Back to Solms! 
Tuesday, August 28, 2007, 09:44 - Travel

So Thursday I head back to Solms!

Yes, I will be going back to Leica HQ, this time to interview Steven K. Lee, the CEO of Leica Camera for a profile that I am doing for Vanity Fair Germany. It took a little convincing but I am glad that my bosses decided to go with the story; it should be pretty exciting to talk with the man at the helm of one of photography’s most important companies. As a recent member of the Leica club it will be an exciting opportunity to check out the view from inside…

© Damaso Reyes

Let me know if you have anything you want me to ask him!

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Christmas in August! 
Monday, August 27, 2007, 22:04 - Project News

Once again I have updated The Wish List!

I am trying to make it as diverse as possible: something for every inclination and pocket book! As people who are trying to change the world it is not enough to have good intentions, we must also put our money where our mouths are, so to speak. This is one small way to do it. Of course you can always volunteer as well!

And I really need a new light meter; I managed to lose mine in New York last month!

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The Sum of My Parts... 
Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 15:46 - Commentary

I am an Artist.

I am a Journalist.

The two things are not mutually exclusive!

I am a Photojournalist.

After having a rather heated discussion last weekend about this with a friend, I figured I should clear a few things up for people still living in the land of "Photojournalism is not Art." Aside from being a journalist in the sense that I also happen to write words, I am Photojournalist, a visual journalist. If you happen not to take that phrase seriously you can stop here and read another blog.

If you agree, or at least are interested, then read on.

Bombed House, Kosovo© Damaso Reyes

I believe that I bring an artistic sensibility to journalism and a journalistic sensibility to art. Just as reporters can also be novelists, we photojournalists can also be artists. Now that is not to say that every photojournalist is an artist or that every image produced is a work of art (of course not every image a fine art photographer produces is art either).

As an artist, photojournalism is my lens, my particular set of constraints that I work through to produce my art. A painter can be a Surrealist; a sculpture can work exclusively in bronze; a filmmaker can belong to the Dogme 95 school; a fine art photographer can be a photojournalist.

Muslim Girls, Berlin. © Damaso Reyes

Photojournalism has its own discreet rules: I don’t pose my subjects and try not to interfere in the environment; I try to take images that give the viewer a sense of what it was like to be there; I don’t manipulate my images afterwards using PhotoShop to create more aesthetically pleasing images that are not true to what I saw. The point of photojournalism is to document and to inform and these are the ideals that I bring to my art.

Now as I mentioned earlier there are lots of examples of photojournalism that do not rise to the level of art; I should know, I have produced many myself. At the same time I don’t believe that all photojournalists are artists (in fact not all photographers, painters, etc. are artists either).
Some photojournalists are only concerned with documentation and conveying information. Their images tend to be simple and straight forward, imparting the maximum amount of data in the least amount of visual time.

I think that a photojournalist, or for that matter any other craft person, must choose to become an artist. As applied to photography that means making aesthetic considerations an important part of the creative process. It is not enough that the photograph informs, it must also be visually interesting, if not pleasing. In my opinion photojournalism is most effective when it rises to the level of art. The visual considerations, especially in photography, are the means through which information is conveyed. An aesthetically bad image fails to engage the viewer and thus fails to impart the information.

It is for this reason that I believe that art and photojournalism are not mutually exclusive. I think that great photojournalism needs to be art if it is to truly be effective. Of course being an artist in addition to being a photojournalist gives me a different perspective. Because I am also an artist my interests and the subject matter I choose to pursue are different than if I thought of myself simply as a news photographer. If you take the time to look at some of my work, say from Kosovo or Rwanda, I think you can see some of what I am talking about. I choose to photograph scenes and individuals that I might not otherwise document if I were simply trying to get a news story.

Remains, Rwanda © Damaso Reyes

As an artist and a journalist I feel my viewers are best served not by showing the the obvious but what lies below the surface. For me journalism and art inform each other to create a hybrid which takes the best from both worlds to create something greater than the sum of the parts.

I want my photographs to not just be visually appealing; I want my viewers to learn something about the world and hopefully themselves, which by the way, I think good art should always do, no matter what the medium. I also want my journalism to stand the test of time and not just impart information about a moment in time but to transcend the instant and become a document and commentary both on who we are today and where we are going. Hence The Europeans.

I hope that explains a little about who I am and what my motivations are. I look forward to reading your comments and getting your emails.

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Hamburger Heaven 
Sunday, August 19, 2007, 18:21 - Travel, Shooting

On my way back to Berlin now after a fun filled weekend in Hamburg! First I went to the Kunsthalle where I saw lots of interesting art including an exhibition about how the sea is represented in art, a very appropriate subject for this harbor town.

