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

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

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

And yetÖ

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

Iíve never been the pretty girl at bar.

Iíve never been the first picked on the team.

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

Moreover,

Iíve never been anyoneís best friend.

Iíve never been anyoneís mostÖ

Iíve never been more important thanÖ

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

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


Ayu, Jakarta 2003. ©Damaso Reyes

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


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

So I sit here, in my solitude.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

One month down, five to go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a bad memory.

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

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

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


Christine, Bali 2003. ©Damaso Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Damaso at the game...©Damaso Reyes

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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


Rolling uphill, like true artists!


More sledding, more fun! Photo by Ligia Nobre.


Me and my buddy. Photo by Ligia Nobre.
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Snow Day! 
Thursday, January 25, 2007, 13:36 - Personal, Project News, Commentary
Stuttgart

So it snowed yesterday.


©Damaso Reyes

A lot.


©Damaso Reyes

I had fun.


©Damaso Reyes

I went sledding.


©Damaso Reyes

I got cold and wet.


Going down the hill with a little help. Photo by Ligia Nobre.

But I had fun.

Then I had dinner with some of my fellow fellows and processed 16 rolls of film.

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First Week, First Impressions 
Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 01:40 - Personal
Stuttgart

Hard to believe that I have been here for a whole week, isnít it? For all the anxiety that I experience before a big move like the one I have just taken it always amazes me how easily I manage to adapt to wherever I land. Of course it helps that I have done this before, most notably when I went to Indonesia on a one way ticket with $400 in my pocket. It also helps that I have landed in such a supportive environment from the beautiful studio that I live in rent free to the knowledgeable staff who are already working with me to secure some shoots. All in all it has been a pretty smooth transition.

I was a little dumbfounded when I first walked into my studio. I mean I always joked that I would be living in a castle but I really had no idea what to expect. I had a talk with Mr. Joly, the director of Solitude today and he basically said that I didnít have to do anything, that nothing was expected of me and that they wouldnít bother me in my ďprivate space.Ē Pretty liberating, isnít it? Of course having looked forward to being here for so long I will try to work as hard as I can. Since arriving I have been forced to shift gears a bit. Every time I come to Europe, or more accurately every time I leave NYC, I am forced to remember that not everyone in the world works at the manic pace that we do. It will all come together, but it will take time, which is okay since I am here for six months.

I have made a few friends in the other fellows. Amazingly enough I am living across the hall from a fellow who lives in Harlem, small world, no? It is very quiet here and the place seems to encourage the fellows to lead their own lives, which is fine but it can be a little isolating. I have managed to get down into town several times. I am looking forward to actually meeting more Germans and immersing myself in the culture. And there is a weekly German class which I think I will try to get in on. So all in all week one has gone pretty well. Stay tuned for moreÖ
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MLK DAY 
Monday, January 15, 2007, 22:27 - Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

This is just about the only holiday that I actually take seriously and though tempted I managed to avoid doing any work today. I simply meditated on the man and his message. How far we have come since he gave his famous speech in 1963 and how very far we still have to go to form this more perfect union.



If you havenít already, I highly suggest listening to ďI have a DreamĒ in its entirety. I do this several times a year myself, mostly just as an inspirational pick-me-up. But considering that it is the greatest English language speech of the 20th century there is really no reason just to listen to it one day a year. If you havenít heard it in a while, or ever heard the whole speech, you will be amazed by how relevant it still is today and just how beautifully moving it is.

When I was in elementary school every year as the holiday approached we had to do something King related. In the fourth grade I recall an art project where we had to write out the word of the speech in the background of a portrait of Dr. King. I remember thinking at the time how boring it was and how long the speech was but as I have gotten older the words that I labored over have attained a meaning that I could have scarcely imagined back then. I leave you with a paragraph from the speechÖ.


"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, 'When will you be satisfied?' We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
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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 Renateís 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 Ryanís great book ďA Bridge Too Far.Ē 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, thatís 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 donít feel I need to shoot if I donít 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 (itís 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. Thatís not really accurate but hey, Iím 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 ďNo, we donít have it here but we can probably order it,Ē 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 shouldnít 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 didnít pick up in New York because I figured it wouldnít 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 whatís 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 donít know if itís the jet lag, the 400 rolls of film I have sitting in my fridge or the absurdly nice ďstudioĒ 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 havenít 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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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 ďYear of Yes.Ē 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. Thereís 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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