In Memoriam: Mark Ferguson 1959-2008 
Monday, November 17, 2008, 14:17 - Personal, Commentary
Sorry that I havenít been around for the past week but my very good friend Mark Ferguson died last week after a battle with cancer. He will be greatly missed and my thoughts are with his family.


Mark in Action! Wheaton Village 2006 © Damaso Reyes


We met ten years ago when I was still a student at NYU. Needing to complete some elective credits I decided to try my hand at glass blowing and fell in love. After taking a few classes I was offered the chance to become a teaching assistant and one of the instructors I helped was Mark. I helped teach a number of classes with him and we became good friends over the years. His sense of humor and endless curiosity about the world are the things I will miss the most. His kindness and humility are the traits I will most try to emulate.


Mark at Sleepy Hollow 2008 © Damaso Reyes


I have very few close friends and Mark was one of the oldest and dearest. I will miss going with him to the Russian and Turkish Baths on a cold Sunday morning. I will miss having Thai food with his wife and children. I will miss his smile and how he never failed to play Devilís advocate. He was patient and kind, two qualities the world needs more of.


Hayden and Mark Brooklyn 2007 © Damaso Reyes


During his illness he never gave up; never complained about his lot in life and even accepted help, something difficult for such a strong and independent man. If we could all live the way that he died we would be remembered well.

During the past few months I had a chance to spend a lot of time with Mark. Every other week I would pick him up from chemotherapy and when he was feeling up to it we hung out watching movies or even going for a walk. I remember wandering very slowly through the Village looking for a store that sold walking sticks. We never found what we were looking for but I remember his determination even in the face of death. As hard as it was to see him weaken over the past few months I was so happy that I got to spend the time with him that I did. I only wish it had been more.


Mark, Leah, Eleanor and Hayden in Brooklyn 2008 © Damaso Reyes


Mark, I love you and will think about you often. Take careÖ

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Hard Times... 
Wednesday, October 29, 2008, 11:09 - Personal, Commentary
Yesterday I got yet another form letter in the mail thanking me for my application but due to the large numbers of excellent proposals mine was not selected. Itís not like I am new to this game but you get enough rejections in a row and you start to get frustrated, even discouraged.


The numbers donít lie.

On my desk I keep a list of all the different grants, fellowships and residencies that Iíve applied for during the current year. As you can see, green is for ones which Iíve gotten, red for ones that Iíve been rejected and black are ones that I havenít heard back from yet. Out o the seventeen that I have heard from I have been rejected by all but one. Those are some harsh odds.

I had hoped that the longer I do this and the better a body of work I produce the more success I would have but so far this year it seems not to be the case, which is really too bad since these grants and fellowships make up a large part of the funding for this project.

I try to keep it all in perspective and not let the rejections get to me but I have to say that lately it ainít easyÖ.

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Film is Dead! Long LIve Film! 
Monday, October 6, 2008, 11:22 - Personal, Commentary
People have been saying that film is dead since the start of the century. With each successive generation of digital camera the shouts grow louder. Now you digicam can shoot movies if you so choose. How long will it be before people are saying the still image is dead?


The king is dead, long live the king. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes


All that having been said, Kodak just released another new film, the ultra fine grained Ektar 100, and is using one of my images to promote it! There is a reason I chose film when I decided to work on The Europeans. I liked the idea of consistency, of films archival properties and timelessness. Increasingly we see the world digitally but the job of a photographer is not to show us what we already see; it is to show us the world in a new way. Increasingly film is the tool that allows us to stand apart.

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A visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard 
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 14:41 - Personal
I know today is the Sabbath and all but I just wanted to share some non-European images. Yesterday I took a trip over to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where many of the artists there were having open studios. While the Navy Yard has been transforming over the past decade from its shipbuilding past to a more diverse future there were still signs everywhere of its heritage. Enjoy the images!


FaÁade.



Through a window, darkly.



Out of context.



Remains of the day.



A closed door.



Up and down.


Power and nature.


Fast forward.

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Dinner with Madame Klots 
Thursday, September 18, 2008, 14:24 - Personal
Rochefort-en-Terre


All is well here in Western France and as my time here dwindles I am shooting more and more. But that does not mean that I do not have time to, as we say, have a good time. Last week Madam Isabel Klots invited several of the American artists in town for dinner and we had a great time. Mrs. Klots is the wife and daughter-in-law of Trafford and Alfred Klots, the American painters who brought the chateau here in Rochefort. Nineteen years ago Mrs. Klots, in cooperation with MICA, started the residency program here to honor the memory of her husband and father-in-law. She missed all the artists who used to stay here in Rochefort when her husband was alive and because of her generosity for nearly twenty years artists have had the opportunity to come here.