Art is Light! © Damaso Reyes

A Green Moment. © Damaso Reyes

Using that as inspiration I managed to spend a little time by the shore, something I miss in Berlin, which only has the Spree river to keep me company. While wandering with a friend I heard the lyrics to a song floating down from a restaurant. “Walk in the door,” the singer said. We looked at each other and decided the best thing to do was to listen to Fate and we walked in the door.

Kuno: Waiter, Bartender, Pop Star. © Damaso Reyes

The Blind See All. © Damaso Reyes

For some reason whenever I am in Hamburg I manage to go to the strangest bars and this one was no exception. Just as we arrived the band, such as it was, took a break and the man behind the bar took the microphone in hand and started singing old German Beer Hall songs. His style was rough but enthusiastic, as if doing the same thing fro decades had not dimmed him in the least. I had no idea that I had stumbled upon Kuno, the singer waiter.

Kuno has the Last word. © Damaso Reyes

Of course he is more than a waiter; he is also the owner of Zum Elbblick, located at Olbersweg 49 in case you are ever in town. When gently pressed he produced all kinds of press clipping including a DVD of a news show in which he was featured (no I haven’t watched it yet but stay tuned). He even had a CD, which of course he wasn’t giving away for free. I don’t know if it was his sandpaper voice or the blind accordion player who accompanied him but I thoroughly enjoyed my time and my reasonably priced beer!

Freedom is just another word. © Damaso Reyes

Relaxing by the Harbor... © Damaso Reyes

...Watching the ships go by.© Damaso Reyes

Yesterday I managed a quick trip to a flea market (as usual I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before noon!) as well as a trip to the St. Pauli Beach Bar. Apparently these “beach” bars have become all the rage in Europe these past few years. The idea is simple: just truck in some sand, set up a few palm trees and charge a little extra for the beer. Given the generally terrible weather this summer I don’t see how they stay in business but Saturday the sun managed to come out for a while and it was nice to have sand between my toes.

All the while of course the Leica was out and about, clicking away, and I think I got some very nice photos. All in all a good weekend!

Sunset. © Damaso Reyes
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Saturday, August 18, 2007, 17:11 - Travel

So while I am in Hamburg I thought I would give you guys an entry from the dead stories file. As a freelancer there are stories that you might love but you can’t find a home for. This is one of those, enjoy!

Punk Rock Missionaries in Times Square
By Damaso Reyes

New York City

“Sorry we’re late man, we were out with a friend at this bar until like four in the morning,” is not something that you would expect a young missionary to say to you but then again 24 year-old Lance Steinhibel is not your average fresh faced missionary on his first trip to New York. A few feet behind him his best friend and traveling companion Nate Smith was carrying the weather-beaten, seven foot wooden cross they have been traveling the country with up Broadway on their way to Times Square on their first full day in New York.

“There sure are a lot of people, is it always this crowded?” Lance, a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, asked a native as the pair walked through the crowd gathered in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Station located on a small, triangular spit of land that every tourist seemed to want to be photographed on. Setting up shop in front of the Toys ‘R’ Us on 44th street, the pair were planning on spending the next three days carrying the cross from one end of Manhattan to the other, much to their dismay there wasn’t enough time to carry the cross to the outer boroughs, although they did manage to catch a Yankees game, sans cross, the day before.

“Well let’s see if we can do this in order,” Nate replied when asked how many other cities they had visited in the ten months that they have been on the road. “Seattle; Seaside, Oregon; Portland; San Francisco; Las Vegas; L.A.; Orange County; San Diego; Tucson; then Phoenix; the Mesa area; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Mardi Gras, which is New Orleans; we went home after that, we were home for Good Friday; Nashville; Atlanta; Miami; Key West; then back to Atlanta; then up to Charlotte, North Carolina; then Raleigh-Durham; and then Richmond for a day; oh yeah, then Charleston, we did Charleston before we did Charlotte; then we did D.C.; Baltimore; and Philadelphia.”

All that in a cramped, rusting, yellow and beige ‘77 Toyota camper barely suitable for driving, let alone living in.

“We get along because we love Jesus, that’s the plain truth,” Nate said with a laugh, acknowledging the tight quarters they often found themselves in during their cross country trip, the idea for which came to him in a vision. “I don’t know how we haven’t killed each other,” Lance commented.

