Five Stages 
Tuesday, December 19, 2006, 05:03 - Travel, Personal
New York City


©Damaso Reyes

Everyone has faith, even if you are an atheist like me. We have faith that we will wake up in the morning, believe that the elevator will work, or that we will find true love. While my faith is not deity based sometimes I feel that it is no less abstract.

It seems like every step in my career has been an act of faith. The first time I went to Rwanda in 1999 with Jimmie Briggs he had enough faith in me to insist that I go on my first international assignment, over the objections of some who felt that I didnít have the experience. I knew that I could do the work but of course there was nothing to prove this. In the end I think the results validated my faith but it is hard to describe how nervous I was before that flight.

When I left for Indonesia in 2001 with $400 and a one way ticket I simply believed that things would work out. I knew all of one person on the ground but I knew that I would figure out a way of surviving. Of course in the end I certainly did, mostly through equal parts of luck and determination.

Now I am heading to Germany for six months and that old familiar feeling is coming back. Uncertainty. Anxiety. Doubt.

This may come as a shock to some people who might think of me as someone of unshakable conviction, something that always makes me laugh. But I think that if you donít have some doubt then you arenít a person of faith, youíre a fanatic.

This trip is in many ways better organized and more structured than some of my past endeavors, after all I have a fellowship, a place to live and a stipend, but the doubt remains. I doubt think it is so much about this trip, after all with all those things in place I doubt that I will have too much trouble getting some interesting images, it is more about the greater idea of spending the next five years or so based in Europe. Itís funny as secure as I am for the next six months I have already been thinking about what I will do for the second half of the year. Hereís to hoping that the Guggenheim Fellowship come through!

In some ways I feel like this is my version of the famous five stages of grief. Call it Damasoís Five Stages of Travel Preparation:

Stage 1: Denial - The "This can't be real" stage: "This is not happening to me. There must be a mistake.Ē This is pretty much the same. While I know the trip is coming it is so far off in the distance that it is not real to me.

Stage 2: Nonchalance Ė The ďCasual indifferenceĒ stage: ďYeah I know Iím leaving soon, so what?Ē This usually happens about two months before I leave.

Stage 3:
Depression - The "Defeated" stage: "There is no way that I am ready for this, how could I have come up with this silly idea?Ē Again this is pretty much the same as the classic model. This usually pops up about a month before I leave. It is also tied into not wanting to leave New York, which is in addition to being an amazing city, my home town.

Stage 4:
Acceptance - The "This is going to happen" stage: ďI'm ready, I canít fight it anymore...Ē About two weeks before I leave I give in to the fact that A: Iím not ready, B: Iím probably not going to be totally ready, whatever that means and C: I am still going to leave.

Stage 5: Excitement Ė The ďIím getting outta here, thank goodnessĒ stage: About five days before I leave I finally start getting excited about my trip.

Right now I am somewhere between 3 and 4Ö.

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Not again! 
Saturday, December 16, 2006, 21:46 - Personal
New York City

So yesterday I dropped off my portfolio at the Guggenheim Foundation. Today I received a letter from them saying: ďYour communication of photographic prints has come to hand. It will receive due attention.Ē I always enjoy the formal tone to their correspondence , letís hope that things break my way and I get a happy letter in May. Thanks to Audrey, Elinor, Patrice and Djibril for writing what I am sure are great recommendation letters. I will keep you all posted on what happens.

After that fun trip to 5th Avenue I met my good friend Jimmie at, wait for it, Peter Lugerís! Twice in one week, I know itís a bit much but he couldnít be there on Monday so he graciously offered to take me on Friday and I enjoyed every bit of it. Man, I am going to miss that good eating but then again I am going to the land of beer and bratwurst so I imagine that I will do okay.


Mmmmm...steak.... ©Damaso Reyes
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Happy Birthday Baby! 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006, 04:25 - Personal
New York City

Happy birthday to me!


©Damaso Reyes


Amazingly enough I have made it to 28, please hold your applause. I did have quite the day though. Finally, after all these years I managed to go ice skating for the first time. I know it sounds silly but I had always wanted to go ice skating for my birthday but no one would ever take me. So thanks to Anna for finally stepping up and taking on the challenge. We went to Bryant Park where not only did we manage to not fall down but we got to go around in circles with the Empire State Building looking down on us, bathed in my favorite shade of blue.


©Damaso Reyes

But youíd be wrong if you thought that was all! After ice skating we killed some time having a nice cocktail at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street. Not usually the kind of place I would hang out in, the high ceilings, wood paneling and dim lighting give you the feeling of being in a different era, not to mention tax bracket. It is also one of the few places that I can order a Tom Collins without worrying if the bartender knows how to make it.


As if that was all! After drinks we headed to sunny Williamsburg Brooklyn home of the best steakhouse in NYC Peter Lugerís. You canít really describe what the food is like there except to say that it is like nothing else. My good friend Conan managed to escape from work and joined us for a truly spectacular meal. Cheers to him for graciously picking up the check!

