Back to New York 
Wednesday, June 29, 2005, 15:15 - Travel, Shooting, Personal

Well I am headed back home to New York after shooting in three different countries and traveling a few thousand miles. I have shot well over a hundred rolls of film and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the results.

I think I can begin to see how the narrative thread of this project will emerge, though I think it will become much clearer the more that I shoot. That’s a relief because one of my major concerns going into all this was how it would all tie together to create something that made sense. I am always a bit nervous before a big trip but I think the past few months are a good indication that this project can be successful. It is still going to take a lot of work and elbow grease but I am having a great time shooting this and am looking forward to returning to Europe in the early fall to continue shooting. Now the only questions are where will I go and what will I do?

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The Port 
Monday, June 27, 2005, 17:26 - Shooting

Yesterday I spent the day photographing at the Port of Rotterdam, the second busiest port in the world. They have quite an operation over there let me tell you.

Cranes move containers at the port. ©Damaso Reyes

I was very impressed by the automation and the fact that every outgoing container is screened for radiological material, a program set up ironically with the help of the Department of Homeland Security (if only we could implement such systems at our ports I would feel a whole lot safer.

An x ray tech points out suspicious cargo. ©Damaso Reyes

They also have these huge truck mounted x ray machines to look inside shipping containers. I also got to spend some time with the drug sniffing dog trainers, who were working with a cute little pup, teaching him to sniff out fun stuff like ecstasy. I would like to do more work like this as the project goes on, perhaps spend a few days next time. Shoots like this will play an important role in the Economics thread of this project.

A puppy is trained to sniff out drugs. ©Damaso Reyes

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Shadowing the Mayor 
Sunday, June 19, 2005, 19:28 - Shooting

So I have spent the past few days shadowing Job Cohen, the Mayor of Amsterdam. The days have been varied from meetings in The Hague to attending a show at a community center and the opening of a new concert hall. The mayor is a very busy man. I also got to see the Queen at one of the events.

Mayor Cohen takes a phone call between meetings in The Hague. ©Damaso Reyes

Mayor Choen waits for the Queen to arrive by boat. ©Damaso Reyes

The mayor has make-up applied before a television appearence. ©Damaso Reyes

Following the mayor around has been a great chance to keep exploring the Politics thread of this project which I hope will document not just things like elections but the people who make the system run. Time often forgets mayors and ministers alike but these civil servants play an important role in how the EU will integrate.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. ©Damaso Reyes

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New Amsterdam meets Old Amsterdam 
Saturday, June 4, 2005, 00:55 - Travel, Shooting, Personal

Having been born in New Amsterdam it is a nice treat to be able to spend some time in my city’s namesake. Weather aside, Amsterdam is a great town. It does remind me quite a bit of New York, and I really like the fact that you can walk and bike most places and the café culture has been very enjoyable. Premium Belgian beer in the states costs an arm and a leg but the supermarkets seem to be giving it away.

Some very special flowers. ©Damaso Reyes

I managed to visit a huge flower garden just outside of town called the Keukenhof. While I usually don’t go in for nature photography, it was a nice change of pace.

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Voting Day! 
Friday, June 3, 2005, 04:55 - Shooting, Commentary

Well the Dutch voted yesterday in overwhelming fashion to reject the EU constitution. After the French vote last month no one was surprised but the size of the defeat was a bit shocking for some. What does this mean for the future of integration? Right now it is all just speculation but clearly those leading the push for a more integrated EU must do a better job of communicating to the public, something up until now many in the elites never felt they had to do. At several hundred pages long, the document was unreadable, something that most likely led to its defeat.

Voting results. ©Damaso Reyes

Compared to American elections, there was very little campaigning, which struck me as odd for such an important vote. Those opposed to the EU did and continue to do a great job of getting their message across, the other side has truly fallen down on the job.

Is this the right ballot box? ©Damaso Reyes
It was a long day which began at a local polling station in Amsterdam and ended at the television station where politicians gathered to watch the results.