With dozens of tattoos and multiple piercings between them, the casual observer might think the two would be more at home at CBGB’s down on the Bowery than toting a large religious symbol down to ground Zero for a prayer session, yet there they were, silently looking down into the pit that the World Trade Center PATH Station gives an excellent view of. Once they emerged into the dazzling sunlight, they took a moment to pray, then put the cross back together (it breaks down into two pieces to facilitate carrying and only took about five dollars of lumber to make), before setting up shop across from the fence that tourists have made into a makeshift shrine. Within minutes Lance was sucked into a theological discussion with a homeless street preacher/performer whose turf they had inadvertently set up on. For the better part of an hour Lance talked patiently with the man in the noon sun while Nate stood nearby holding the cross, speaking with whoever stopped by.

“Whaddya doin’?” A construction worker walking towards his flat bed truck asked impatiently in an accent located somewhere between Brooklyn and New Jersey.

“Just praying for the City,” Nate replied with an earnest smile, his lip ring glinting in the sunlight as he tried to shade his eyes.

“Oh, okay, God bless,” the construction worker replied as he got into his rig. While tourists from all over asked them to pose for photos with the cross, most New Yorkers shrugged and kept on walking.

“A lot of people get very caught up in what they think a Christian should be,” Nate told a reporter when asked how more conservative Christians responded to his Punk Rock persona. “It’s alright to go out and have a few drinks, you know? You look at the places Jesus went to and the people he was around, you know he went to a tax collector’s house? That just wasn’t done back then.

“The fact that we go have a drink at a bar with somebody enables us to relate to people,” he continued.

“I think we’re able to reach a lot of people that way,” Lance added. “People listen to us more just knowing that we’re real people, that we’re not just out there yelling and screaming at them.”

After a few hours of standing and talking in the brutal summer heat the pair walked around lower Manhattan a bit to see a few things they didn’t want to miss: the Stock Exchange, Lady Liberty in the distance from Battery Park. As Nate was carrying the cross up Greenwich Street, a middle aged Dominican street vendor abandoned his cart and took over carrying the cross for a few blocks. Inspired by the dedication of the two young men he swore that he too would build a cross to carry around the city before giving them a few dollars for lunch and hurrying back towards his unattended cart

“We believe it’s not about a religion, it’s about a lifestyle you live,” Nate said.

© 2007 Damaso Reyes
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Off to Hamburg 
Thursday, August 16, 2007, 17:05 - Travel

Well I am off to Hamburg today for a few days of R&R! Not that life has been especially stressful here in Berlin but it is always nice to change things up and Hamburg is a pretty nice city. So I will catch up with you guys on the other side!

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Opposite Ends 
Monday, August 13, 2007, 14:31 - Shooting

It’s raining outside. Again.

I’m not trying to make a big deal about this but I had to wear a jacket yesterday. In August. Does that seem wrong to people? In New York it is hot and steamy and here it is cool and wet. I guess the grass is always greener….

I suppose the three people who are reading this blog want to know what I have been up to. Well, yesterday I spent most of the day shooting at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Warning: Not Safe for Work images below!

Tourists. © Damaso Reyes

Here are some images from the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall that I took for Christine, another Burns fellow to whom I suggested a story on the deterioration of the wall and people’s efforts to renovate it. The wall is slowly crumbling because of exposure to the elements and to tourists who can’t seem to resist the urge to chip a few pieces away. If something isn’t done soon it seems like there won’t be much of the wall left for future generations.

Another chip in the Wall.© Damaso Reyes

Hole in the Wall. © Damaso Reyes

Earlier in the day I spent a few hours shooting nudes. I know, what is a photojournalist doing making “arty” pictures? Well I do indeed consider myself an artist and a photojournalist. In addition I am of the firm belief that as an artist, and even a journalist, it is important to stretch one’s creative muscles, taking the same kinds of photos and working on the same kinds of stories not only leads to boredom but to inflexibility.

Up against the Wall. © Damaso Reyes

Peace. © Damaso Reyes

Since college I have worked on a nudes series. Because it is not what I normally do I have been rather hesitant about the whole affair feeling that unless I could bring something new to it why bother at all. Recently I decided that it was more important to try something new than to try to break new ground, especially since I am not really planning on sharing these images, they are more for my own personal growth. But I thought it might be interesting for you guys. Feel free to make suggestions and let me know if you want to pose, finding models is the hard part!

Torso.© Damaso Reyes

Chin. © Damaso Reyes

This week I hope to continue the street photography I started doing last week. Nothing special; just carrying the camera around and shooting. Berlin is an incredibly interesting city to photograph in and I am looking forward to shooting as much as I can here.

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Finding Tom... 
Wednesday, August 8, 2007, 20:05 - Travel

So today I got out of the office to work on a story. As always, the universe has a wicked sense of humor. My Vanity Fair colleague and I took our rented car out into the German countryside hot on the trail of Tom Cruise.

