EU Constitution 
Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 13:50 - Commentary

Happy Halloween! I am sure that some of you reading from the States will be dressing up and have fun tonight. I was never much of a fan of Halloween myself but I always enjoyed seeing what costumes other people decided to wear.

We have been having a bit of trick or treating here in Europe as well. If you hadnít noticed (donít worry I didnít either) apparently the European Union has a new constitution, or treaty, or something. As you might recall in 2005 Dutch and French voters rejected the 500 odd page constitution. EU heads of state decided not to risk a repeat of the fiasco two years ago and instead submitted a ďtreatyĒ for the approval of their parliaments.

The Hidden Hand. © Damaso Reyes

As The Economist notes in two good articles this so called treaty is in fact a constitution in sheepís clothing! This is more or less a slap in the face to the various citizens of EU member states who have been insisting on a vote. Knowing they faced an uphill battle it seems that the leaders of Europe simply decided to skip the part where they consulted their populations.

As I have said many times the project of creating a more integrated Europe has for decades happened on the highest levels and in smoke filled back rooms. Treaties were hammered out and unpopular but necessary policies were put into place. The time for back room is over; if the EU is to become more than the sum of its parts then the people of Europe not only need to be consulted, they need to vote in its favor. More importantly, the leaders of Europe need to present their case to the people of Europe and encourage and participate in an open and frank discussion about the future of Europe. The reason why so many Europeans feel alienated and resentful of the EU is because they believe that they donít have a real role in shaping it or its decisions.

This latest stunt will do little to reassure the EuroskepticsÖ

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HCB Quote of the Week #8 
Saturday, October 27, 2007, 20:22 - Commentary

Hello from the forest! Here is your HCB Quote of the week and it is a good one!

© Damaso Reyes

I'm not responsible for my photographs. Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience. It's drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, and then sniff, sniff, sniff Ė being sensitive to coincidence. You can't go looking for it; you can't want it, or you want get it. First you must lose your self. Then it happens. -Henri Cartier-Bresson, September/October 1997, "American Photo" , page: 96

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Dollar Decline... 
Thursday, October 25, 2007, 02:11 - Project News, Commentary

In case you were still wondering, the American dollar is still heading downward. Even the Indian Rupee is kicking our butt. Everyone is bailing on the Greenback. Not so bad if you are earning Euros and buying in dollars. Not so much fun if you make dollars and have to spend Euros. Thatís why I have to change things from dollars to Euros on my contributions page, but donít worry, you can still get the cheap dollar advantage at The Wish List.

Down, Down, Down...

Tomorrow I head off to the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (German Cancer Research Center) to photograph. I certainly do love my science labs, donít I? It should be an interesting experience to check out a little more of the pure research side of science, I look forward to sharing photos with you soon!

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HCB Quote of the Week #7 
Saturday, October 20, 2007, 13:52 - Commentary

Greetings from Hameln, here is your HCB Quote of the week!

To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis. -Henri Cartier-Bresson

Holy hand© Damaso Reyes
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HCB Quote of Week #6 
Saturday, October 13, 2007, 14:02 - Commentary

A greeting from Paris, here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

Paris at sunset. © Damaso Reyes

Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument. -Henri Cartier-Bresson

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HCB Quote of the Week #5 
Saturday, October 6, 2007, 16:29 - Commentary

Well I am almost done processing film! Today I think I will go into town and do a little shooting, maybe hit the local flea market; you never know what you will find after all! I hope you are ready for another pearl of wisdom!

Marine Corps training. © Damaso Reyes

The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt. -Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Photography Year 1980, LIFE Library of Photograph,Ē page 27

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Reel Fun 
Thursday, October 4, 2007, 14:28 - Commentary
October 4, 2007

Itís hard not to emphasize what a big change it is to be back here. In a few hours I went from Germanyís largest city to a small community of artists. I just got back from a nice walk in the woods that surround us here and the air was fresh and the light was beautiful. The past few days I have seen the sun, something that didnít happen too much in Berlin and enjoyed sleeping in, something else I didnít get to do too much of.