The Madame receives us. © Damaso Reyes


And what a reception it was! © Damaso Reyes


We had all we desired. © Damaso Reyes


And I mean everything! © Damaso Reyes


It was hard to keep upÖ © Damaso Reyes



But we tried our best! © Damaso Reyes



Dinner was excellent! © Damaso Reyes


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Photo of the Day #5 
Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 12:02 - Personal, Photo of the Day
Brooklyn

So when I was younger, much younger, I wanted to be an illustrator. More specifically I just wanted to be able to draw accurately. Sadly this was a skill that I never developed but fortunately I discovered photography which we all know is drawing with light. While I left behind my ambitions to draw, I am still interested in graphic representations of the world around me. Because I am a photojournalist I donít have as many opportunities to indulge this proclivity as I would like but every once in a while I can.


Sign of the times. Berlin, 2007 © Damaso Reyes

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Internet Poll 
Sunday, June 8, 2008, 17:08 - Personal
Brooklyn

So the question is: Beard or no beard?

I am thinking about shaving but when I do I look like a teenage girl. Seriously, people call me miss and maíam. But as you can see, I donít really grow a ZZ Top type beard. What other people grow in a day takes me a month. So summer is here and I am thinking about shaving but what do you think?


More than two months of growth, kinda sad huh? © Damaso Reyes

Click on this link and vote, I will post the results next weekÖ


So smoothÖ. © Damaso Reyes

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Bridging the Gap 
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 15:33 - Personal, Commentary
Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Bridge just turned 125!

And you donít look a day over 100Ö

This was a beautiful and warm Memorial Day weekend here in New York. I was a bit under the weather for some of it but by Sunday I was smiling and sitting in the sun like thousands of other New Yorkers.


The view from below. © Damaso Reyes

The anniversary of the opening of the bridge serves as a reminder of what we can accomplish when we work together for something greater than ourselves. It is a testament that the space between us can be bridged both literally and metaphorically and that is what we should strive for as a society.


Shadows. © Damaso Reyes

For me that is what The Europeans is: a bridge. Images can serve that function in our society and I hope that this project can serve as a bridge both among Europeans as well as a link between the present and the future. Time, as it always does, will tellÖ


We canít leave out the Manhattan Bridge! © Damaso Reyes

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Searching & Finding 
Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 14:31 - Personal, Project News
Brooklyn

Sometimes you just have to listen to the photographs.


The writing is on the wall. © Damaso Reyes

All photographs speak, the question is how well do you listen? Since I have been back in New York I have started doing yoga twice a week. I had wanted to do yoga for a couple of years now but I had always found an excuse. Now that I am cooling my heels in NYC for a while, I figured it was a good time to start.

More than anything I just want to increase my strength and flexibility. Sitting in front of the computer for hours and hours and then walking around with a heavy camera is not so good for you body, especially when you arenít 18 years old anymore. Of course yoga also gives me time to clear my mind, which can be pretty hard at times. If you havenít tried it I highly recommend it!

Meanwhile I finally finished editing about an hour ago! So over the next few days you will be seeing some new galleries as well as new photographs in existing galleries. You can already visit a gallery from my trip to the DKFZ here. I feel really good about this latest round of images, I hope you do tooÖ

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Nursing Home Haiku 
Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 10:39 - Personal
Vienna

Some of you may remember my good friend Albert Somma. While I was back in New York last month I took the train out to visit him in New Jersey at the rehabilitation center he has been living at. Two and a half years ago he was riding his bike through Riverside Park after work and had an accident in which he suffered a severe neck injury. To say the least it has changed his life. He has regained a lot of his movement and mobility over the past two years but it has been a long road full of struggle for him.

I have to admit it was tough seeing him in a wheelchair at first. He was among the most fit and active people I knew, biking or rollerblading nearly every day. And of course he was an incredible singer. Thatís actually how we met; he was performing at a club I used to frequent downtown called Torch (which ironically burnt down). He sang the very jazz standards that I loved so much and I ended up shooting the cover photograph for his CD.

In addition to being a great singer Al is also quite a poet. We have been talking for years about doing a poetry/photography collaboration and recently he sent me several haikus. I present them below, matched with some images from the Schomberg Kinder Klinik I shot last year. Let me know what you thinkÖ.