Birthdays always give me an opportunity to take stock of the past year and see what Iíve managed to accomplish. The past year has been pretty good, my biggest regret, if you can call it that, has been that I didnít get to spend more time working on The Europeans. But I always knew what starting next year things would kick into high gear so I tried not to obsess too much about what I wasnít able to do. I did take lots of great photos from New Orleans to Tanzania, which makes me feel better about things. I can only imagine what I will be shooting next yearÖ

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Katrina Show Opening 
Friday, October 20, 2006, 04:20 - Personal, Events
New York City

Tonight was the opening of the group show that I am in: Engulfed by Katrina: Photographs Before and After the Storm, curated by Deborah Willis and Hank Willis-Thomas. This show features show great images produced by some incredible photographers and I would encourage everyone in the New York area to come by, the show is up until November 19th.



There was live music, great food and a great panel discussion. It's these kind of events that make me want to exhibit my work more often, hopefully that's something that I will do more of next year as The Europeans kicks into high gear!
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The Road Home... 
Wednesday, October 4, 2006, 18:30 - Travel, Shooting, Personal
Aboard SwissAir flt 14 to JFK

I'm finally headed back to New York! Often short trips where you try to pack everything into a few days are more draining than a long one when you can take your time. While I did not manage to get to see nearly all of Berlin, I did get to do some shooting and I have some story ideas I do want to follow up on when I return to Germany next year.

As much as I would like to do one more trip to Europe before January I think my time, not to mention resources, would be better spent learning some German and otherwise preparing for next year, after all I don't know when I will be getting back to New York.

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Remembering? 
Tuesday, October 3, 2006, 01:10 - Shooting, Personal, Commentary
Berlin

Today was cool and windy with the sun hidden behind what seemed like a never-ending series of gray clouds. I wandered around the heart of the city. I managed to make my way over to the Bundestag and the Brandenburg gate where some kind of festival and concert was happening (btw, what possesses people all over the world to perform bad covers of 20 year old American pop songs?).

I was walking south to Potzdamer Platz when I encountered the holocaust memorial. It really is a beautiful and somber place but of course that didn't stop kids from playing hide and seek and teenagers from getting high among the hundreds of black monoliths. How long does it take for a monument to lose it's meaning? Clearly the youngest generation seems to have lost what used to be called 'German guilt' but is it a good thing or not? I suppose it is important not to be a prisoner of the past or totally bound by the sins of our fathers but I have to say it was a little unnerving to hear laughter at the monument to six million dead.


Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

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Another Brick in the Wall 
Sunday, October 1, 2006, 21:36 - Travel, Shooting, Personal, Commentary
Berlin



The Wall via camera phone

Here I am sitting on part of what's left of the Berlin wall thinking that's it's hard to imagine a more historic change than that one. But in many ways the slow transformation that Germany and the rest of Europe is going through is just as profound. Sitting here just gives me a little perspective on the history that I have been witness to in my short life and how much more I have to look forward to.


A mural of American Mumia Abu Jamal

Don't worry, I haven't spent the whole day thinking so hard. Earlier I went to three of Berlin's flea markets and picked up some gift as well as some great old postcards which you might be receiving if you're lucky! Tomorrow I think I will tour more of scenic Berlin and maybe some museums if they aren't all closed on Monday....

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The Party's Over... 
Friday, September 29, 2006, 21:23 - Travel, Personal
Cologne airport en route to Berlin

Well Photokina is over, at least for me. I had a great time though the Kodak folks and the other photogs kept me up pretty late. Saturday is Audrey's birthday so we all went out for dinner and then sang karaoke! She works hard all year at Kodak fighting the good fight so we can still use film so it was nice for us get to have a chance to show our appreciation.



I am looking forward to the next few days in Berlin. I don't have anything planned so I think I will just wander the streets and take some pictures. Maybe I will go out this weekend, who knows?

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Photokina Day 1 
Wednesday, September 27, 2006, 19:22 - Travel, Personal, Project News
Cologne




Well here I am at Photokina and I have to say that I am amazed. The Kodak booth. If you can call 30,000 sq. Feet a booth. It was something else to see my photos up on the walls here at the show. Who would have though that a young boy from Brooklyn could do so well?


My photos!

The show here is spread out over ten buildings so I am looking forward to doing some more exploring today and tomorrow. But just seeing my work on display in the company of so many other great photographers has made this trip a success for me already.


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En Route... 
Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 18:40 - Travel, Personal
En route to Cologne from Berlin

I haven't sleep in 20 hours and I have been on three different planes today. Good thing I am luckily enough to be staying at a nice chain hotel that Kodak is putting me up at. I am ready for a shower but no sleep since tonight is the Kodak press reception. I get to see what happens when you mix schmoozing with sleep depravation. Stay tuned!

