Photo of the Day #73 
Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 16:07 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
As we discussed yesterday there have been all kinds of reactions to Obama’s election. In an interesting story in The Guardian we get to hear from Trevor Phillips head of the U.K.’s equality watchdog.

Shout it out! London 2005 © Damaso Reyes

"If Barack Obama had lived here I would be very surprised if even somebody as brilliant as him would have been able to break through the institutional stranglehold that there is on power within the Labour party."

Europe has to come to terms with its minorities, not as an inconvenient problem that won’t go away but as an important part of society that has a great deal to offer. That certainly means tacking institutional and societal racism. But it also means a frank and open discussion about how immigration is changing the face of European society. We have to address people’s fears, both the real and the irrational and find a way to try to bring people together because despite the fondest wishes of some on the right they ain’t goin’ home…

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Photo of the Day #72 
Monday, November 10, 2008, 15:54 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
There are two kinds of people: those who love mirrors, stopping at every one they see in order to check their appearance and those who do everything they can to avoid them. The lens is a kind of mirror too, holding up an image of ourselves, often one that we would rather not see.

Mirror, Mirror. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

The election last week of Barack Obama serves as a kind of mirror as well. Americans, even those who didn’t support Obama see his victory as an important milestone that deserves to be celebrated. Around the world the cheers have come. Of course there are always exceptions.

Der Spiegel tells us about how one prominent Austrian television personality viewed the American election.

“I wouldn't want the Western world to be directed by a black man. When you say that is a racist remark: right, without a doubt."
Americans are "racists, now as before, and it must be going very badly for them that they so convincingly ... send a black man, and a black, very good-looking woman, into the White House,"
Klaus Emmerich said.

This would be funny if it were in a satirical newspaper like The Onion which did run a very funny article titled Black Man gets Nation’s Worst Job. But it wasn’t.

Then we have our good friend Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy who the New York Times reports:

“amiably called the first African-American president-elect in United States history ‘young, handsome and suntanned.’”

Clearly there are many in Europe who would like to go back to the good old days before immigration, presumably sometime before the rise of the Roman republic I imagine. Both Austria and Italy are having problems dealing with immigration and xenophobia ao it is not so surprising that these comments come from these nations. Of course these two men don’t speak for the entire population. That said, they are indicators of who a not insubstantial percentage of the population feel. The question is how can we move past old prejudices and into a society that is reflective of the diversity of our world?

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Photo of the Day #71  
Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 12:18 - Events, Commentary, Photo of the Day
Our time for change has come.

Hope for Europe as well. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

“Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.” So said the New York Times today. Clearly this is a historic moment in American politics but one that I believe will serve as a symbol to Europe as well.

American elected the son of an immigrant from Africa. A member of a minority that makes up just 12% of the population. Today he has become the very face of our nation, the embodiment of our hopes and dreams. This is a powerful statement about what kind of nation America truly is and the kind of place it hopes to become.

In Vienna and Paris; Berlin and Rome there are millions of young men and women just like Barack Obama. Young boys and girls who want to take part in the fullness of their nation’s lives but for many reasons cannot. If the nations of Europe are to live up to their own ideals this must change. As in America it won’t be easy but Europeans must begin to see each other not simply as decedents but as aspirants to a common dream of a better future. And that future includes people of all races and heritages.

“For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.

It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.”
President Elect Barack Obama in January 2008.

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Yes We Can! 
Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 06:29 - Events, Commentary

Yes We Did...
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Photo of the Day #70 
Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 15:21 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
I woke up this morning ready to vote. When I went outside it was a warm, lovely fall day, the kind that reminds you fondly of summer. When I was a kid I used to love these days although I hated the fact that I had to waste one of the last fine days of the year in school.

In the shadow of history… © Damaso Reyes

Today I went back to my old elementary school to cast my ballot. It seemed like this day would never come but it finally has and I was quite happy to have a chance to pull the lever. In twelve short hours we should have a President-Elect and I will spend this evening like so many others around the country and around the world waiting for the results.

A change is coming… © Damaso Reyes

I don’t think I will be disappointed…

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Photo of the Day #69 
Monday, November 3, 2008, 12:03 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
It is going to be a busy week, what with the historic election happening tomorrow. But I thought I would start things off with a light little article from the U.K.’s Telegraph. Apparently an expat Brit has become the accidental mayor of a small Spanish village.

