HCB Quote of the Week #46 
Saturday, August 2, 2008, 14:46 - Commentary

One month form now I will be in France, woo hoo! I know you are just as excited as I am for me to be back out in the field. Of course there is lots to do between now and then so I will leave you with your HCB Quote of the Week!

Silence is golden! Berlin 2007 © Damaso Reyes

In a portrait, I’m looking for the silence in somebody.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Photo of the Day #35 
Friday, August 1, 2008, 13:19 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

“In a very real sense, 2009, not 1992, truly will be the ‘hour of Europe.’ By that I mean that if the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain and the president of France -- backed by their counterparts in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia -- were to walk into the White House on Jan. 21 and propose serious, realistic new contributions to, say, the war in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of Iraq, the nuclear negotiations with Iran and perhaps even climate change, the White House would listen,” so writes Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.

Thinking in The Hague… © Damaso Reyes

One of the main rationales for the European Union is to serve as a counterweight to the United States but while Europe has done a great job at coming together economically it has done a pretty dismal one of doing so on the political level, especially when it comes to foreign affairs (see the Iraq War).

But the new generation of European leadership including Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown seem to be interested in finding a way of working together rather than pursuing their individual national interests.

The question is can they see the forest for the trees?

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Photo of the Day #34 
Thursday, July 31, 2008, 14:07 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

So it seems like at least one European leader is taking my advice and pushing for a more democratic process when it comes to the future of the European Union. Spiegel reports on France’s move to allow its citizens to directly vote on future E.U. enlargement and other matters of import.

Is this the right box? No one knows for sure… Amsterdam 2005 © Damaso Reyes

This of course is a good thing even though E.U. voters have rejected a constitution the three times they had a chance to vote for it. This change will hopefully mean that European leaders and those interested in a more closely integrated Europe will actually try to engage their public and convince them that a healthy E.U. is in their best interest.

It will also force those who wish to join the E.U. including Turkey to make their case more forcefully and directly, lobbying voters instead of bureaucrats. The more people see the benefits of discussion and dialogue when it comes to the future of Europe the more average people will feel as though they have a voice and that their consent should not be taken for granted..

Courtesy of Der Spiegel

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Photo of the Day #33 
Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 12:24 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Oh no!

“The iconic British pint is fast losing ground as the national drink, with a report out Monday showing beer sales in pubs slumping to their lowest level since the Great Depression,” the Associated Press is reporting!

An endangered species? © Damaso Reyes

Whatever you may think of British cuisine their beer is spot on. But it seems like a number of factors are moving people away from the pub which is now “endangered” and off to…

The local pub seems to be such an important part of British culture it is hard to imagine it disappearing. Whether it is after work drinks with the lads or a wake, Brits love their pubs. But good cheap wine from the Continent and the new smoking ban seem to be getting people to drink less.

Oh, the humanity!

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Photo of the Day #33 
Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 12:12 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Most of the photographers I know, myself included, are in this business not to make money, although every once in a while it would be nice. We are photojournalists because we are passionate about our craft and want to change the world through it. There is a great article about photographer Ed Kashi on the Popular Photography website that you should read when you have a chance.

What was that? I still can’t hear you… London 2005 © Damaso Reyes

The article talks about advocacy journalism, something of a dirty term in America but embraced in much of the rest of the world. I think some journalists fear that if you are an advocate you lose your objectivity and therefore cannot reliably inform your readers about what is going on.

This is an idea that I reject. While it is true you can lose your perspective, often times to take the time and energy to work on an important story (often without funding or support) you must be passionate. In order to get these images in front of the eyes of the people who need to see them you often need the passion of an advocate.

Personally I think the key is to be as passionate as you want to be but not to beat your viewers over the head with what they are “supposed” to learn. I think subtly is something much overlooked by far too many photographers. I think you can be passionate and an advocate and still make photographs that inform the public and inspire change but at the same time are nuanced.

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Photo of the Day #32 
Monday, July 28, 2008, 11:14 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

It seems like while we Americans are trying to burnish our image abroad, our cousins across the pond are tarnishing theirs. An interesting article in the Guardian explores how British tourists are perceived in the rest of Europe; especially in Greece which has become a bit party destination. While Europe is much less uptight about alcohol than America (could you imagine a temperance movement in France for instance) alcohol abuse, especially among the young is a growing cause for concern.

One more please… © Damaso Reyes

Do you have any experiences with hordes of Brits descending on your village?

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HCB Quote of the Week #45 
Saturday, July 26, 2008, 19:35 - Commentary

I really enjoy these long summer days. There is something special about this city during this season and I am truly soaking it in. I hope that summer is treating you well wherever you are. Here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

Anna in Central Park. © Damaso Reyes

Photography, for me is a supreme moment captured with a single shot. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Photo of the Day #31 
Friday, July 25, 2008, 12:35 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Did you see?

Obama rocked the house in Berlin yesterday and everybody is talking about it!

Flying in Berlin, 2006. © Damaso Reyes

While the speech may have not been as specific as people would have liked (this was not the point of the speech, but that is besides the point) it was pitch perfect in terms of the broad ideas that an American politician should be conveying to Europe.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down," Obama told a crowd of more than 200,000 in the heart of Berlin.

Edmund Stoiber, the honorary head of Germany's Christian Social Union party -- the Bavarian sister party to the conservative Christian Democrats -- and former governor of the state of Bavaria, admitted to being impressed by the speech. "The young senator embodies what many people yearn for: charisma and leadership," Stoiber told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But German politicians will also have trouble meeting his demand to assume more common responsibility for global problems in the world. America is relying on Germany and Europe. This strengthens the trans-Atlantic bridge."

A sign of things to come?

