Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 15:42 - PersonalStuttgart
Well I have recovered, mostly. I sleep in and have a fairly lazy day but did manage to do some late afternoon bike riding through the local woods with another fellow.
In other news, I just checked online and it turns out that I won 1st place for international reporting from the New York Association of Black Journalists for a series I did on malaria in Tanzania last year. Hooray for me. I don’t win things very often so I think I will bask in the afterglow for a while…
A malaria ward in a Tanzanian hospital. ©Damaso Reyes
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Monday, February 19, 2007, 21:59 - Travel, Shooting, CommentaryCologne
“We’re not in Stuttgart anymore, Toto”
It certainly has been a long weekend!
You know, every time I embark on one of these little adventures, I forget how much work is involved. I know, it sounds silly but something like Carnival is so overwhelming I think I block out the unpleasant parts and then am pleasantly surprised when some drunken idiot smashes into me.
I took the high speed ICE train at five and settled in with a book I had been saving just for this trip, Final Impact by John Birmingham. The train was about ten minutes delayed getting in and of course that made me miss my connection in Manheim. Have no fear, I was rerouted to Bonn where before long I caught a train headed into Cologne, just forty minutes behind schedule.
Luckily for me I was met on the platform by the lovely Eva, a cousin of one of the outstanding staff members here who agreed to let me crash at her place, which is actually an old fraternity house. Here I was, seven years late and four thousand miles away, living the college life I never got to have!
After a quick bite to eat back at the frat house, it was time to find me a costume. Now I haven’t really been into dressing up for Halloween or anything since I was a kid, but it is pretty much expected that you will. So we rummaged through the odds and ends in the house and managed to find a complete ladybug costume, which I will spare you any photos of.
One of Eva’s friends knew of a house party and around ten we were off. We took the metro across town to the house where the theme was that of a forest, which some people took more seriously than others, my costume just happened to be a great fit. A real live Carnival music band was just finishing up as we entered, or rather, tried desperately to squeeze ourselves into, the house. Of course the downside of the ladybug costume, with its red fur, is that it is great at trapping heat, especially when you are pressed in cheek by jowl. Nevertheless, this wasn’t my first crowded house party and after a few liters of beer I was well in the spirit. We left sometime around three or four, it’s all a bit hazy…
“Around the Way”
Initially I had some ideas about getting up early and shooting some parades but my four a.m. bedtime reordered my priorities. When I did get up, around one in the afternoon, some of the more exciting things in town had already happened. No matter, because invariably when a door closes a window is right there, ready to be opened. As it turned out, that afternoon was when all the neighborhoods in Cologne had their local parades. Cute kids in costumes, no drunken college students, what more could a photographer ask for? Eva’s family lives nearby so we went out at around two thirty and spent a few hours watching little kids throw candy at other little kids who were shouting “Kamella!!!” which translates to “sweeties!” and “Alaaf” which doesn’t translate to anything but is the standard Carnival greeting in these parts.
Eva and her cousin Anna. ©Damaso Reyes
So it was back to the crib for a little sack time, most of which I spent reading. I did manage to catch a few zzz’s before we headed out again into the great maw of Carnival in Koln. First we needed to refuel and we went to a passable Indian restaurant and filled up on some curry.
Man and dog. ©Damaso Reyes
The real problem with Carnival, at least downtown, is that the halfway cool places are literally packed to the rafters with revelers. So we spent the evening going from place to place, waiting in line, paying a cover, and sweating inside where it was only possible to get to the bar by throwing some sharp elbows, which almost made up for the ridiculous crowds (see how I suffer for my art?). Eventually we ended up at a nightclub with some of Eva’s friends which was mercifully not packed like a can of sardines. The music was halfway decent, the drinks were halfway cheap, at least until midnight, and we ended up rocking out until three or so when we left en masse of one of Eva’s friend’s house where we had a late night snack and waited for one of Eva’s roommates who was getting off of work late to give us a ride home.
