Back to School 
Wednesday, June 20, 2007, 15:04 - Travel, Shooting, Commentary
Schömberg

I made my way back to the Schömberg Children’s Clinic to photograph the small school that they have for the patients. From the first time I heard about it I was very interested in photographing the teachers and students, much thanks to Dr. Uwe Petruch for arranging this visit for me.


Adrian gets a little help... © Damaso Reyes

Someone recently asked me why I was photographing at the hospital and I feel that they were not satisfied by my answer. I get the question WHY a lot , why Europe, why CERN, why the Landtag? Why, Why, Why?????


Music Class. © Damaso Reyes

My best answer is why not? Why isn’t the Kinder Klinik worthy of being photographed? I guess the real answer to all of these questions is twofold. First, because I am here. Second, because it interests ME.


A Happy Adrian. © Damaso Reyes


Numbers Game. © Damaso Reyes

As much as I am trying to create a record of both what Europe is like now and how it is changing so that future generations can view their history in context, I am working very much for myself. I could spend all my time photographing what other people think is relevant or important but then it would cease to be my project, it would just be current events.


Science Experiment. © Damaso Reyes

So I go to places like Schömberg and meet people like Adrian and Daniele and hope that at the end of this long process the images I cobble together make some kind of sense. I can assure you that I am having a great time doing it!


Daniele in computer class. © Damaso Reyes
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Trip to CERN 
Thursday, June 14, 2007, 01:30 - Travel, Shooting
Geneva

Well it has been two incredible days, almost enough to make me wish that I had taken physics a little more seriously in high school, sorry John, all I can do is take photos…

I arrived in Geneva early yesterday morning after traveling all night on the train, next time I will splurge and get in a day early so I am a little less tired but right now I am young and underfunded so without a single drop of coffee I made my way to CERN on the #9 bus. On the way to CERN it struck me just how international a city Geneva is, something I should have realized since it hosts both CERN and several United Nations agencies but after spending so much time in Stuttgart, which is, let’s just say less diverse, it was like a little taste of home seeing all the different faces speaking all those different languages.

I made my way to CERN’s reception area where I was greeted by fellow American Katie Yurkewicz who would be my guide through the world of particle physics. Several people have asked me both how I came to learn about CERN and why I chose to go there to photograph. The simple answers are how couldn’t you have heard about CERN and why wouldn’t you want to go there? Seriously, CERN has been in the news for years, especially recently because they are building the world’s largest particle accelerator. At 27 km in diameter, this will also be the world’s most powerful, allowing the physicists there to smash protons together at close to the speed of light. And it is a great example of European cooperation with scientists from all over the continent, not to mention the world, contributing their knowledge.


Damaso Reyes, particle physicist for a day... © Damaso Reyes

Of course you ask why would anyone want to do such a thing? The answer is by doing so the scientists hope to create conditions close to those which existed just after the creation of our universe in order to find some exotic and rare particles like the Higgs Boson, particles which have been theorized as being the smallest and most basic building blocks which make up our universe, but have yet to be found.

So in a large tunnel underneath Switzerland and France, they are building experiments which hope to detect these particles. It is very ironic that they are building the world’s largest, well just about everything it seems like, in order to detect the universe’s tiniest particles. I was extremely lucky to visit CERN now while the experiments are still under construction, in a year they will all be underground and inaccessible.


Big enough for you? © Damaso Reyes

First Katie and I drove into France (my first trip by the way) to visit the Compact Muon Soleniod. It just goes to show you that scientists do have a sense of humor because when we walked into the massive building where parts of CMS are being built we were confronted by a massive object, at least 15 meters tall. The colorful detector is just one of many which will examine what happens when you slam a bunch of protons together at 99.99% the speed of light. By the way, I am not getting into detailed descriptions because A.) you can follow the links and read all about it and B.) I don’t want to screw up the science.


Just one part of the CMS. © Damaso Reyes


Plugging away... © Damaso Reyes

The scale of these “experiments” truly is awe inspiring, it is simply amazing that we can build things so massive and complex. Words fail me so here are some photos.

After this we went down.