Mmmm..chemicals.... © Damaso Reyes

I also got back into the darkroom today, getting a start on the more than forty rolls of film that I have shot over the previous few months. As you might know, processing is one of my least favorite parts of the photographic experience, it seems no matter how careful I am or if I wear gloves I always smell like developer. Loading sixteen rolls of film at a time, in the dark, can be pretty boring but I have a good music collection to help keep me entertained. The reward is of course seeing the film once it is done, trying to remember where and why I took certain shots and always being a bit surprised by the results. I still have another day or so in the lab before I am caught up and then of course I have to edit, then scan then edit some more before posting it all on the website. Fun, fun, fun!

So I think I am going to Paris for a few days next week, feel free to send me your suggestions on places to eat, things to see, etc. Itís my first time so I am very much looking forward to doing a lot of walking and hopefully shooting!

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HCB Quote of the Week #4 
Saturday, September 29, 2007, 12:37 - Commentary

Just two more days in the Hauptstadt! I will try to make the most of them and see a few galleries and museums, hopefully the weather will cooperate. Here is our latest quote of the week, enjoy!

Remains of the war, Kosovo 2005. © Damaso Reyes

ďAs photojournalists we supply information to a world that is overwhelmed with preoccupations and full of people who need the company of images....We pass judgment on what we see, and this involves an enormous responsibility,Ē Henri Cartier-Bresson, "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 77

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Fast Fertig! 
Thursday, September 27, 2007, 14:52 - Commentary

One more day left at Vanity Fair! It is amazing how quickly these last two months have gone by. The past few weeks I have been slaving away, trying to wrap up two articles for the magazine before I head back down to Stuttgart. You will be happy to know that I am indeed all done, letís keep our fingers crossed that they survive the editing process.

The Gate. © Damaso Reyes

Now my attention is beginning to focus on the next two months, and they will be quite busy indeed. I am pondering a quick trip down to Munich for Oktoberfest. Next month will also see my first trip to Paris where I will serve on the jury of a small photography festival. I also have plans to head to Heidelberg and spend some time at the National Cancer Institute. And somewhere in there I have to find some time to process and scan all the film I shot these past two months not to mention update my website! So donít be surprised if I am only blogging once or twice a week, I will be busy making the most of my remaining time here in the Federal Republic.

I am a bit sad to be leaving Berlin, I feel like I barely had much time to explore the city, but I am looking forward to returning whenever I can over the next few years. Even as much as I have traveling around Germany I still feel there is a lot more to discover, especially in the east, but then again I feel that way about Europe in general. The next two months should be very productive but I also want to carve out some time towards the end for some reflection on the past year.

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HCB Quote of the Week #3 
Saturday, September 22, 2007, 15:55 - Commentary

'Manufactured' or staged photography does not concern me. And if I make a judgment, it can only be on a psychological or sociological level. There are those who take photographs arranged beforehand and those who go out to discover the image and seize it. For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which - in visual terms - questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photos with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself. -Henri Cartier-Bresson

Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes
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Why Can't we, I Mean, You Know, Just Get Along? 
Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 15:47 - Commentary

I had no idea but it seems that Belgium is having some problems. The Walloons and the Flemish are not happy with each other at all. Apparently the Dutch speakers have had enough and want to break up the marriage. The French speaking Walloons say non.

Hard to believe that they are still fighting about the divisions in a nation created in 1830! I mean that is longer than Italy has existed, you would think that at a certain point they would get it together and say ďsure weíre different but weíre Belgian.Ē Apparently not. You can read all about it at the New York Times.

This is exactly why I am working on this project. If the Belgians canít get along in their tiny country what hopes are there of building something resembling a European Identity? I can only hope that somehow photographs can bring people togetherÖ.

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HCB Quote of the Week #2 
Saturday, September 15, 2007, 14:47 - Commentary

Greetings! Even though I am traveling I wouldn't want you too miss the quote of the week...

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin 2007

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression. I believe that through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us which can mould us, but which can also be affected by us.

A balance must be established between these two worlds- the one inside us and the one outside us. As the result of a constant reciprocal process, both these worlds come to form a single one. And it is this world that we must communicate. But this takes care only of the content of the picture. For me, content cannot be separated from form. By form, I mean the rigorous organization of the interplay of surfaces, lines and values. It is in this organization alone that our conceptions and emotions become concrete and communicable. In photography, visual organisation can stem only from a developed instinct. -Henri Cartier-Bresson
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The Dollar is going down like the popular girl in high school... 
Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 15:17 - Commentary

While I was doing some research online at work I came across this headline: Dollar hits fresh 15-year low. You can read all about it here and here but it basically boils down to: since Damaso has been getting his fellowship money in dollars he is S.O.L. Boy, I canít wait to get back to Solitude and those wonderful Euros they give me there.

