Elect Barack Obama in January 2008.

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Photo of the Day #70 
Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 15:21 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
I woke up this morning ready to vote. When I went outside it was a warm, lovely fall day, the kind that reminds you fondly of summer. When I was a kid I used to love these days although I hated the fact that I had to waste one of the last fine days of the year in school.

In the shadow of history… © Damaso Reyes

Today I went back to my old elementary school to cast my ballot. It seemed like this day would never come but it finally has and I was quite happy to have a chance to pull the lever. In twelve short hours we should have a President-Elect and I will spend this evening like so many others around the country and around the world waiting for the results.

A change is coming… © Damaso Reyes

I don’t think I will be disappointed…

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Photo of the Day #69 
Monday, November 3, 2008, 12:03 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
It is going to be a busy week, what with the historic election happening tomorrow. But I thought I would start things off with a light little article from the U.K.’s Telegraph. Apparently an expat Brit has become the accidental mayor of a small Spanish village.

Sorry about that Mr. Mayor. Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes

“Mark Lewis, 58, has been left in charge of the town hall in San Fulgencio after the mayor, deputy mayor and four senior councillors were all taken into police custody following allegations of real estate corruption.

"Mr Lewis, who lives in Spain with his wife and daughter, was given the title by default on Wednesday on the grounds that he is one of only two councillors from the ruling coalition not to be arrested.

"Mr Lewis has taken charge of the council on the grounds that he is the fourth deputy mayor. Everyone above him in the pecking order has been arrested," the source added.”

It seems that corruption is not just an issue in some of the newer members of the European Union!

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Photo of the Day #68 
Thursday, October 30, 2008, 12:56 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
For years people have been saying that the newspaper business is on its last legs. But like a patient who has a terminal illness one can ignore the diagnosis for a long time until the symptoms become too acute not to pay attention to. Today is one of those days.

The march of time. Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

The Christian Science Monitor has announced that next year it will stop printing its daily newspaper edition and exist only online. While the CSM is not a large newspaper it is prestigious and one of the few still doing a lot of original international reporting (I wrote a piece for them about Kosovo in 2006). It is the first large daily newspaper to take a leap that many commentators are suggesting is the trend of the future.

Personally I don’t think it is a bad thing. One of the reasons the editors gave for making this choice is so that that can keep their international bureaus open. I myself read at least three or four newspapers a day – online. I don’t know the last time I brought a physical newspaper. But when I get my Kindle I will most likely subscribe to two to three, that’s right, pay actual money for content. Still having grown up with newspapers that I can touch and fold I will be a little sad to see them go…

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Photo of the Day #67 
Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 14:11 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
See, I told you! They want all of us to shoot video…

And one camera to rule them all. Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

Instant gratification. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Culture clash. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

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

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

Still waiting. Berlin 2006

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

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

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

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

Protect me from what I want. © Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

Film at 11. Berlin 2008 © Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

It isn’t going away anytime soon…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridging the gap. Paris 2008 © Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

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

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Photo of the Day #58 
Friday, October 3, 2008, 15:18 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
What fascinates me about xenophobes and those who would end all immigration in Europe is how fervently they believe that immigrants will destroy their culture (never mind that no culture can be considered “pure” and is the amalgamation of centuries of interaction) and replace it with their own.

Then we read an article like this one in Der Spiegel which talks about how it really works.

"Once a year, the "Gambero Rosso" (or "Red Crab") -- a kind of Michelin Guide dedicated to the spirit of slow food -- presents its coveted awards to restaurants, vineyards and estates that preserve the traditions of la cucina italiana. And this year the award for the best spaghetti alla carbonara went to Hassen, a Tunisian immigrant. This has made him the guardian of the most Italian of all Italian dishes."

I can be a chef too! Cologne 2007 © Damaso Reyes

When given the opportunity immigrants often do a very good job at assimilating on their own without any pressure from society. It is my observation that it is when immigrants are excluded from opportunity and discriminated against that they tend to huddle together for mutual protection. This article highlights a great example of how immigrants can actually help preserve the cultures they become a part of.

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