Nursing Home Haiku
By Al Somma

A caretaker washes my hair
I assent, head
cradled in her hands



© Damaso Reyes

I resent the intrusion
Of the nurses, yet call
When I need them



© Damaso Reyes

Help and helplessness
Living side by side,
Bedfellows in the
Yin, yang



© Damaso Reyes
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Sketches of Wien 
Thursday, January 10, 2008, 14:37 - Personal
Vienna

So I have spent the last three days or so finally checking out a bit of the city. I havenít gotten that far but I have liked what I have seen. It has finally warmed up a bit here, the bitter wind which filled the streets last week has died down and even our friend Mr. Sun has made a few appearances through the clouds.


I bet it's warm inside... © Damaso Reyes

Now some of you may wonder why I am so sensitive to the cold, after all, didnít I grow up in New York, not exactly known for its balmy winters (although it did get up to something like 15 degrees Celsius yesterday)? I usually reply that I didnít like the winters there either! The two winters I spent living in Indonesia were wonderful and I didnít miss the changing seasons at all. But there is a deeper reason for my dislike of the cold, one that has its roots in my childhood.

I grew up poor. Not lower middle class or working class but honestly poor. There were times when I couldnít get new clothes for school, times when there wasnít enough to eat, we ate government cheese and living in subsidized housing with thin, single paned windows and heating that we couldnít control. All that meant that in winter the apartment was cold. We piled up blankets when we slept, which was fine at night but during the day there wasnít much we could do.

I remember actually sitting on the radiator cover when I was a child whenever the heat would come on in an attempt to let it soak in to help keep me warm for the hours when the temperature would drop while the heat was off. I remember sitting with my grandmother in front of an open stove, our hands up against a huge pot of water that we used to try to keep things a little more bearable. I remember taking long, hot showers and baths and dreading the minute that I had to go back into the cold of my own home. I suppose this is where my love of saunas comes from.

So for me being cold isnít simply about being uncomfortable, it is a reminder of hunger, of poverty and not being in control of the most basic parts of your life. So when the wind howls and the temperature drops I prefer to stay indoors, thank you very much.


Sketches of Wien... © Damaso Reyes

But as of late I have gone outside and today I took some photos. More like sketches really, which is how I think of the digital camera. I also took along my Leica and a new 75mm lens I brought just before I left (thanks Fulbright money, thanks!) you will see those photos as soon as I can find a darkroom to work in. So here are the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of impressions of the cityÖ


Store cows. © Damaso Reyes


Lights and Wires. © Damaso Reyes


The Museums Quartier, where I live. © Damaso Reyes


Around the Bend. © Damaso Reyes


Crazy like a Fox. © Damaso Reyes


Down the steps and into the MQ. © Damaso Reyes
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The End is Nigh 
Tuesday, July 3, 2007, 14:59 - Personal
Stuttgart

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 getÖ


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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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 worldís 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? Iíd 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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Interlude... 
Monday, April 23, 2007, 14:57 - Personal
Berlin

Here is a little Interlude to keep you entertained, donít worry, I am having funÖ.

Lovely Dark and Deep



The view from Solitude. © Damaso Reyes

There are many things that I love about Solitude. The freedom to work at my own pace, the support I get from the staff, the wonderful cadre of other artists who are here with me. But I have unexpectedly fallen in love with the woods that surround us.


Jan Bodin walking down a trail. © Damaso Reyes

Iíve always been a city boy, I was after all born and raised in New York City. I remember taking a field trip in the 5th grade to go apple picking and when we got off the bus I commented to a teacher that the air smelled funny. ďYes,Ē she replied. ďThatís because itís clean,Ē she added. Yes we have trees in Brooklyn but I have never spent such an extended period surrounded by nature.


Spring green. © Damaso Reyes

At first the woods were mysterious and a bit overwhelming. Slowly I began to venture in, a few hundred meters at first, then slowly I began to go deeper with the help of some of the other fellows who werenít as reserved as I was. Before long a short trip into the woods became part of my weekly routine. Then longer trips, an hour, two hours of walking the trails became a daily habit.


Water and woods. © Damaso Reyes

The woods offer a kind of peace that I hadnít experienced before. Much like in the city you are surrounded and at the same time all alone. But in the woods often you are alone, without another person in sight. During my walks I think about my life, this project, our future together. Sometimes my mind simply wanders unable to grasp a hold to a single train of though.


Bark. © Damaso Reyes

But as I walk through these woods, lovely, dark and deep as they are I feel that I may just find what it is I am looking for if I keep walking. The forest continues to surprise and comfort me.