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Goodbye Bondsteel! 
Friday, May 27, 2005, 13:24 - Travel, Personal
Well this wraps up my time in Kosovo.

A medivac helo at sunset. ©Damaso Reyes

The past few weeks have gone by pretty quickly but I feel like I have gotten some good photos and am ready for a little down time in Amsterdam, my next stop. Don’t worry, I will manage to shoot while I am there but I think I will take a more relaxed approach to things. I really can’t wait to process some film when I get back to the States!

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Riot Training 
Friday, May 20, 2005, 02:18 - Shooting, Personal
Camp Bondsteel

I have shot something like 30 rolls of film in the last ten days and I think that I have more than a few good images if the digital files are any indication. As time goes on I feel like I have gotten more of a sense, albeit an extremely limited one, of what life in Kosovo is like. One thing that is certain is that life on a dry Army base can be a little dull. On the plus side this is probably the most number of days I have gotten up before 7 a.m. in a long time.

American and Greek Soldiers train in riot control. ©Damaso Reyes

Today we went to one of the European bases to photograph the Crowd and Riot Control (CRC) training. They used simulated tear gas and some of the troops got to be angry Kosovars, giving the soldiers quiet a hard time. It was hot and dirty but a lot of fun, at least if you didn’t have people attacking you….

©Damaso Reyes
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Sunday, May 15, 2005, 23:03 - Shooting
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Today was pretty cool, I got to photograph at a MEDCAP, which is basically a temporary medical field clinic set up by KFOR solider to treat rural Kosovars who might not have access to doctors. There was an eye clinic as well as a dental clinic where the Army docs were pulling out teeth left and right.

An Eye exam. ©Damaso Reyes

A translator communicates this woman's medical history to a military doctor. ©Damaso Reyes

Children wait and watch as their mother has teeth removed. ©Damaso Reyes

A young Kosovar girl waits to have her teeth checked. ©Damaso Reyes

That reminds me, I should probably go to the dentist soon…..

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A quick note about the photos 
Friday, May 13, 2005, 18:18 - Project News
Just so everyone knows, the photos that will accompany this blog are taken digitally. While The Europeans will be a black and white project, I still shoot digitally so I can file photographs with the stories I write as well as post images to go along with the blog in a timely manner. All the project photos are shot on black and white film, generously donated by the project corporate sponsor Kodak!

Just thought you would like to know…

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Sunny Kosovo 
Friday, May 13, 2005, 04:49 - Shooting
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Welcome to the Army!

The home of this man's son was destoryed the night before. ©Damaso Reyes

I have been in sunny Kosovo for four days now and I have to say being embedded with the U.S. Army is very interesting. Yes, there has been a lot of hurry up and wait, for instance I just got the proper ID badge I needed, apparently the badging people didn’t quite know what to make of a journalist, but I haven’t let it get in the way of me taking some good images. I will be here for close to three weeks and in that time I am hoping that I have a chance to spend time with a lot of different units and see how they operate.

Public Affairs Officer Major Wunn listens to a Serb tell his story. ©Damaso Reyes

One of the first things I got to go out on was checking out the scene of a Serbian house which had been destroyed by a mysterious explosion the night before. With the exception of the Serbs, it seems like most Kosovars are genuinely happy to have U.S. and KFOR forces around, something I bet the troops in Iraq wish were the case. More later….

2ndLt. Mills interacts with local children. ©Damaso Reyes

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The Circus 
Saturday, May 7, 2005, 22:43 - Shooting

So yesterday I went to the circus!

Roxy leaving the stage. ©Damaso Reyes

It was a small traveling show in one of the suburbs surrounding the city and it was interesting. I managed to spend a good deal of time backstage and got to know some of the performers including Roxy, a teenager who along with her brother are traveling around Europe performing in the circus. I think it was a nice way to end my stay in The UK. Tomorrow I head off to Kosovo. Wish me luck....