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Passport 
Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 00:03 - Travel, Personal
Well we finally got in the air if you can believe it, I know I can't. I was just flipping through my passport, something that I always do when flying. This very well may be the last trip I take with it since it expires next March and that means I will have to get a new one before the end of the year.

While I am not sentimental about most things, this passport has seen me through some pretty dramatic changes. I got it nearly ten years ago during my first year in college. Now I am a globe trotting photojournalist working on a long term project.

I look at my visa pages, especially the ones from my time in Indonesia with fondness, I do regret I never got back to Jordan to use the 5 year visa I had. Rwanda, Haiti, Singapore, Tanzania are all in that little book along with many more. Part of me will fell naked with a new book with no stamps but then I think about all the fun I will have filling it up over the next ten years and I smile. Who knows where my life will be at that point?

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Back in action! 
Sunday, August 27, 2006, 00:00 - Travel, Personal, Project News
New York City

Well since I last wrote I have been to New Orleans for the first Mardi Gras since Hurricane Katrina; to the Marine training base at Parris Island, SC; and to Tanzania on a United Nations fellowship. I spent much of the summer building this fine website you have here and taking a breather.


A young girl in Tanzania. ©Damaso Reyes

What I havenít been doing is shooting in Europe, something I plan on correcting next month as I travel to Germany first for Photokina, the huge trade show where Kodak is using some of my images in their booth, and then to shoot in Berlin for the month of October. It will be a great chance to get a taste of Germany before I head there in January for my six month fellowship at Academie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.

I am really looking forward to getting back out on the road and to working on this little project of mine.

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The Big Night 
Thursday, February 2, 2006, 20:41 - Shooting, Personal, Project News, Events
New York City

Happy New Year!

Okay, itís a month late but itís the thought that counts, right? Tonight is the opening of the group show I am in at E3 gallery here in New York. After processing all my film and doing quite a bit of printing, the big day is here. I have selected a group of images from my two trips to Kosovo last year. I am pretty happy with the work that I am showing.


A very exciting invitation.

While the show is small it feels like a big step for me. This is the first time that I am showing work from The Europeans, one of what I hope will be many work in progress shows over the next few years. As an artist, I spend a great deal of time working in my own little bubble, not really interacting with people about my work. Tonight I will be presenting my vision to the public, or at least the friends who show up. Putting oneís work out there is always a little bit nerve racking but I believe deeply in this project, no matter how other people might react to the images I show tonight.

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Man about town... 
Sunday, November 13, 2005, 00:24 - Shooting, Personal, Project News
Barcelona, Spain

I have spent the past few days coming into town and wandering the streets, visiting museums and monuments including several of Gaudiís masterpieces including the park that he created.


The facade of one of Gaudi's chruches. ©Damaso Reyes

Barcelona is a lovely city. The beach is quite nice, even in November and the people are relatively friendly and there are quite a few expats around. Much like New York, Barcelona is a walking city. The subway is also very easy to navigate and reasonably priced, all things that I am looking for in a city to live in.


Staring at a masterpiece. ©Damaso Reyes

Even when I do settle down in one place, my goal is to spend the better part of each month traveling and shooting. Perhaps two to four weeks out and about shooting a particular story or in a city and then one to three weeks back at base processing, scanning, printing, researching the next shoot and relaxing when I can. This is the plan, anyway.


The top of a steeple. ©Damaso Reyes

In order to make this happen I will have to begin the process of securing more long term funding so I can have the flexibility to run off and shoot something Iím interested in when the mood strikes. Until then I will be applying for grants and artist in residency programs. While I knew there would be a lot of writing and applying involved in this project I donít think I knew just how much of my time would be spent in front of the computer doing research or sending emails. I suppose thatís why I enjoy being out in the field shooting so muchÖ


Looking out over the city. ©Damaso Reyes
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Huffing and Puffing 
Tuesday, October 25, 2005, 21:38 - Shooting, Personal
Camp Bondsteel

One of these days I am going to have to get into shape, I swear!

Today I spent the day on a very interesting mission. Over the past few years one of the things the United Nations has been doing is finding and identifying the bodies of people who went missing or were killed during the war. Today we got up early and went out on one of these missions which entailed hiking for a few kilometers up and down some hills to the sport where the body was discovered.


Clearing mines. ©Damaso Reyes

As one gets older, you often think that the ravages of time donít have an impact, well Iím not yet at 30 and I can say that whatever physical prowess I had seems to have left me. I guess I never considered how fit those gym classes in high school kept me. Oh well.


A UN worker places the remains in a body bag. ©Damaso Reyes

After all the huffing and puffing was done, we got to the site and unearthed the bodies, after some of the soldiers made sure there were no mines. I can say with some certainty that exhumations donít get easier to photograph over time. Still I feel I got some good photos.

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