Sorry about that Mr. Mayor. Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes

“Mark Lewis, 58, has been left in charge of the town hall in San Fulgencio after the mayor, deputy mayor and four senior councillors were all taken into police custody following allegations of real estate corruption.

"Mr Lewis, who lives in Spain with his wife and daughter, was given the title by default on Wednesday on the grounds that he is one of only two councillors from the ruling coalition not to be arrested.

"Mr Lewis has taken charge of the council on the grounds that he is the fourth deputy mayor. Everyone above him in the pecking order has been arrested," the source added.”

It seems that corruption is not just an issue in some of the newer members of the European Union!

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Photo of the Day #68 
Thursday, October 30, 2008, 12:56 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
For years people have been saying that the newspaper business is on its last legs. But like a patient who has a terminal illness one can ignore the diagnosis for a long time until the symptoms become too acute not to pay attention to. Today is one of those days.

The march of time. Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

The Christian Science Monitor has announced that next year it will stop printing its daily newspaper edition and exist only online. While the CSM is not a large newspaper it is prestigious and one of the few still doing a lot of original international reporting (I wrote a piece for them about Kosovo in 2006). It is the first large daily newspaper to take a leap that many commentators are suggesting is the trend of the future.

Personally I don’t think it is a bad thing. One of the reasons the editors gave for making this choice is so that that can keep their international bureaus open. I myself read at least three or four newspapers a day – online. I don’t know the last time I brought a physical newspaper. But when I get my Kindle I will most likely subscribe to two to three, that’s right, pay actual money for content. Still having grown up with newspapers that I can touch and fold I will be a little sad to see them go…

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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. It’s 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 don’t lie.

On my desk I keep a list of all the different grants, fellowships and residencies that I’ve applied for during the current year. As you can see, green is for ones which I’ve gotten, red for ones that I’ve been rejected and black are ones that I haven’t 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 ain’t easy….

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Photo of the Day #67 
Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 14:11 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
See, I told you! They want all of us to shoot video…

And one camera to rule them all. Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

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Photo of the Day #66 
Monday, October 27, 2008, 17:08 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
It seems like the easiest way that politicians and government officials have to legislate morality or to inspire fear is to attack photography and photographers. As we learn in an article in The Guardian, the United Kingdom is considering prosecuting photographers to take certain kinds of sexually explicit images.

You are most certainly next! New York City 2001 © Damaso Reyes

“Campaigners fear the new law will criminalize thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships. 'They say this is about violence but it's distinctly about sex,' said Westwood. 'I feel the stick is always pointed at pornography as this terrible corrupting influence, this idea that it makes people do things that they wouldn't have done otherwise.”

While that kind of imagery is not my cup of tea the question that always must be asked when government proposes to regulate speech or content is “who will draw the line and what will the standard be?” Clearly this kind of legislation provides a very slippery slope indeed especially in a country that has no written constitution or enshrined protections for free speech.

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Images of Kodak's New Ektar Film 
Friday, October 24, 2008, 11:02 - Events, Commentary
I had a great day at PhotoPlus yesterday and got to talk a lot about Kodak’s new Ektar film. It’s a funny coincidence that when I was first shooting film back in the early 1990’s that the original Ektar 25 was one of the films I used. Now nearly fifteen years later I am shooting the new and improved version and the results are amazing. But rather than talk about it I will show you some photos I took at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in August. Have a great weekend!

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Photo of the Day #65 
Thursday, October 23, 2008, 12:04 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
So I will be spending some time over at PhotoPlus Expo today and tomorrow. New York’s biggest photography convention is happening now and today I will be at the Kodak booth talking about their new Ektar Film! Photography is always a hot topic here but it seems even the staid Economist has film on the brain with a recent article about the digital transition.

Instant gratification. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

“No matter how dismal the images, the satisfaction of being able to see the result on the camera’s little screen within seconds—and zap the many disappointing pictures—never fails to amuse. Meanwhile, printing the digital images with an ink-jet printer at home brings back fond memories of darkrooms under the stairs with trays of developer, acetic acid and hypo.
The question now is whether to go the whole hog and buy a serious digital camera for work as well as play. Two things have prompted this act of blasphemy.

One is the arrival of more attractively priced digital SLRs with “full-frame” image sensors—that is, with the same dimensions (24mm by 36mm) as a full frame of 35mm film. The largest sensors used previously in “prosumer” SLRs had the same APS format (16mm by 24mm) as disposable cameras. The sensors used in pocket-sized digital cameras and mobile phones are truly minuscule (5mm by 7mm) by comparison.”