Roxy in her trailer. ©Damaso Reyes

Roxy backstage waiting to go on. ©Damaso Reyes
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Election Day/Night 
Friday, May 6, 2005, 22:16 - Shooting

Well election day was very long but highly productive. I spent the day with Brian Haw and his supporters. They started by driving around the district he was running for in a rented van with megaphones attached. Brian harangued Tony Blair, called for peace in Iraq and encouraged voters to come out and support him.

An Election monitor watches the results come in. ©Damaso Reyes

At the end of the day about 200 people voted for Brian.

We waited for the returns at a local community center where I alternated with hanging out with the extremely bored press corps holed up an a small room upstairs and spending time with Brian and his friends and family.

Waiting with reporters. ©Damaso Reyes

For them it was an emotional day. No one, not even Brian really thought he would win but I think there was part of him that was hoping against hope for a better showing. If nothing else Brian got to spread his message a little further.
Read the story I wrote on his campaign

Brian and a supporter after the results are announced. ©Damaso Reyes

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On the Street 
Sunday, May 1, 2005, 21:37 - Shooting

So London is an interesting town, no doubt about that. I have spent much of my first two weeks wandering about, getting to know the city and shooting on the street. Remember what I said about the English being polite? Well that was clearly a delusional fantasy. In New York when I get bumped into on the subway people actually say “excuse me.” Here they just carry on, stiff upper lip and all that. In general I have found people a bit distant but that’s neither here nor there. I am doing some interesting work. One of the things I find most amusing is that you can drink on the street here and a few days ago I photographed some soccer fans who took every advantage of that fact.

©Damaso Reyes

I also found an interesting character across the street from Big Ben. Brian Haw is an anti-war activist who has basically been protesting 24/7 against the UK’s and America’s involvement in Iraq. He is brusque and not all together intelligible but very interesting. I think I might take a few days and follow him around, as it turns out he is also running for a seat in Parliament and he could be the person that I follow around.

©Damaso Reyes
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London Calling 
Saturday, April 16, 2005, 21:29 - Travel

Well, I’m here, barely. While the flight went smoothly things got more than interesting when I touched down at Heathrow. In my travels as a journalist I have discovered one universal fact: no matter your nationality and where you are arriving at, immigration officials suck. Usually if you are an American coming home you breeze through and that has pretty much been my experience. But when you leave home soil everything is up for grabs.

In Indonesia I learned to simply “accidentally” leave the equivalent of ten dollars in my passport, which the poorly paid and overworked immigration official inspecting it had come to expect as a nice “bonus.” Getting through borders in the developing world is a snap if you have the money. Once I was a little tight and only put five bucks in my passport and ended up on the first boat back to Singapore.

I never made that mistake again.

While I found it distasteful and against my principals I learned to grease the wheels to the bureaucracy when I had to: after all, I had bigger fish to fry than haggling with some official looking to shake me down. So upon embarking on this project I was looking forward to the efficient and courteous immigration officials I would find in Europe, especially the UK.

Boy was I wrong.

In middle school I had a wonderful, if stern teacher from England who instilled in me the importance of manners and the sense that all British people were extremely proper. As I walked up to the counter I presented my passport to a matronly woman in her forties who resembled in passing my former teacher. I felt I was in good hands. That is until she started asking questions. Before my trip I went online to the consulate to make sure I didn’t need any visas as a journalists or a round trip ticket. Knowing my plans were flexible I decided not to buy a round trip ticket, which was my major mistake.

Immigration Official:
Why are you here: business or pleasure?

Me: A bit of both.
Immigration Official: I see. And you don’t have a return ticket?

Me: No, I am not sure when I will be returning to New York I may end up spending more time at my other destinations.

Immigration Official: Well how do I know that you have any intention to return?

This struck me as odd. Did she really think I was here to move to London and live off the dole? I was after all coming from the richest city in the richest country in the world. I tried to explain to her that I had no intention of staying in London more than a few weeks. I was a journalist, you see, here to cover the elections. After that I am heading to Kosovo, see the letter written by my editor in New York? See the NYPD issued press credentials hanging around my neck?