At the Flughafen. © Damaso Reyes

First we went to Berlin’s Tempelhof airport, home to the historic Berlin Airlift as well as the flight school where Herr Cruise took so classic planes out for a spin. Then it was off to Groß Köris where we hoped to find perhaps where they might be filming. We talked to the mayor, we ate fish by the lake, I took photos in the rain.

Where are we again? © Damaso Reyes

We didn’t find Tom Cruise.

Another day, another Euro....

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First Day, First Impressions 
Sunday, August 5, 2007, 18:01 - Project News

So my first day of work was on Friday and I was very excited to get things started. I showed up bright and early and was introduced to the shiny, minimalist offices on Unter den Linden. White walls, white floors, white desks, white computers, pretty much white everything. The people were warm and friendly and didn’t even seem to mind my bad German, fortunately for me. There was even some openness to one or two of the story ideas I pitched, so we shall see what comes of it.

A moment in the Floh Markt. © Damaso Reyes

Yesterday and today I made my way to a few of Berlin’s famous flea markets. I picked up a few things here and there but that rare bargain Leica lens is still on the run, maybe one day I will get lucky. After spending the early afternoon in the sun (yes, it has finally warmed up here!) I met a few of the other Burns Fellows at the Beach Bar. While Berlin is not on the ocean we were still able to dig our toes in the sand and watch the tour boats wind their way along the Spree. Afterwards I met my friend Patricia, who I met at Solitude, for a quick bit to eat before she had to head back to her cell, er, I mean home in Hanover.

Back to work tomorrow but I am meeting a source later for a story I am working on, details to follow. The big question I have for you is whether I should go to Zürich this weekend. There is a big street party that I would like to photograph but I am a little on the fence, what do you guys think?

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Then We Take Berlin! 
Thursday, August 2, 2007, 15:54 - Shooting

The process of settling into any new digs is completed for me once I have done laundry and gone to the supermarket, both of which I did today. While most people love apartments with lots of light, the fact that my room has two big windows and no draperies was not something I was happy about at five o’clock in the morning when the sun began his journey through the sky on Apollo’s chariot. So I was up and up early and I did some reading, web surfing and eventually made my way to the market where I loaded up on way too much food, a relic of my days at Solitude when the market was 40 minutes away by bus instead of a ten minute walk as it is now.

The sun has decided to come out today and I managed to make my way without a jacket, a novel idea for August I admit but one I was fully dedicated to exploring. After a homemade lunch of exciting pasta, I made my way across the Spree and visited American artist David Krepfle, who has been living here in Berlin for the past year and makes some very interesting art.

Portrait of the Artist as a young man. © Damaso Reyes

I thought he would be a great profile subject so I went over with camera and notebook in hand and after a few preliminary beers we talked about his life and art. Hopefully you can read all about it in Vanity Fair Germany if they are suitably impressed by my industriousness and decided to run the story. Otherwise I will post it here but in the meantime here are some photos…

A few pieces of the puzzle. © Damaso Reyes

Hard at work. © Damaso Reyes

More and More. © Damaso Reyes

The hands always tell. © Damaso Reyes

I am looking forward to starting “work” tomorrow, whatever that will entail. It will be nice to be in an office; of course I am sure that is just when the great weather will start here. At the same time I am sure they will understand how important it is for a good journalist to be out in the field so let’s keep our fingers crossed!

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Back in Berlin 
Monday, July 30, 2007, 15:18 - Travel


Ich bin Hier!

After two and a half days of bonding with my fellow fellows in Virginia I boarded a plane and headed off to the Bundesrepublik. As is usual, I couldn’t sleep so by the time I arrived I was quite tired (off course staying up till three in the morning “discussing” trans-Atlantic relations didn’t help either).

So here I am at the home of a friend of one of the German fellows until my room is ready on August 1st. I slept, showered and now am about to go and eat, exciting isn’t it? I just found out that I don’t start work until Friday so I thankfully have a few days to get adjusted and settle in before the excitement starts.

Have no doubt that this will be a challenge. After all I have spent the last seven months doing whatever I pleased whenever it pleased me. What will it be like to be in an office environment? Of course I hope to be out in the field as much as possible but I go into this experience with an open mind, hoping that I can learn as much as is possible.

It is cold and rainy here. I wish the warm embrace of my hometown but I know that there is something waiting for me here, something that I can’t quite see but I can imagine in my mind’s eye. The future, as ever, is an open road, one that I continue to enjoy walking down….