Into the heart of the beast. © Damaso Reyes


Pretty cool, huh? © Damaso Reyes

Down into the tunnel where the Large Hadron Collider lives, cue scary music…


A little fine tuning on the beam pipe. © Damaso Reyes


This is what all the excitement is about. © Damaso Reyes


We've come to the end of the road...© Damaso Reyes

After seeing CMS you expect the tunnel to be massive, and it is pretty big but the actual beam pipe, where these itty bitty protons will be whizzing around is pretty small, maybe half a meter at best. But the pipe needs to be vacuum sealed and cooled down to a crazy temperature and serviced so when you factor all that in the tunnel gets big. Of course the caverns that hold the massive detectors are, well massive themselves and I got a chance to appreciate the scale of what they are doing again as I saw some of the CMS begin to come together.


All your protons are belong to us. © Damaso Reyes


Everything is under control! © Damaso Reyes

After a short drive to the control center we went to visit ALICE. No, she’s not a person but another of the LHC experiments: A Large Ion Collider Experiment to be exact. Again, a pretty big thingy, which is about how much justice I can do to the millions of man hours put into this device, or devices to be more accurate.


The heart of ALICE. © Damaso Reyes


LHCb is in effect.

The last stop was to the LHCb experiment. It just amazed me the amount of running around and climbing around that these scientists do. If you think that particle physicists just sit at desks all day well here is proof that they don’t!


Some of a few thousand detectors. © Damaso Reyes


Working hard... © Damaso Reyes

In the evening I went to Lausanne where I had dinner with Caroline Tosti, an old friend I met in Rwanda the first time Jimmie and I went in 1999. I had not seen here then so it was great to have a chance to catch up after all these years. Lausanne is a lovely city on Lake Geneva and I had a great time but couldn’t stay out too late since I had to get up early and head back to the detectors!


Agostino. © Damaso Reyes

Today was just as interesting as yesterday. I spent the day with two scientists working on different experiments, offering two different views of what it must be like to work here. First I hung out with Agostino Lanza, who is working on the ATLAS experiment. A distinguished older Italian gentleman whose soft voice belies an extremely active mind, he is a senior scientist and his day was quite a bit more relaxed than what I would see later. First stop: a meeting. In Italian. That lasted over an hour. And I don’t drink coffee.


A tough one... © Damaso Reyes


You can see the gears turning... © Damaso Reyes

Of course anytime you are building anything this huge you are going to have meetings and lots of them. I think I got off easy! After the meeting, which was discussing some problems they are having with some of the detectors, we went around CERN running errands, picking up equipment and other odds and ends, something I would expect one of his graduate students to be doing but it just goes to show you that everyone here works together! Just before lunch I got to see some of the massive data processing center for ATLAS which will be used to decide which of the millions upon millions of collisions per second are of interest and should be saved. As a tech head it was pretty cool seeing all that massive computing power, all I could think about is the awesome LAN video game parties you could have!








Too much tech, too much fun... © Damaso Reyes

After lunch I spent the afternoon with Jesus Puerta Pelayo, who is working on the CMS experiment. Young and fit, Jesus was full of energy and showed it as he raced back and forth from one part of CMS to the other. His main challenge while I was with him was to reinstall a circuit board. Sounds pretty easy but this isn’t just opening up your PC at home, we had to climb four stories of scaffolding to get to the spot where it had to be put back in. Then we had to climb back down and get on a small crane to access the backside and plug in the data ports. Pretty cool but also time consuming. “I’m not a physicist,” he joked “I’m a technician!” he joked but what is amazing is that most of the people crawling around these massive machines are indeed physicists. Imagine going from the classroom and the blackboard to a massive hole in the ground, this must surely be the most interesting and exciting time of their lives!


Once again Jesus saves the day! © Damaso Reyes


Minor adjustments.© Damaso Reyes


The Holy ghost. © Damaso Reyes


Up close and personal. © Damaso Reyes

And then it was time to say goodbye to CERN and all the lovely people there. I hope to come back over the coming months as the experiments come closer to going online but I will always remember my exciting two days in the world of science!