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Photo of the Day #30 
Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 12:32 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

It is sad when you look forward to meetings as a method to get away from your desk.

But this summer I have spent far more time at the keyboard than behind the camera. As many, many others have stated before me the digitalization of photography has been a blessing and a curse. On the one hand I edited and output a family portrait for a friend in about 15 minutes; on the other hand in order to do research or for that matter keep in touch with people around the globe I am stuck at my desk.

Just one more email… Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

I am very much looking forward to get back out into the field at the end of next month. In the meantime I will be shooting around the city over the next few days which will be a nice break from the desk…

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Photo of the Day #29 
Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 13:20 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

There are times when it is easy to believe that justice will never be served. That those who have power will do as they please without fear of retribution. That the young system of international justice we have been building for sixty years is only so much eye candy.

And then there are days like today.

Gotcha! Traffic stop in Kosovo. © Damaso Reyes

Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Serbia, was arrested and will soon be spending some quality time at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Accused of being responsible for the 1995 massacre of Muslim women and children in Srebrenica, Karadzic has been on the lam for more than a decade. For years the international community demanded that Serbia turn him over. The Serbians said they had no idea where he was.

It turns out he was in Serbia, not too far from the capital Belgrade, allegedly posing as a traditional healer. His arrest and trial will close a dark chapter in the recent history of Europe. The civil war that broke out as a result of the collapse of Yugoslavia was long and bloody and utterly preventable if the international community, especially the European Union, had been quicker to intervene.

Today it is generally believed that something like that could not happen. But when push comes to shove will the citizens of the E.U. be willing to send their sons and daughters to die to prevent innocents from being massacred once again on European soil?

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Photo of the Day #28 
Monday, July 21, 2008, 11:44 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

So it seems like Obama is a hit not just here in America but across the pond as well! Of course there can be no popularity with controversy and his upcoming trip to Germany is no exception as we learn from our good friends at Der Spiegel (which means mirror, which is kinda cool don’t you think?)

An Obama supporter. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

Even a columnist at
the Guardian thinks that he might be too popular for his own good, at least overseas. Seven year into the Bush administration isn’t the idea of a president who would be popular with the world at large an appealing idea? What do you think?

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HCB Quote of the Week #44 
Saturday, July 19, 2008, 12:54 - Commentary

Summer is definitely here in New York! The past couple of days have been very hot and as much and I may have missed New York this time last year, now I’m starting to miss the relatively cool climate of northern Europe. But it is important to appreciate where you’re at in the moment and that is just what I’m trying to do by barbecuing as much as possible and enjoying those warm summer nights. In fact, I am off to another barbecue today, so now I am off grilling, here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

Summer in Amsterdam, 2005. © Damaso Reyes

Memory is very important, the memory of each photo taken, flowing at the same speed as the event. During the work, you have to be sure that you haven’t left any holes, that you’ve captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late. - Henri Cartier-Bresson "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

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Photo of the Day #27 
Friday, July 18, 2008, 12:30 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Today is the
90th birthday of Nelson Mandela! It is hard to believe that he was able to contribute so much to so many after spending more than 25 years in prison. His life is a shining example to all of us who wish to make the world a better place. Today we should use this day as a reminder of how far we have come and how much further we have to go. Most importantly let’s remember that we can indeed make a difference!

Happy birthday Mr. Preisdent! Zanibar 2006 © Damaso Reyes

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Photo of the Day #26 
Thursday, July 17, 2008, 12:51 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

I have been to two exhumations in my life; one in Kosovo and one in Rwanda, and that is two too many. The work is very important and documenting it is just as necessary but that doesn’t make the challenge of watching bones come out of the ground and easier.

Remains of the war. Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes

There is a great article in the International Herald Tribune about one man who made it his mission to bring to light the crimes of the past. Jean-René Ruez is a French policeman who search for justice is a shining example of how Europeans can work together to police their own problems.

Let’s hope that the strengthening of the European Union; whatever its failings and however you may feel about it, can at least prevent men like this from needing to do their work in the future.

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Photo of the Day #25 (Peter Magubane Edition) 
Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 11:45 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

The fight for freedom can take many forms. There are those who man the barricades; there are those who give the speeches; there are those who face down the water cannons and angry dogs. And then there are those who document it all, without whom the rest of the world would never know what happened. Last week I had an opportunity to attend the opening of a show at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where I saw a wonderful example of the last kind of freedom fighter. “Nelson Mandela: Man of the People” now on display through August 31, gives us a historical and intimate glimpse of South Africa’s first freely elected black president. Over 100 images by celebrated South African photographer Peter Magubane trace the history of the man and the movement over 50 years.

“You do not ask permission to take pictures. No one tells me if I can or cannot take a photograph,” Magubane defiantly said at the opening. For me this quotation sums up my attitude towards photojournalism.

If he can do it, why can’t I? Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

Some people, mostly non-photographers, are put off by this sentiment. The reaction I usually get when I say something to that effect is that photographers are somehow invading the privacy and the rights of those they photograph. I often hear the old cliché that somehow I am “stealing their soul.” No one ever talks about my rights as a photographer to document the world around me.

More importantly, this is not simply a right, it is an obligation I have as a journalist. Sometimes that makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes people consider it truly hurtful, although in more than 10 years doing this job I had never encountered that. Usually it is pseudo-liberal intellectuals arguing an abstract point that make this argument. Very few of them have ever been professional photojournalists. And that is exactly the point.

Taking pictures of people in pain or distress is not “fun.” It certainly is not easy. It is something I feel like I have to do in order to inform the greater world of what is happening. More importantly, only the photographer should decide when he or she should photograph. When society starts dictating when it is acceptable for me or my colleagues to do our work we are not only taking another step toward censorship we are depriving ourselves of knowledge of the world around us.

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