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Home Again.... 
Tuesday, July 24, 2007, 19:31 - Travel, Project News
New York City

© Damaso Reyes

I am sitting on a train at Pennsylvania Station waiting to go to Washington for an orientation for my Burns Fellowship. It has been an exciting twelve days here in the Big Apple, my only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer. I rode the Cyclone at Coney Island; I had sushi, Thai, and Indian food. I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. I went to the Museum of Modern Art.

I bought a Leica camera!

Yes, the dream has come true and special thanks to Ken Hanson for help making it happen. Even as we speak my two film SLR cameras are sitting back in Brooklyn, only the digital camera keeps me from fully being in the world of rangefinders. I have shot a few rolls and so far it looks great. What is perhaps truly amazing is the aura that the camera gives me. No, it is not that people are impressed by it, in fact I have concealed the camera’s true identity with black tape. No, there is some about the small German machine that eliminates anyone’s objections to me taking their photograph. Time and again I stood a meter away for someone and while they registered my presence, when they saw they camera they simply shrugged, as if to say “well it is just a little camera.” Never before have I felt such freedom of movement. I think I will have a very good time over the coming years.

Now of course I want more.

So now I am off to our nation’s capital for a few days before heading to the Federal Republic. Having spent six months there already I feel like I know something of what I am getting myself into but since I will actually be working during the day and speaking not a little German, it will be different. How, I am not sure but as you well know uncertainty has been my constant companion so why should I leave it behind now?

The night before I leave Stuttgart I was up late packing and cleaning my studio. I finally finished at close to 2 in the morning and I decided to walk around a bit outside. I circled the castle and made my way to the edge of the forest. The moon was nowhere to be found and only the light was the distant illumination provided by the city. I stood at the edge of the forest, at the threshold of a path that I had walked dozens of times before.

There was little that could be seen except the silhouette of the trees against the sky. I stood there for a time, staring into the forest and looking at the path which was all but invisible in the inky blackness of the quiet night. I continued my vigil and ever so slowly the dim outline of a path begun to revel itself to me.

I looked at the path, still dark, still mostly obscured and stared at the very same time at my own life. I stood at the edge and could not see very far at all but I knew the path was still there; I had walked it before, there was nothing to fear even if the exact shape of things to come could not be discerned. I smiled with that secret knowledge tucked safely away and returned for one last night in my studio before returning home.

And now I once again find myself leaving, heading down that darkened path, which I hope will eventually lead to a sunny glade…

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Monday, July 9, 2007, 00:36 - Events

Well yesterday we had our annual Sommerfest here at Solitude and it was quite an experience. Food, music, performances and of course lots of art on display all over the place. We even sold off many of the photographs that I had been exhibiting and raised money for both the Akadamie and The Europeans. Later there was dancing until the wee small hours of the morning…

The question that everyone was asking... © Damaso Reyes

And now I must prepare to head back to New York. Still have some scanning left to do as well as packing, but I am very excited about seeing my friends and family and eating in my favorite places. But I will miss my long walks in the woods and visits to the mineral baths here in Stuttgart.

The answers visitors left... © Damaso Reyes

I am looking forward to the two months I will spend in Berlin where I will work at Vanity Fair Deutschland as part of my Burns Fellowship. It should be an exciting time and no doubt I will have a chance to practice my German on a daily basis!

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The End is Nigh 
Tuesday, July 3, 2007, 14:59 - Personal

Well it has been nearly six months and my time here at Solitude is growing short. I suppose that I have been missing this place as long as I have been here but the peace and tranquility that I have experienced since I have arrived will be difficult to replicate. At the same time I am looking forward to coming home again in just a few short days. New York is always most exciting during those first few days after your step off the plane. Since I was born there I will never know the thrill of flying into New York for the first time so this is as close as I can get…

Geneva's main train station. © Damaso Reyes

This time in my life has been important for many reasons, perhaps least of which are the many photographs I have taken. More important I think is the mental development that has occurred since I have been here. I have refined my shooting style and process. I have discovered a rhythm that I hope will carry me though the rest of my time here in Europe. I am making the transition from heavy SLR cameras to lighter rangefinders.

Six months ago I felt as though I had just begun this project; today I will as though I am deep inside of it. As usually happens when I shoot a great deal I fell refreshed and inspired. I have a thousand new ideas of what to photograph and am excited about the possibilities that the future holds.

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Objects of Desire 
Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 15:48 - Project News

Recently I had a chance to update The Wish List, feel free to have a look!

I went through and thought about my current needs and since I am in the process of making the switch from SLRs to rangefinder cameras, there were several things on the list that I have deleted and a few things that I have added.

A Leica 35mm lens

There are lots of ways to support The Europeans and donating something from The Wish List is a great one!

  |  0 trackbacks   |   ( 3 / 1996 )

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