Damaso Reyes: Vienna From the Shadows

I first came to Vienna in 2008 as a Fulbright Scholar and artist-in-residence at the MuseumsQuartier. I’ve since returned twice to continue my search for Vienna’s hidden corners. My goal as a photographer and my ambition for this exhibition is to show that which is familiar, but in a new light. As a documentary photographer my hope is also to shed light on some of the dark corners of Vienna and onto the residents of this city that don’t get the level of attention that I feel they should.

On these walls of the Amerika Haus, where the exhibition is being hosted, you will find images from Vienna’s iconic balls and from parliament; from Jewish cemeteries to Catholic and Evangelical churches. A few of Vienna’s immigrants and those who have come to this country in search of asylum are also featured in this show. These images are not by and large the kind you would see on tourist postcards. They offer another view of Vienna, a perspective that includes both the powerful and the weak; the past as well as the future.

Around every corner and down every street I encountered the unexpected in Vienna. This city isn’t made up of one group of people; Vienna’s long history is testament to that. There are those who for personal or political gain would seek to narrow the conversation of what Vienna and Austria have been historically and should be in the future. I hope these images will be part of a more inclusive dialogue among the citizens of this city and this nation about what the future should look like.

To capture these images I used two Leica M6 TTLs (.58 and .85 viewfinder magnifications) with a variety of lenses from the classic 50mm Summilux pre-asph to the newer 90mm Summarit. I also used Kodak Tri-X 400 black & white film. As a photographer, my tools play an important role in how I capture my subject. They transform what I see through the viewfinder into an image. For me, a Leica rangefinder represents the best tool to capture the world as I see it. From street photography to intimate portraits, my M cameras have helped me capture a more nuanced world. For someone who shot on SLRs for the first ten years of his career the switch to rangefinders, which happened after a trip to Solms to photograph the Leica factory, has been nothing short of revelatory.

Every photograph is an interpretation, not a definition, of reality. The images here are one person’s experience through space and time and should be seen as such. As an artist I am tempted to say “This, this here is the truth!” but the photographs you see here do not make that claim. They are simply my version of reality, with which you can disagree. But as you look at these photographs, leave open the possibility that they also may hold some level of truth for you.

Vienna From The Shadows, part of Vienna’s Month of Photography, opens on November 2nd and is on display until the end of the month at the Amerika Haus located at Friedrich Schmidt Platz 2, Vienna, Austria. The exhibition is open on Tuesdays from 16:00-18:00 and Wednesdays from 10:00-13:00. RSVP for entry at programs@usembassy.at

This is a guest blog post by Damaso Reyes. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Damaso Reyes began his career as a photojournalist fifteen years ago while still in high school. As a young man of color growing up in one of the worst neighborhoods in America, he was fascinated by the way in which his community was portrayed in the media. As an adult he chose to pursue photography in order to ensure that there was more diversity in the images that are presented to the public. His award-winning work has been published by The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Vanity Fair Germany, and Der Spiegel. His images are also featured in the monograph Black: A Celebration of a Culture and the book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers go to War. His work can be seen online at www.theeuropeans.net and www.damaso.com.