Watch Out for the Sheep! 
Monday, January 15, 2007, 19:23 - Shooting, Events
Stuttgart

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


The shepherd and his flock. ©Damaso Reyes

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


Sheep and the Schloss. ©Damaso Reyes


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


My door. ©Damaso Reyes

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


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


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


Note the high ceilings... ©Damaso Reyes


Did I mention the ceilings? ©Damaso Reyes


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


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


This is where the magic happens. ©Damaso Reyes

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Manhattan from Roosevelt Island. ©Damaso Reyes

New York City

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


©Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now I am somewhere between 3 and 4….

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

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

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


Mmmmm...steak.... ©Damaso Reyes
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Tickets please 
Thursday, December 14, 2006, 18:24 - Travel, Project News
New York City

Well, it’s official, I’m outta here. I finally bought my ticket to Stuttgart and will be leaving on January 7th. I know it’s hard but don’t cry, I’ll most likely be back in September. But in the meantime I am encouraging everyone I know to get a headset or a webcam with mic so we can chat online using Skype or one of the dozens of other messaging like AIM or Yahoo! My spanking new laptop has a built-in webcam so I am all set, but how about you?

The closer I get to leaving, the more anxious I get. I’ve done this before, for even longer so it is not simply the fear of the unknown, though that is part of it. I will miss my friends and family that I will leave behind since I will be spending the vast majority of the next few years in Europe. But I am someone who thrives on familiarity, as much as I enjoy exploring. For me it’s the little things, trying to find the right bus, figuring out a menu in a foreign language that make me edgy.

At the same time I know that I will be meeting lots of new and interesting people and making the kinds of images that I dream about. For at least six months I would have to worry about rent, or chasing down a check, a dream in and of itself. And because of that I am just as anxious to leave and finally get started. I imagine that the next six months will fly by so I will try to enjoy it as much as I can.

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Happy Birthday Baby! 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006, 04:25 - Personal
New York City

Happy birthday to me!


©Damaso Reyes


Amazingly enough I have made it to 28, please hold your applause. I did have quite the day though. Finally, after all these years I managed to go ice skating for the first time. I know it sounds silly but I had always wanted to go ice skating for my birthday but no one would ever take me. So thanks to Anna for finally stepping up and taking on the challenge. We went to Bryant Park where not only did we manage to not fall down but we got to go around in circles with the Empire State Building looking down on us, bathed in my favorite shade of blue.


©Damaso Reyes

But you’d be wrong if you thought that was all! After ice skating we killed some time having a nice cocktail at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street. Not usually the kind of place I would hang out in, the high ceilings, wood paneling and dim lighting give you the feeling of being in a different era, not to mention tax bracket. It is also one of the few places that I can order a Tom Collins without worrying if the bartender knows how to make it.


As if that was all! After drinks we headed to sunny Williamsburg Brooklyn home of the best steakhouse in NYC Peter Luger’s. You can’t really describe what the food is like there except to say that it is like nothing else. My good friend Conan managed to escape from work and joined us for a truly spectacular meal. Cheers to him for graciously picking up the check!

Birthdays always give me an opportunity to take stock of the past year and see what I’ve managed to accomplish. The past year has been pretty good, my biggest regret, if you can call it that, has been that I didn’t get to spend more time working on The Europeans. But I always knew what starting next year things would kick into high gear so I tried not to obsess too much about what I wasn’t able to do. I did take lots of great photos from New Orleans to Tanzania, which makes me feel better about things. I can only imagine what I will be shooting next year…

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Katrina Show Opening 
Friday, October 20, 2006, 04:20 - Personal, Events
New York City

Tonight was the opening of the group show that I am in: Engulfed by Katrina: Photographs Before and After the Storm, curated by Deborah Willis and Hank Willis-Thomas. This show features show great images produced by some incredible photographers and I would encourage everyone in the New York area to come by, the show is up until November 19th.



There was live music, great food and a great panel discussion. It's these kind of events that make me want to exhibit my work more often, hopefully that's something that I will do more of next year as The Europeans kicks into high gear!
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The Road Home... 
Wednesday, October 4, 2006, 18:30 - Travel, Shooting, Personal
Aboard SwissAir flt 14 to JFK

I'm finally headed back to New York! Often short trips where you try to pack everything into a few days are more draining than a long one when you can take your time. While I did not manage to get to see nearly all of Berlin, I did get to do some shooting and I have some story ideas I do want to follow up on when I return to Germany next year.

As much as I would like to do one more trip to Europe before January I think my time, not to mention resources, would be better spent learning some German and otherwise preparing for next year, after all I don't know when I will be getting back to New York.

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To the German People... 
Tuesday, October 3, 2006, 18:20 - Shooting
Berlin

The Bundestag Dome interior

It's another crisp and sunny day here in the Federal Republic. Right now I am waiting in line to enter the Bundestag and it looks like it will be a little while until I get inside. Tomorrow morning I head back to NYC and I have to say it has been a short but productive trip. I even managed to shoot some film though of course not nearly as much as I would have liked. But I am ready to head back and get some work done. I'm also thinking of trying to take some German lessons when I get back in preparation for next year, anyone know a good place?



Exterior





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