“Stranger in a Strange Land”
Sunday morning, or afternoon to be more accurate, was pretty much a repeat of Saturday. A late breakfast and little motivate to do anything but go back to bed. Today I was on my own and spent much of the afternoon lying in bed, engrossed in my novel of alternate history. Around seven I managed to summon my last reserves of motivation and hurled myself into the night, cameras in hand (if I hadn’t made it clear, I had been shooting pretty much continuously over the previous two days).
I took the metro into town and got off about a kilometer and a half from the Dom or big cathedral which dominates Koln. As I walked down a broad boulevard, only shadows and the occasional car were my companions. Where was everyone? I silently thought to myself, adjusting my camera bag as I continued my journey. How many times had I been here before, not knowing exactly where I was heading, walking down strange streets in unfamiliar cities, alone except for my determination to somehow make this self imposed solitude worthwhile by capturing a few images.
As I approached the Dom the fleeting sounds of drums echoed off the buildings groaning under the weight of hundreds of years of history. In the square in front of the church a few food and beer vendors had set up to service the transient crowds which were walking through on their way towards a night of merriment. An impromptu drum circle had come together and visitors danced and clapped in the crisp night air, not exactly what the architects of the grand house of worship behind them had envisioned when they built the old church.
The square, with its Gothic architecture and boozing crowds was rife with image making opportunities and I wandered from one end to the other, happily snapping away between bites of bratwurst and slugs of beer.
I continued to wander the narrow streets of cobblestone and once again the pavement reflected the distant sounds of drums, and now horns as well. I followed my ears and came upon a mobile rhythm section, twenty or so deep, playing the streets. For the second time in as many days I found myself tapping my foot and photographing to that classic “Eye of the Tiger.” I was quite impressed by the range of music they played from Cologne Carnival classics to New Orleans Mardi Gras anthems.
Eventually, and on the early side compared to the past two nights, I made my way home. I had to get some sack time in preparation for the big day tomorrow. Rose Monday is the culmination of the four month Carnival season and it was one parade I wasn’t going to miss.
“The Long Road Ahead”
Despite the warmth of my bed and the sleep still in my eyes, I managed to roust myself out of the house more or less on time to get to the start of the parade before it kicked off at 11. For as far as the eye could see, men and women prepared to march in blue and white. As the parade began to move forward I found myself with a particularly merry group of candy and flower throwing men and stuck with them as the parade wound its way through the heart of the old city.
Alaaf! ©Damaso Reyes
Would you like a flower? ©Damaso Reyes
Where, I wondered were my kisses? ©Damaso Reyes
Kilometer after kilometer the sounds of drums and horse hoofs on cobblestone intermingled with cries of “Alaaf!!!” The crowds were having nearly as much fun and children of all ages dressed as only their imaginations could conceive cheered us on. Carnival here in Cologne is pretty much a family affair and far from the cries for public nudity that I encountered last year in New Orleans, here small children were the one having the most fun.
On horseback. ©Damaso Reyes
Festive attire. ©Damaso Reyes
American imperialism hard at work. ©Damaso Reyes
Echoes. ©Damaso Reyes
Am I the only one who finds this offensive? Comments please. ©Damaso Reyes
And now I am here at the train station, still surrounded by costumed revelers waiting for the train to take me back to Stuttgart. All in all a good couple of days.
In front of the Dom. ©Damaso Reyes
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Friday, February 16, 2007, 20:27 - Travel, Shooting, Project News, EventsEn Route to Cologne
Well here I am, off to Cologne for carnival weekend! Last year I was in New Orleans, which was a lot of fun and hard work. It might be interesting to try carnival in a different city every year, we’ll see if we can make a habit out of this. So I will try to post whilst I am away but you might not hear from me until next week. Catch you later…
New Orleans this time last year. ©Damaso Reyes
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Thursday, February 15, 2007, 13:30 - CommentaryStuttgart
Often when I tell people that I am a photojournalist they ask me if I do video as well.
I always answer no.
I mention this because of an article I saw today online. One quote gave me pause:
“Digital stills photography will, when we look back on it, form a very small period of time in the history of photojournalism”, Nicol told EPUK. “Telegraph photographers will undoubtedly be shooting solely on video in the future, and certainly within a year we hope to be well advanced down that route.” Read the whole story here.
