Damaso Reyes photo show at Webster through March 26
Damaso Reyes’ show The Europeans is on display at Webster University’s May Gallery, 8300 Big Bend Blvd., until March 25.

In the 1950s, Swiss photographer Robert Frank traveled around the United States documenting post-war American life, resulting in the influential book, The Americans.

Not only did Frank capture some of the most controversial and critical moments in U. S. history, but he also continues to inspire photographers around the world.

Damaso Reyes, a freelance photojournalist and Brooklyn native, is one of them.

For the last six years, Reyes has traveled Europe in a parallel project called The Europeans, which is on display at Webster University’s May Gallery, 8300 Big Bend Blvd., until March 25.

In 2002, Europe was at a turning point, with major European countries transitioning their national currencies to the euro and more countries joining the European Union.

“I thought it would be interesting if an American would document the changes that Europe and its people are experiencing as the European Union expands and continues to integrate,” Reyes said.

In April 2005, Reyes bought a one-way ticket to London with a couple hundred dollars in his pocket. Now after six years of photographing in Kosovo, Austria, the United Kingdom and Germany, Reyes has compiled a hint of his overall project for the Webster University show.

“For me, the work is incredibly varied,” Reyes said. “My goal is to show the broad swath of European life, and I want my viewers to feel as close as I did when I was standing there.”

Perhaps the photos that are most personal to Reyes are those of asylum seekers in Austria, he said. Through a Ford Foundation grant, he explored the Austrian asylum seeker program for three months. Reyes also received a Fulbright grant to complete his work in Austria. This past winter, the World Policy Journal published these photos, along with an article Reyes wrote.

“The thing that I learned most about spending time with asylum seekers is how passionate and intelligent they are,” he said. “They really want an opportunity to make a better life. They are not often portrayed with the full depth of their humanity.”

In the spring of 2005, Reyes was embedded with the U.S. military’s peacekeeping troops in Kosovo. One of his photos portrays young ladies sitting in a grassy field, and in the foreground is a hand of U.S. soldier. It begs the question of whether the encounter was happy one or not..

“In reality, it was a friendly situation,” he said. “I try to create photographs that the viewers have to bring their own personal experience to understand. You are encouraged to create your interpretation of that photo, and hopefully raise your own questions about the photos.”

Reyes, a photojournalist for over 10 years, began his career as a stringer for the New York Amsterdam News, where he was an intern and later served as Southeast Asia bureau chief from 2001 to 2003. His work has appeared in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle and New York magazine.

For the next phase of the project, Reyes said he plans to move to Barcelona, Spain.

“I feel like all the pictures have an important message about what is happening in European society right now as it is evolving,” he said, “but hopefully people can see something of their own lives and own experience in these images as well.”

Visit the May Gallery on the second floor, west wing, of the Sverdrup Building at 8300 Big Bend Blvd. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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