It is a lighthearted article but a very entertaining one, especially if you have a thing for Leica cameras as I do!

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Photo of the Day #64 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008, 11:46 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
Even politicians are sounding the alarm about racism in Italy. Granted Jean-Léonard Touadi is not your average politician. Born in Congo he came to Italy in 1979 and made himself into a journalist, author and activist before being elected to the Italian parliament as we learn from the U.K.’s Observer.

'There are now Italians here with non-Italian horizons and this is our future,' said Touadi. For the MP, who forged a career in journalism and local politics in Rome before entering parliament this year, the rising number of incidents is linked to the increasingly strident tone of Maroni's party, the anti-immigrant Northern League, which is a linchpin in Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition.

'The League is pushing discrimination, separation and xenophobia and dragging the government, and with it Italy, towards the systematic violation of human rights,' he said, citing proposals tabled this month by the party which call for the expulsion of legal immigrants who commit a certain number of offences, restrictions on mixed marriages and a new obligation on doctors to report illegal immigrants in their care. Previous moves to expel vagrant Romanians and jail illegal immigrants were challenged last week by the EU.

'For the League, the real problem is not illegal immigration, it's immigration. They need to stop while there is still time,' said Touadi. With legal immigrant numbers rising 17 per cent last year to 3.6 million, Touadi said the spectre of fascism was returning to haunt Italy. 'We've seen Rome taxi drivers chanting "Duce, Duce" at the town hall when the new right-wing mayor was elected this year and now fans with swastikas are following the national football team. Italy will need millions of immigrants to maintain its workforce if birth rates continue to be low, and entire sectors of the economy, like hotels and agriculture, would go under now without them, but the government prefers demagoguery.'

Culture clash. Vienna 2008 © Damaso Reyes

The last sentence particularly resonates with me. This is the kind of honest conversation that Italians and all Europeans need to be having about this topic. But because so many people fear that immigration will somehow lead to a loss of their culture (which itself is an amalgamation) it is difficult for many people to talk about the topic rationally. But talk we must if we are going to ever come to a reconciliation about immigration.

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Photo of the Day #63 
Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 13:23 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
Perhaps it is naïve to think that 27 different countries can agree on anything, let alone a topic as complex as immigration but the E.U. recently did just that as we learn from Spiegel Online.

Still waiting. Berlin 2006

Many critics are unhappy with the restrictive content of the agreement: Refugee organizations claim its main focus is on security questions, and argue that such an approach has so far failed to solve immigration problems in Europe.
“Important guidelines to defend human rights were missing, said Bjarte Vandvik, Secretary General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. He said it wasn't at all clear how asylum seekers could even reach the EU under the new, stronger border security proposals.

“A German EU parliamentarian, Angelika Beer from the Green Party, condemned the new document. "This immigration pact from Sarkozy and company is a plan for even more deportation and segregation in the EU," she said. Europe's border-protection agency, Frontex, will have more influence, punishments against immigrants will be sharpened and the power of parliaments in the member states to oversee immigration remains unclear, she argued."

What we don’t have is an open and honest discussion about the needs of Europe when it comes to labor and what immigrants and asylum seekers deserve. Until that happens there will be very little in the way of change when it comes to European attitude towards immigrant, something that needs to happen as xenophobia and attacks of immigrants and well as nationals of foreign decent continue.

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Photo of the Day #62 
Monday, October 20, 2008, 13:44 - Commentary, Photo of the Day
There is a food fight going on in France. Well a cheese fight at least. The future is bumping up against the past as it so often does in Europe with big manufactures squaring off against independent producers as we learn in a article in the International Herald Tribune.

Protect me from what I want. © Damaso Reyes

“But Alléosse, premier maître artisan fromager affineur, or master cheese ager, fears that he is one of a dying breed.
He is worried that industrial processes - from sourcing through production and distribution - are squeezing small farmers and threatening to deny consumers the choice, complexity and quality of a product that is considered a luxury in many countries but a staple on French tables.

The giant producers counter that such complaints are sour grapes and that traditionalists are scared of losing market share to new techniques, resentful of their profit. Consumers, they say, are happy with the products available and prices charged.”

As important as heritage is if a culture does not evolve it dies. The question is how should that change come about. There are some that feel the market should decide; others want government to have a strong say in protecting people, sometimes form what they want. Few French or European consumers want the Walmartization of Europe. At the same time the McDonald's that flourish in Paris or Rome are full of Europeans, not Americans.

What do you think?

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