Now I know this Platypus idea has been around for the better part of a decade, but I am a staunch holdout. It’s not that I don’t think that people should do video if they want to, after all I am a live and let live kinda guy, I just don’t want to do it.
The video camera: friend or foe? ©Damaso Reyes
But why, you ask? Well, because I am a photographer. Not a videographer, director, producer or on air personality. I like still images, I believe that they have the ability to convey a perspective that video simply can’t. As well I don’t want to do all the jobs that an independent videographer has to do. My job is hard enough, thank you very much, without turning me into a multimedia octopus. And to what end? So APTV can buy my snippet and it appears for 30 seconds on a nightly news broadcast if I’m lucky? Or I spend years trying to sell a feature documentary that might win some awards and get seen buy a few thousand people? Not my bag. I feel artists should be free to pursue whatever they want but I refuse to let the market, or fashion, dictate how I do my work.
I still think there is a place for still photography. Now if anyone out these has a map, I could use some directions…
Two articles I was made aware of recently bring more interesting news. The first announces a high speed imaging sensor, the other talks about the trend towards video from print publications. I'm starting to feel like a bald eagle, except they are thinking of taking them off the endangered species list...
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Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 18:01 - EventsStuttgart
Another monthly dinner and fun was had by all, though speaking just for myself there was a little too much wine consumed, which I felt this morning when I woke up just after eight to go photograph at the State Parliament, but that’s another story. Here are some photos….enjoy!
Ligia. ©Damaso Reyes
Narges. ©Damaso Reyes
Sanford. ©Damaso Reyes
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Tuesday, February 13, 2007, 19:36 - CommentaryStuttgart
When I visited Iraq in 2000 I thought that there was little else that my country to could to make the situation there more intolerable for the people whom we wished to “liberate.”
An Iraqi hospital in 2000. ©Damaso Reyes
Clearly, I was wrong.
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Friday, February 9, 2007, 08:04 - CommentaryStuttgart
Anna Nicole Smith is dead.
Anna at Live 8 in 2005. ©Damaso Reyes
Here’s a link to a blog that I wrote about her in 2005. Let me know what you think…
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Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 17:44 - Shooting, Personal, CommentaryStuttgart
One month down, five to go!
Time is a tricky thing, something it goes by at warp speed, usually when I’m 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 don’t 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, I’m making you a little hot under the collar aren’t 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 it’s 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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Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 12:22 - PersonalStuttgart
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 I’ve seen.
More seriously, I have a hard time remembering the names of people I’ve 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 stranger’s name; for me memory is this fleeting part of myself that I can’t seem to master. In summer I forget the misery of a stiff wind that blows through you; in winter I can’t recall a humid day’s intimate embrace. When I’m alone I have a hard time recalling just how it feels to hold a woman that I love; when I’m 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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Saturday, February 3, 2007, 14:17 - CommentaryStuttgart
So I came across this comic strip a while back and thought I would share it with you. It’s a pretty accurate portrait of life as a photographer.
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Friday, February 2, 2007, 14:56 - EventsStuttgart
So for the past two days there has been a symposium here entitled “When is a work of art dead?” Since it has been all in German up until tonight, I have just been taking the occasional photo, but tonight there is a lecture in English. There is talk of going out afterwards but I’m not sure if I will go out, I kinda want to save my energy for the darkroom tomorrow, but we shall see….
Exciting, isn't it? ©Damaso Reyes
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Wednesday, January 31, 2007, 20:48 - Shooting, PersonalStuttgart
Okay, I don’t 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 don’t 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 let’s just say, inadequate. So when my request to “modify” it were turned down (what’s 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. Don’t 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 bath…
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Monday, January 29, 2007, 16:55 - PersonalStuttgart
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 it’s 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 couldn’t get any of my prudish and lazy other fellows to join me and the fact that I can’t see more than three feet in front of my face without my glasses didn’t 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 40°C to a huge log cabin type room where the heat reaches well in excess of 100°C or 212°F 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 tuned…
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Sunday, January 28, 2007, 21:42 - PersonalStuttgart
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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Thursday, January 25, 2007, 13:36 - Personal, Project News, CommentaryStuttgart
So it snowed yesterday.
I had fun.
I went sledding.
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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