© Damaso Reyes


© Damaso Reyes


© Damaso Reyes
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Up and Atom! 
Monday, June 11, 2007, 05:35 - Travel
Stuttgart

11:45 p.m. and waiting for the train to Geneva, don’t let anyone tell you that this business is glamorous!



After waking up early this morning to photograph the mayor of Stuttgart, here I am waiting for an early morning train to Geneva where I will photograph the incredible particle physics lab at CERN. For two days I will be lost in the world to science, not to mention chocolate, which should be interesting! I will catch up with you guys on Thursday…

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Ich mochte eine Leica M6! 
Wednesday, June 6, 2007, 02:08 - Travel, Personal
Solms

I am a changed man.


Leica lenses under construction. © Damaso Reyes

Sure I use and enjoy working with a rangefinder but for as long as I have been photographing I have been using SLR cameras. There are a lot of different reasons for this but like most artists I have been evolving my practice over the past ten years. First I found the joy of using large aperture prime lenses. Then I learned to get as close as possible to my subject. Later I learned to make my photographs increasingly subtle.


Testing the glass. © Damaso Reyes

Today I visited the Leica factory in Solms. In many ways it was very much a pilgrimage. It was like visiting a holy place, a location where photography and photojournalism is still revered in a world where it is increasingly seen as a relic of a bygone age.


Handmade and hands on. © Damaso Reyes

I saw dozens of craftspeople lovingly polishing and grinding lenses, assembling and testing cameras. The pride that everyone there takes in making the world’s finest cameras was clear and made me think about my own practice and what I need to change.

The past five months have given me a wonderful opportunity to find a new way of working, one that is defined by the word SLOWLY. This trip added the final piece of the puzzle. Rather than carrying a 10 or 15 kilo bag full of heavy slrs, I think it is time for me to fully embrace the rangefinder.

Does anyone have a few thousand Euros I could borrow to buy some new cameras and lenses? Or maybe you have an old M3 or M5 that is just gathering dust on a shelf? I’d be happy to put it to good use!


Finishing touches. © Damaso Reyes

I have always felt that knowing what you what is the hardest thing to discover, figuring out how to achieve it always ends up being the easier task.

Special thanks to Michael Agel for showing me around!
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Off to Solms 
Monday, June 4, 2007, 11:40 - Travel
Stuttgart

I am very excited!


Oh happy day! © Damaso Reyes

Tomorrow I get to photograph at the Leica factory!

It feels a little like a religious pilgrimage, going to the place where the 35mm rangefinder camera was more or less invented and refined. So many great images have been taken with these bodies and lenses, it should be a fun little excursion.


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Springtime in Germany... 
Saturday, April 28, 2007, 03:17 - Travel, Shooting
Berlin

Berlin in springtime is much nicer than in winter, that’s for sure. I have been wandering around the city with my friend Anna, who is visiting from NYC. Among other things, we have been visiting graveyards where we found some cool old fonts on the tombstones; we have been to a few museums and seen some cool art; we have toured the Berlin Wall and seen a few nice sunsets.


Apes on the Wall. © Damaso Reyes

We’ve also been taking advantage of all the nice things that a big city has to offer including having great sushi and visiting the local establishments which serve alcohol.


Che on the Wall. © Damaso Reyes

Of course I have been working, this week I photographed the Cardinal of Berlin as well as Anna Luhrmann one of the youngest members of the German Parliament. Stay tuned for photos!


A cool tombstone font. © Damaso Reyes


I want one for my house. © Damaso Reyes


Camera phones are cool. © Damaso Reyes

I am looking forward to shooting on Mayday, which I have been told can be quite exciting here in Berlin!


Sunset in Berlin. © Damaso Reyes
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ESA 
Friday, March 30, 2007, 02:44 - Travel
Stuttgart

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, when I got back from Hamburg I was laid low by a nasty little virus that pretty much kept me in bed for a few days. But now I am back in fine form!