Immigration Official: Well that card looks like a fake if you ask me.

And so on and so forth for the next three hours.

It was really quite bizarre. After asking more strange questions she motioned me to sit in a group of chairs whilst she decided if they would let me in the country. As time dragged on I became increasingly angry, vowing never to return to England if they denied my entry. Strangely at one point an underling asked me if I wanted tea and biscuits ( I politely refused). I made a point of being civil no matter how silly the accusations or blatantly racist the official was being (during my time waiting, all the other people waiting to find out if they would be sent back from wherever they came from were African or Asian). After waiting for several hours and having my luggage searched and my private journal read the official once again summoned me to her counter.

Immigration Official: I have no idea why but my superior has decided to allow you in. Make sure you do not overstay.

What a welcome!

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In the Beginning.... 
Friday, April 15, 2005, 01:38 - Personal
New York City

Welcome to my blog and website! This is an exciting time for me and I am glad to be sharing it with you. I hope you take the time to view some of the images I will be taking over the next few years as I travel around Europe.

I’d like to start by telling you a little about this project and how it came into being. It was about three years ago and I was lying in bed waiting for the electricity to come back on in Jakarta so it could power the fan and allow me to go to sleep, rather than just sweat, something I had become very good at in the year I had been living in Southeast Asia working as a photographer and writer.

I was trying to decide if I should stay in Indonesia for another two years and cover the elections or move on to something else. While I was enjoying my time there I wasn’t working on any one project per se, I was simply covering different breaking news events which while exciting was less than fulfilling. In my time in Indonesia, I learned that I could indeed work and live abroad but life is more than just work and I had discovered that I wanted something more.

So as I laid in bed, waiting for one of the city’s frequent rolling blackouts to subside, I thought about what I could work on for a few years. I knew it had to be big, interesting and compelling. With four years of History of Photography classes under my belt my mind inevitably wandered to the work of photographers that I held in high esteem. After a while I thought of Robert Frank and his seminal book The Americans. How daunting it must have been as a young Swiss photographer to come to American and try to capture the gestalt of a people and time. With the changes going on in Europe, most notably in my mind the adoption of the Euro, I pondered how interesting it would be to try to document those vast historical changes now moving through the continent. As an American, I could do the reverse of what Frank had done and travel to Europe.

Not long after the power came back on and my room thankfully began to cool but the seed had been planted. Over the coming months both in Indonesia and after I had returned to New York in the spring of 2003 I began thinking more and more about Europe and this project. Assignments, including one to cover the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, came and went but working on this project was never too far from my mind. I was excited about the possibility but the more I thought about what it would take, the more daunted I became. The scale of the changes going on would necessitate a project of similar scope: several years, visiting dozens of countries, tens of thousands of dollars and an unflagging commitment. It took me several months but by the fall of 2004 I decided that if there was ever a project that I needed to work on, this was it.

And so The Europeans was born.

While it had taken me a long time to make the commitment, I knew early on making the decision would be the easy part. The hard part would be the project itself. The logistics, the focus needed, and of course actually taking the images. I had never worked on anything even approaching the scale of this massive endeavor but I had made up my mind and nothing was going to change it. Of course with something so big there is a long lead time in terms of preparations and I took the winter of 2004 to write a proposal and think more deeply about what I was trying to accomplish.

I settled on a few major themes through which to look at what was happening in Europe: Politics, Economics, Immigration and National Identity were my touchstones. Having sorted it all out in my head I have chosen our cousins in the United Kingdom to visit first. Tony Blair is running for reelection and what better way to delve into the issue of politics than to cover an election. It should be an exciting trip, I will be there for about three weeks, mainly in London and afterwards I plan on heading to Kosovo where I will embed with KFOR and document the peace keeping and stabilization efforts the American led multi-national forces are conducting. After a few weeks there I hope to spend some time in Holland where I have no idea what I will be photographing.

I hope this entry gives you some perspective on this project as well and myself. You can view more of my other work at my personal website


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