Nature at work. © Damaso Reyes


Forest man. © Damaso Reyes


Wildlife. © Damaso Reyes


Scary tree. © Damaso Reyes


The view from here. © Damaso Reyes
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2nd Anniversary 
Sunday, April 15, 2007, 13:13 - Personal, Project News, Commentary
Stuttgart

Happy Tax Day! Yes, today is the day when many of my friends back home are rushing to ensure that they have their taxes files (actually since the date falls on a Sunday they have until tomorrow at midnight to make sure Uncle Sam get his pound of flesh).

Today also happens to be the second anniversary of The Europeans. For some strange reason I chose this day to begin my journey into the soul of Europe, boarding a plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for London. Looking back at those heady times it is amazing how far I have come.


Anti-war activist Brian Haw. © Damaso Reyes

Before I began this project it took me a long time to make the commitment to spend God-only-knows how many years traveling and photographing throughout Europe. While it might not sound like a hardship assignment, it was not something that I took on lightly. When I began this adventure I had no idea how it would be financed, nor what kinds of images I would make, after all, exactly how does one photograph the changes Europe is experiencing as the European Union expands? How does such an abstract concept manifest itself? How do you capture something so ephemeral?

Iím still trying to figure it out myself.


Waiting in Amsterdam. © Damaso Reyes

One of the most insidious concepts one learns in school, especially art school, is the idea of certainty. More often than not we are trained not to explore, to try and to fail but to follow the more certain path, the one where our natural talents lie. I remember one moment in school when I was talking to a professor in his office towards the end of a particularly challenging class. He told me, with a touch of sarcasm, that he was going to let me pass the class. I shrugged my shoulders and thanked him, but I also informed him that the reason I took this particular class was to have a chance to stretch myself, to try something new rather than just continue taking the kinds of documentary images I already knew I was good at. My new endeavor produced few results, but not for a lack of trying. In effect I had failed but I had learned a lot through the process, something my professor didnít value as much as I did at the time.

Two years ago, as I had done so many times before, I set out on a path without knowing where it would lead. As familiar as uncertainty has become for me I nevertheless boarded that plane with a great deal of trepidation. As a photographer I never know what kinds of images I will make but that doesnít ease the fear that in the end I will make no images at all. An irrational fear to be sure I what I fear even more is the sense that my work has become easy, that the challenge is gone and no matter what I can make great images. When that happens I will be well on the road of decline.



Destroyed Home, Kosovo. © Damaso Reyes

So what has the past two years brought? Well I have shot in the United Kingdom, Kosovo, Spain, The Netherlands and this year in Germany. Iíve shot hundreds of rolls of film so far and taken thousands upon thousands of photographs. Year one saw an incredible burst of activity and travel. Year two I only worked on the project for ten days or so, most due to lack of resources. It was a year of contemplation and reflection; downtime I feel like I learned a great deal from. As I have said many times, this project is not just about taking photographs; it is about logistics, planning and fundraising, something I have always had difficulty doing.

This year will be the most productive of all, with me shooting for perhaps ten months out of the year. I am also living in Europe full time and plan to continue to do so for the duration of the project, a necessary but important step.


It's not going to Stop! © Damaso Reyes

I feel that the project is finally reaching a critical mass, one that will allow me to work faster, travel farther and delve deeper into Europe. It is an exciting time; I finally feel that the years of planning and hard work are starting to pay off. But it is also now that I must redouble my efforts. I must work even harder to spread the message of the project and to continue to expand my support network, without whom this project would not be possible.

For those of you who read this blog regularly I would ask that you consider what you might be able to do to help the project along. Advice is always welcome, so are donations
and sponsorships. But more than anything else this project needs forceful advocates. Each of you in your own way has the power to spread the message of what I am trying to accomplish. You are influence makers, power brokers and leaders. The Europeans will only truly become successful when there are dozens of people who are as passionate about this as I am. Think about the power that you can bring to this endeavor, how together we can show Europe and the world an image of itself that it has been reluctant to see: a people united by much more than what divides them.


Waiting in Berlin. © Damaso Reyes

If you dream of a world in which the desires of a few do not dominate the needs of the many, then join me. If you aspire to a life where our common values set the agenda rather than our financial interests, take up my cause. If you still believe in the power of the still image, in the power of art to move and influence our society then I ask you to join me on this journey of exploration. Finally, if you dream of the world as it could be, if you still have hope that people of good will can come together and change our society help me make that a reality.

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