What it's all about....

But it does raise a real issue. Basically I am going to have to start making my money in Euros instead of dollars. Think about it: when I make $1000 back in New York and then hope on a plane to Berlin or Rome it is only worth about Ä720. Once I land I am nearly 40% poorer! And trust me things are not cheaper here in Europe, beer being a notable and delicious exception!

So, as they say here in Germany, or would say if they were me, ich muss das Geld finden! Feel free to help out, suggestions are welcome! Maybe write a letter to the Treasury Sec? Light a little bit of a fire under him to DO something? Just a thoughtÖ.

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Six Years on... September 11th 
Tuesday, September 11, 2007, 15:04 - Commentary

Itís hard to believe that it has been six yearsÖ

The day after. © Damaso Reyes

For the first time since that terrible day, the 11th of September falls on a Tuesday, the same day of the week the attacks took place. It was a warm, bright and clear morning. The night before I was up late at a party for a newspaper and went to bed with few worries.

The view from Chinatown. © Damaso Reyes

Walking across the Manhattan Bridge after hitching a ride to the Brooklyn waterfront, I saw most of lower Manhattan covered in smoke. One of the first things I noticed when I got to the other side, and that which would linger with me the longest, was the smell. An acrid mixture of melted rubber, concrete and humanity, a smell lingered over New York for weeks. Heading down towards what would become known as Ground Zero I soon became covered in a fine, and then thicker coat of dust.

Walking towards the ruins. © Damaso Reyes

Before leaving home I wondered for a while about whether or not I should go and take photographs. In less than a minute I came to the conclusion that of course I should, Iím a photographer, this is what I do. I wasnít excited, more like resigned. I shot that day for about ten hours. And photographed for another five days. And then I stopped.

A fireman. © Damaso Reyes

The flames continued. © Damaso Reyes

For me New York isnít and wasnít just a place, it was and is my home, my birthplace. The towers were older than I was and I fully expected then to be around long after I was gone. I have photographed them inside and out. I especially enjoyed going to the top of one of the towers to the rooftop observation deck. I remember the first time I went up the Towers as a child and remembering that the cars looked like toys. And then they lay in ruins.

Grief. © Damaso Reyes

I suppose that day taught me that nothing is permanent. I also knew that on that day my country would start on a path that was ill-advised: revenge. What happened six years ago canít be avenged; the dead will never be satisfied. In those six years my government has killed many, many more and for what?

Missing. © Damaso Reyes

In the past six years I have traveled back to Rwanda, lived in Indonesia, gone to Tanzania and begun work on The Europeans. Thankfully I havenít been witness to anything as horrible as that day in September but I have seen a thousand smaller horrors. Yet my faith in humanity remains. I know we can do better, I know that we can live together and I believe that we will. The only question is how many of us have to die before that happens.

Peace. © Damaso Reyes
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HCB Quote of the Week #1 
Sunday, September 9, 2007, 15:23 - Commentary

Canít you see Iím working? Seriously I just realized a few days ago that the deadline for the Guggenheim Fellowship is at the end of the week so I am spending the better part of today, which of course happens to be one of the few nice days weíve had in a while, revamping my proposal. Letís hope that they are suitably impressed!

So I have decided to start a little regular feature called HCBís quote of the week. HCB is of course Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered one of the fathers of modern photojournalism. While doing research for a story I am writing about Leica I came across several of his quotations which are very illuminating and often very funny, enjoy!

HCB behind the Leica.

ďOf all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes a precise moment in time. We play with subjects that disappear; and when theyíre gone, itís impossible to bring them back to life. We canít alter our subject afterward.... Writers can reflect before they put words on paper.... As photographers, we donít have the luxury of this reflective time....We canít redo our shoot once weíre back at the hotel. Our job consists of observing reality with help of our camera (which serves as a kind of sketchbook), of fixing reality in a moment, but not manipulating it, neither during the shoot nor in the darkroom later on. These types of manipulation are always noticed by anyone with a good eye.Ē -Henri Cartier-Bresson, "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

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