On a World Tour. Global NO2 pollution map for 2006. Photo courtesy of ESA/KNMI/IASB

On my way back from Hamburg I stopped in Darmstadt for a meeting at ESA, the European Space Agency, which has its Space Operations Center there. Ever since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the stars so it was very exciting to have an opportunity to visit the place where the satellites are controlled and missions are planned. Special thanks to Nicola Gebers de Sousa for taking me on an exciting tour. This was just a preliminary meeting so sadly there are no photos but stay tuned in the coming months…

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Hafen Hamburg 
Friday, March 23, 2007, 18:42 - Travel, Shooting, Personal
Hamburg

Well I have to say that Hamburg is pretty amazing. I am having a great time, taking photos and running around town. I am lucky enough to be staying with my friend Ewa, who I met at Solitude during a symposium a few months ago.

Today I shot at the Port of Hamburg, much thanks to Christian at the port for facilitating the trip. Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe and the largest by far in Germany, bringing tens of thousands of containers into the country every day and shipping them out as well. That Porsche you drive probably came through the Port of Hamburg. The day started cold but clear as we drove along the warehouses and cranes to the slip where a recently docked ship form China was being unloaded. As you can imagine the scale of everything at the Port is huge from the 40 foot containers to the 40 meter cranes that unload the ships which are longer than football fields. Giant blue container moving cars zip along the wharves looking like something out of a Lego set gone crazy. Containers were sacked six high, creating instant neighborhoods of corrugated steel. The little kid in me loves all the big trucks and ships and I had a wonderful time photographing them, at least until the rain and wind picked up towards the end of the afternoon, but my long underwear and waterproof Mountain Hardwear coat, pants and hat kept me warm and dry throughout.


An ocean of containers. © Damaso Reyes


My ship has come in. © Damaso Reyes


Up and Away. © Damaso Reyes


Big Wheel, Keep on Turning... © Damaso Reyes


Container Movers. © Damaso Reyes


Temporary City. © Damaso Reyes

Today is also a happy anniversary for me as well. Twelve years ago I truly began my journey as a socially conscious adult. That warm day in March I went to my first demonstration, where thousands of students from the City University of New York had gathered to protest rising tuitions. City Hall Park in lower Manhattan was jammed with placard waving and chanting young college students. I was there with my camera and documented it all including when the police broke up the end of the demonstration. I felt alive, excited by the energy of the students and the passion with which they protested. I became in the movement myself giving speeches and organizing demonstrations and that day set me on the road of journalism with the idea that a few, motivated people can change the world. Every year I think about that day and how different my life might be if I hadn’t gone downtown that day. Life is full of twists and turns and I when I look back at my short life I am amazed at where I have been and how far I have come. I feel lucky to be living a life without limits, one where I can go as far as my talent and passion can take me.

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Interlude... 
Saturday, March 17, 2007, 21:16 - Travel, Personal, Commentary
Stuttgart

So I have been somewhat busy editing photos, taking long walks in the woods and planning some shoots for next week so I haven’t been blogging too much. But I promise that soon you will see the fruits of my labor, or at least the vegetables. In the meantime I think I will begin a series of interludes describing some past experiences so you can get to know me and my work a little better…

March 30, 2004
Kibuye, Rwanda


The hole was already a meter and a half deep by the time we arrived. The drive took over an hour, first over the newly paved roads which had recently been constructed and then over gravel and then dirt roads which took us continually west towards Kibuye, a small town which overlooks Lake Kivu.

The day began with a clear blue sky but as we headed west and up in altitude a fine mist began to envelope our Landcruiser. As we continued along the pothole filled roads I watched the hilly landscape through the occasional breaks in the weather. The terraced rice patties, the gentle slopes and intriguing valleys kept me occupied for most of the journey.

This was my second trip to the Central African nation which ten years before had been gripped by a hundred day genocide which took the lives of more than a million people. Jimmie, my best friend, was sitting next to me in the car, equally lost in his own thoughts. Finally we arrived at the hospital where we were supposed to observe the exhumation of a mass grave which was dug and filled during the genocide. As part of the tenth anniversary commemoration the Rwandan government had encouraged citizens to find the remaining mass graves which filled the countryside and exhume the bodies in order to give the dead a proper burial. We were to observe one such exhumation.

Raymond Kalisa, a Rwandan filmmaker who was working for CNN during the 10th anniversary, was our guide and slowly we walked toward a spot under a large tree where many people had gathered. A young man in his early twenties was telling his story. He had been at the hospital at the time and had witnessed the massacre. He was sure that this spot was where the bodies lay hidden for the past ten years. With no preamble young men began hacking away at the soft earth, much the way it had been disturbed ten years earlier, with picks and hoes.


Searching for bodies at the hospital. © Damaso Reyes

For nearly two hours they dug but other than a few animal remains the dead remained elusive.
Our small group went back to our vehicle and set off towards the Lake where we were told that another, smaller exhumation would be taking place. Again, silence filled the car.

Thirty minutes later we were walking up a small hillside. By the time we arrived the hole was already a meter and a half deep, villagers, some incongruously wearing their Sunday finest, were gathered around the sides of a long, curving trench which had been cut into the hillside. They observed us with eyes that seemed to ask “why are you here?” Raymond told them that we were journalists here to document the exhumation. They returned to watching the trench, which was slowly growing deeper as men young and old took turns removing the sticky clay soil which buried their dead.


Digging up the past. © Damaso Reyes

Soon after we arrived a femur was found. It was carefully placed into one of the many empty rice sacks which had been procured for the exhumation. Soon more bones followed, then a skull. The onlookers watched on nearly impassively, occasionally pointing to some remains and whispering among themselves. Small children flitted about the edges, curious to see what was going on, unaware of the magnitude. These young souls had been born long after the evil that swept over their nation had left. The eyes of their parents bore silent witness to the horror that the landscape had endured.


A young child plays with a skull. © Damaso Reyes

Throughout it all I moved silently around and occasionally into, the trench, documenting the men’s work and the terrible product of that work. The camera protected me from the content of the images I was creating: a freshly discovered bone hoisted out of the trench; a skull slowly cleaned of the cloying soil which had kept it hidden for a decade; the decomposed dress of a two year old who had been brutally murdered and casually dumped into the trench. Roll after roll, I went about my work, trying to be a professional.

After two hours and twelve rolls of film I turned to Jimmie, who had been observing and occasionally speaking with the villagers. “I’m done,” I told him. He seemed slightly surprised but understood. “If I don’t have it already, I’m not going to get it.” He nodded his head as I sat down on a nearby rock and watched the villagers continue their work.


Bearing Witness. © Damaso Reyes

Five years earlier during my first trip here I was determined not to let me feelings get in the way of my work. What I realized afterwards is that it was not wise to let myself grow too distant from my humanity. Truly it was the thing which allowed me to do the painful work that I felt was my calling and to deny that would be to deny myself. Standing at the side of that trench, overlooking a lovely valley I knew that I couldn’t take anymore photographs. I had imposed on the situation enough and I knew that taking more photographs would be bad for my soul, or what was left of it.

There is of course this deeply rooted myth that when you photograph someone you take their soul. I believe the opposite is true. You can’t photograph something like an exhumation without leaving part of yourself behind. There is some kind of essential trade that happens when you photograph difficult situations: a piece of yourself for an image. We don’t get a high or take any joy when documenting other people’s pain, in way through creating a document of an event we share it, and often we would rather not. But in creating a connection between the viewer and the subject the photographer himself must act as a bridge. And that has an effect.


Searching the past. © Damaso Reyes

For me that day has remained with me and always will. When people ask me why I am an atheist, I tell them that story and the dozen others that I have borne witness to. No God I want to pray to allows such horror. When people ask why I don’t believe in God I ask them in turn why do they believe. For me that day simply confirmed what I already knew: the goodness or evil in men resides solely with them; we have no one else to turn to, no one else to blame….

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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 stories…

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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Carnival in Cologne 
Monday, February 19, 2007, 21:59 - Travel, Shooting, Commentary
Cologne

Day One
“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…

Day Two
“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.

Day Three
“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.

Day Four
“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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Off to Cologne! 
Friday, February 16, 2007, 20:27 - Travel, Shooting, Project News, Events
En 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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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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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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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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